Tag: Burnham Racing

5th Annual Spring Super Criterium

The course at Blackhawk Farms Raceway

The Burnham Spring Super Crit is a huge event for Spidermonkey Cycling, because we co-host the event and support the race with volunteers. As a result, we usually have the largest cheering section among any of the teams out there. It’s always a ton of fun and a great way to get the race season started.

This year, we have collected a series of short race reports from some of our teammates.

PJ CAVOTO (Men’s Cat 4/5 and Masters 4/5)

Being the second only Criterium that I have participated in, I certainly was nervous about getting hurt. My years of MTB riding, and 10 years plus of road cycling, I feel comfortable being on a bike and racing in a pack. But just like riding a bike in city, its not yourself you have to worry about, its the other drivers.

The course quickly put me at ease with plenty of room for 4 to 6 abreast and lazy turns where typically little speed would need to be scrubbed. Unfortunately, the 4/5 races, braking was applied by many nervous nellies…

My goal in the Cat 4/5 and Masters 4/5 was to stay with the leading pack and finish near the front of the field. I had been away on business all week and was feeling flu like that morning. I took 18th in the 1st race and decided in the second to try for better finish. I fought to stay in the stem of the cherry with little success. Obviously, that is where everyone wants to be on the last lap. So after getting knocked off the wheel in front me several times…I concluded to just burn myself up and make the field work to stay with me in the last 1/4 of the finishing lap. I successfully stayed on front till the last turn. Then of course the field blew by me and I ended up crossing the line in 40th. I knew that would be the result, but also knew I wouldn’t podium, so figured lets feel what its like on front pulling the peloton around the track.

The experience was terrific! What a neat place to race! I would certainly go back!


The race was fast, but at the same time quite conservative, no attacks, or teams dominating the race. As the race went on, it appeared as if it was going to be a sprint finish. Having raced the cat 4/5 race an hour prior, I knew I had to position myself well. But unlike the previous race, no one made any attack until the absolute last straight away. By the time the sprint came around I found myself boxed in. The guy ahead of me did a great job to pull me into 16th, but I didn’t have anywhere to go to sprint around. I need to work on positioning…. (lesson learned)


This was my 2nd time racing the super crit and I really like the course because it’s not technical, which is good for me! The Women’s 4 race was 5 laps and they were pretty uneventful, I pulled at points just to stay warm! The pace picked up with about 1/2 of a lap to go and the two girls from Cutting Crew were at the front. The field was together until around the last straight away (about a .25 mile I believe) when it broke up. The two girls from Cutting Crew took 1st and 2nd, ex-spidermonkey Vanessa took 3rd, a girl I rode Little 500 with took 4th, I took 5th, Kristi finished in 8th, and Stewart in 12th. It was a fun first race of the season for me and great to be on the start line with other Spidermonkeys!

Start of the Men’s Cat 5 race

BEN SPARK (Men’s Cat 4/5, Men’s Cat 5 and Masters 30+ Cat 4/5)

This is not my first race, but it may as well be, since I last raced a few races 15 years ago. My experience then and at the Burnham SSC was not knowing how to approach the typical final sprint of a criterium and my results speak to that. However, what I enjoyed most was mixing it up with the pack during the race, taking a turn on the front and something new…..I felt like I belonged to a team. Even though I didn’t know most of my fellow Spidermonkey racers, I felt a connection with them during the race. When a fellow Spidermonkey was on the front trying to push the pace or bridge a gap I was motivated to do what I could to help, even if I had nothing left in my legs. I completed 3 races at the Burnham SSC and loved each of them.

SARAH RICE (Women’s Open and Master’s 30+ 1/2/3/4)

I was tired Saturday morning. I didn’t have the brains or the energy for heroics. I decided to just do whatever Kristen Meshberg did. NOTE TO SELF: THAT’S A VERY GOOD PLAN. Racing with Kristen was like dancing with Fred Astaire: she was in the right place at the right time the entire race. She was so good that she made me look good by association. But it goes without saying that we looked good. We were both wearing Spidermonkey kits.

We attacked the start hard, as planned. We had a gap in the first turn, but it was a small field of very strong riders—Anne Meyer, Erin Woloszyn, Skylar Schneider, Daphne Kariganis, Lindsay Durst, and others. They caught us right away. Kristen went for the first prime. I didn’t have the legs to go with, so I blocked. She dangled off the front, got more space, easy did it, till she had a 15 second gap. I let her inch forward a little at a time, and the pack wasn’t chasing. Someone asked me if I was going to close it. “Hell no. We’re teammates.”

I should have lied.

30 seconds later, Erin Woloszyn charged and caught her. The whole pack came back together, but now we knew that Erin’s would be the wheel to mark at the end. The attacks followed a pattern. Erin Woloszyn jumped first, then Skylar Schneider, Anne Meyer, and Lindsey Durst, all in a line. Repeat.

We decided to get them to go early and ride their wheels through the long sprint to the finish. On the final corner, the Durst/Meyer/Schneider train was on the outside. Erin Woloszyn blew past them on the inside with Kristen on her wheel and me on Kristen’s. Kristen pulled around Erin’s right at the same time as I pulled around her left. Whoops! We should have taken the same side, but we’d never coordinated a lead-out move because we’d never ridden together before! I went all out, trying to get in position to lead out Kristen. I was almost there and told her to get my wheel, but she couldn’t get over to me so she just held on. In the end she was out in front and moving so fast, I caught her wheel and stayed on it till the end. Definite room for improvement on finish technique, but 1-2!!!!

Kristen and Sarah on the podium

KRISTEN MESHBERG (Women’s Open and Master’s 30+ 1/2/3/4)

Went to the line in the women’s race with my new teammate Sarah Rice for the first time. We had a small field but it was actually bigger than we’d expected, with some really strong riders present. Sarah and I got to know each other and raced together really well! We got every prime and went 1/2 in the race! Confidence boosting for the both of us!! Then for more training and another chance to race together we jumped in the men’s 30+ field finishing safely with the field.
See Kristen’s full race report here.

Vanessa Buccella interviewed Kristen and Sarah after their race.

BRANDON DIFFENDERFER (Men’s Cat 3 and Men’s Cat 1/2/3)

Cat 3:
I lined up for this race not looking to get some speed in the legs. 2 or 3 laps into the race I took a short pull on the backside of the course to test my legs, and they didn’t respond like I wanted, so I pulled a Nate Iden and tailgunned for the remainder of the race. The only difference between me and him is that he finishes better than me. Two laps to go I decided it was time to move towards the front, albeit with the rest of the pack which made it difficult. I was sitting on two ABD wheels during the last lap when I was shuffled back between corners 3 and 4 and couldn’t recover in time to factor into the sprint, although I’m doubtful that would have made a difference.

Cat 1/2/3:
Wow, that was fast, 27.6 mph average over an hour of racing. I’ve never easily pushed that big of a gear before. After 20 minutes of racing, Andy Daley looks at me, recognizing how tired I was, and says “Don’t worry, the break will get away and we’ll slow down.” There was one thing I learned during this race, don’t ever listen to Andy Daley. While I was hoping his words were true, the pace never relented and the break still managed to get away. Excitement took over in the pack as the break was getting reeled in in the closing laps, and I have to admit that I was a little excited to watch this even though it wouldn’t affect me one bit. Three riders in the break managed to hold off the field sprinters even though the pack was barreling down on them in the final stretch. This can be seen at the 6:30 mark of this video.

This was my first year racing at Blackhawk Farms and I’m excited to go back next year. A big thanks goes out to Burnham racing, especially Eric Goodwin, for putting this event together and to all of the Spidermonkey and other volunteers at this race.

Spidermonkey Official Participant List:Peter Cavoto
Stewart Chapman
David Cushman
Brandon Diffenderfer
Kristi Hanson
Andrew Kushnick
Eric Landahl
Stephanie Levin
Kristen Meshberg
Sarah Rice
Hayes Sanborn
Benjamin Spark
Trent Williams

All in all, this was a great event at a great venue. Many thanks to all who came out, raced, volunteered, and cheered! Also thank you to Mrinal Shah, Jason Knauff, race director Eric Goodwin, and Burnham Racing for all of your efforts to make this event happen. Can’t wait for next year!

My First Criteriums: Gaper’s Block and Burnham Spring Super Crit 2012

Pete Monko chasing a break!Pete Monko chasing a break!
Photo Credit: J. Tati

by Eric Landahl

I’m very experienced racing in a fast-moving pack, drafting with centimeter gaps, and taking and giving a bit of “accidental” contact. I take pride in my superior cornering ability, exquisite positioning, taking the perfect line (even when unable to see far ahead), and I still have a killer final sprint.

Until last week, I had only experienced this in open water swimming. It’s all just fun and games in the water—as soon as you master the fear of drowning, of course.

Watching the first men’s heat at Gapers Block on Monday I felt a little sick. Pavement is hard, and I fear crashing. I took a little comfort from Kinky Llama’s Becky Welbes who also was about to start her first crit, and admitted she felt squeamish as well. So I lined up in the back, swung wide at the first corner, and found myself in an all-out sprint to catch back up with the pack.

Following my first cyclocross race last Fall, I had spent some time reviewing cornering. I knew that the tangent of my lean angle should be proportional to the square of my speed and inversely proportional to the radius of the turn (Wilson, “Bicycling Science 3rd edition”, MIT Press 2004). The turns seemed really tight, and we were going really fast, so I was pressing as hard as I could on my outside pedal and leaning in as hard as possible. It really upset my physical intuition that the guys next to me were taking the corners tighter and faster and not leaning in as much. I was convinced they were going to spin out and hit me. After about a dozen corners, I could no longer sprint back up to the pack, and I ended up working with a few other guys who had also been dropped to finish the race. At least there was a great Spidermonkey cheering section!

Fast racers coming around the corner at Calumet Park.
Photo Credit: Nathan Schneeberger

Back to the chalkboard: I read up on counter-steering, and brought in some consultants. Having Sarah Rice and Katie Isermann in your crew during your second practice crit is kind of like having Michael Jordan and LeBron James show up to watch your middle school basketball tryout. My cornering was a bit better, and I stayed with the pack for about half of the race. After getting dropped I worked with teammate Hayes for a while, and then Mike from Half-Acre who told me to learn by following his line around the corners. That really helped. By my third race on Wednesday, I was able to stay with the pack the whole time. Although my consultants were yelling at me to “move up” I was still scared of crashing, and I finished at the back. I took Thursday off from racing and instead watched the Spidermonkey women maneuver themselves into a good position for the final laps of their race, and I resolved to do the same Saturday at the Burnham SSC.

My goal for SSC was simple: stay near the front and be ready to chase down any attack. Brandon talked to me just before the race, pointing out to me and teammate Ben that several of the other teams were quite large and could afford to have several riders block back during attacks, so staying near the front was critical. I tried to spend most of my time one or two rows back, sitting on the steadiest wheel I could find. It’s true, it’s actually less scary in front! With increasing confidence, I would yell every time somebody would make a move, and then hop on the wheel of the first chaser. As a result I was in great position coming into the last half of the course: I hadn’t been in front for almost half a lap, but was sitting just about three back when the leaders surged forward. Unfortunately for me a lot of those guys are really strong, and they rode me off their wheels; I had to rely on my endurance to keep pushing all the way to the end where I finished 13th.

I’m not sure when I’ll race again, but I know that I am now a better and more confident cyclist because of the experience. Lesson learned: it’s all just fun and games on the road—as soon as you master the fear of crashing, of course.


Sarah Rice on the attack with Kelly Clarke close behind.
Photo Credit: J. Tati

Some additional comments and/or words of wisdom:

Anna L. – “I think my story about snot rockets and XXX racers is pretty funny, but also kind of embarrassing. Leave it to me to be the person who blew a snot rocket that apparently landed on someone! I still feel like her yelling at me made me lose my concentration and I got dropped right after. :-(“

Kelly C. – “Last year I did all 5 days, and I was dropped right away and rode by myself each day. This year, after actually considering training during winter, I was able to stay with the peloton each day I raced. Physically, it’s a lot less tiring, even though you’re going faster. And it’s much more fun! Last year, going into corners with people was really scary, so I just didn’t do it. It’s still scary, but I have a lot more confidence. And when you nail a good corner, it feels awesome to come sprinting out of it! It was great to race with so many women this year, too. We had record fields with 30+ racers each night.”

Spidermonkey Official Participant List:
Kelly Clarke
Kristi Hanson
Eric Landhal
Anna Loosli
Michelle Moore
Pete Monko
Hayes Sanborn
Sarah Rice

Notable Results: Sarah Rice won the Women’s Cat 3 race three out of the four nights, and came in second on the only night she didn’t win.

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