Tag: fun

Tour Of Lawrence: Street Sprints

Spidermonkey Sprinters
by Mark Zalewski
I’m sure that you, like me, have explained to your non-cycling friends what a criterium is and the difference between that and the Tour de France — as well hold back your laughter when they ask you if you “think you’ll ever ride the Tour de France someday?” (Seriously, I get that question A LOT.)
But even cycling friends gave me looks when I said that the Tour of Lawrence started with street sprints. “What is that?”
You don’t see these too much at races anymore but they used to be a staple back-in-the-day at races like Quad Cities over Memorial Day. 
To give you a visual, think of the critically acclaimed film featuring a feel-good performance by Vin Diesel The Fast and the Furious. It’s a drag race, plain and simple. (Not that kind of a drag race… though this one also features shaved legs.)
200 meters. Three or four riders per heat. An official blows the whistle and you turn yourself inside-out to go as fast as you can. First one or two over the line advance to the next round; the others go and cry in their free locally brewed craft beer. Rinse, wash and repeat.
Oh, but here’s the ‘FUN’ part. It’s not like other races where it’s broken into groups like “Master’s/Women/Category 3/55+…” Oh no my friend, it’s only separated by men and women — otherwise it is OPEN. That’s right kids, you see the rider next to you wearing that Jelly Belly Pro Cycling kit? No, he’s not a ‘fred’ pretending to be a pro; that is Brad Huff, former U.S. National Criterium Champion. So grab your man onions and see how you measure up. 
Seriously though, the amount of times Trent has brought up being manhandled by Steve Tilford in 2010 and is sooooo excited to tell everyone about it illustrates just how much fun it is to race against the best. You won’t have this opportunity anywhere else except on Strava.
The Spidermonkeys featured Kelly Clarke and Michelle Moore in the women’s bracket; Brandon Diffenderfer and Hayes Sanborn flew the flag on the men’s side. Oh and someone talked me into doing it at the very last minute, WTF?
The key to a street sprint is the start. You cannot necessarily win it here but you certainly can lose it. It’s also a ‘standing start’ meaning that there is a someone standing behind you to hold your bike, allowing you to clip in — just like a time trial in Le Tour. But unlike a time trial you do not get a surly fat French guy giving you a countdown. 
You wait… and wait. And try not to tip over while standing on your pedals waiting for the jackass in lane 2 who cannot clip into the second pedal.
Requisite Teachable Moment:
Standing is a better option than staying seated as you will have more power. Hands in the drops is also better as you’ll be pulling damn hard and this allows you to stay over your front wheel more, keeping it on the ground. 
Gear selection is key as too large a gear and you’ll take longer to get up to speed — too small and you’ll have to shift more frequently which disrupts cadence and increases potential for mis-shifts.
Big ring in front, for sure. Brandon gave the small ring a try and had a great start because of it but said he ran out of gears approaching the line.
‘Back in the day’ friends of mine would alter their rear cassettes. Instead of having a smooth progression down the cluster (i.e. 23-21-19-17-15-13-12-11) they would put the 21 next to the 15 and 11 so they would only have to shift three times. Though this was before the integrated shifting we have now where it’s all up front, but you see the point — 200 meters is a short distance to do much of anything put pedal your tookas off.
The ladies went first. Both Kelly and Michelle were new to standing starts but learned quickly. (Look at Michelle’s textbook start in the Tour of Lawrence video!) The first round both took a close fourth in their heats. In the second round both again took fourth but not by much. Time for beer.
The gents were up next. We were three-up in our heats and like the ladies the first round was gratis with the results used to seed the second round. Brandon could not wait to go and was in one of the first heats. I looked at my row and saw this: A 20 year-old elite amateur from the Horizon Organic team with a crazy power-to-weight ratio AND Eric Bennett, a professional on the Wonderful Pistachios UCI pro team and former BMX national champion (where getting the ‘hole shot’ is rather vital.) Awesome.
Ok, I did not have the best start and got third in that round but was ONLY a half-wheel from Bennett at the line, so I’m taking that as a win. 
Next round I am behind Brandon in the ‘bronze medal’ lane and chatting with Brad Huff, last year’s winner. At that point Brandon does the math and sees that Mr. Huff is in his heat and somewhat jokingly asks if anyone wants to swap spots. (Smart move!) And someone actually does. (Not a smart move.)
In the end we each rode admirably, had fun and broke a sweat doing so, showing that we gave it our all. Or maybe it was the 101F on the bank thermometer?

Bartlett CX Men’s 4B Race Report

Here’s my race report from Bartlett:

The start was good, of the top ten call-ups there were only 3 or 4 (including Dave Cushman) so Jake and I were second row. The start was a long left leaning straight but then going into a hard right turn, when the whistle went I stayed to the left and was in a good position going through the first turn. I could see Cushman and Bryan Lee (Pony Shop) ahead of me and a couple of others. After the first set of barriers I was maybe top five. On the flats and straightaways I was getting passed right and left, Ben from xXx, Pegasus, Tati and then Jake flies by me. Coming out of the first woods section I got passed by two more and that was pretty much it for the rest of the race holding steady at 15th. Eventually I get caught by two more, but hang on to their wheels. Near the end of the 3rd lap before the climb I started psyching myself up for a strong finish (thinking back to the Supermax test) and passed the two guys I was tailing in the turns before the climb and started my sprint on the long straight going into the climb. I make it through the yelling and screaming of the crowd on the hill and make the last couple of turns, legs burning and cross the finish line to Jason Knauff?? ca-CA ca-CA’ing into the microphone.

Good times. Congratulations to Jake on his win!


Thanks to Mike from xXx for posting these pics on flickr. Some great one’s of Ben taking some hand-ups on the hill here.

Here’s Jake on his way to taking the win.

Here’s me, suffering, I didn’t even see the money.

Shea 9th, Castro 12th … Hopkins Park CX 4B’s Race Report

Hey Everyone,

My report will be fairly short, I’m hoping Shea will write up a more comprehensive one since it was his first CX race on his newly built up cross rig.

We got out to DeKalb around noon because we didn’t pre-register and there were only 10-20 spots left in the 4B’s and 4A’s was filled. Luckily we registered with 10 spots remaining. After pre-riding the course and warming up we went over to the start area around 2:45 along with the other 70+ 4B’s. They called up the top ten finishers from Jackson Park, Austin from RVB was going to take Cushman’s 8th place spot since Dave was out of town .. They called the rest of us up and I got a spot in the 2nd row on the far right, which was ideal since about 30 yards down there was a hard left hand turn. Shea and Austin were right behind me. Start whistle goes and I make it to the turn pretty close to the front and through the first couple of turns I see there’s about 5 people in front of me, Chase Wolford from Rhythm Racing (rides for IIT too) is in the lead. Heading out to the baseball fields and the off-camber twist and turn I realized I couldn’t hold my current pace and had to back off a little. On the first pavement section I hear someone coming up and cheer me on and I see out of the corner of my eye it’s an RVB’er and I’m like, “go, go, I can’t keep up ..” and Austin flies by me. Somewhere near the start of the 2nd lap as my lungs are screaming and my legs are going unresponsive I see a monkey kit coming up and I shout, “come on Shea, get up here!” He eventually did and then passed me. I kept Shea in my sights and we got to cheer each other on through the multiple switchback sections. Overall, after sitting pretty good in 6th in the first 5 minutes of the race, I lost 6 more spots and ended up in 12th. Shea did great and got 9th! My lungs still hurt, but I’m still smiling by how much fun it was and how well Shea did.

Lessons learned:
– Pre-register, save $5!
– Plan your start position based on the first turn, don’t get boxed in going into the first turn.
– Go hard at the start, but not too hard where you blow up and hang on for dear life for the rest of the race.
– Have fun and try to get some of the cash hand-ups from spectators (someone was giving out $20’s)!

pics from jasonhenry (half acre cycling) on flickr.com

damn, the new oakley’s look good ..

it may look like I’m going fast, but I’m not, I’m barely able to pedal ..


p.s. zens, witry and pollard, all the xXx’ers and cycle smithy racers were calling you guys out .. wondering where you were, maybe next year?

What are you listening to?

As many people have read we have quite the email chain rolling about what music you listen to while riding. So i thought i would provide place to discuss. Please post comments about what you listen to while riding…….



Cyclocross Clinic, Sunday, 9/6, 1 PM, Lincoln Park South Pond

Hey Everyone,

Dave Cushman, myself and some others are giving a clinic this coming Sunday at 1 PM. Location is near the Lincoln Park South Pond, between the pond and the softball fields. Even if you’re not interested at all, come out, bring some beer and hang out. If you know anyone that may be interested, forward this on.

Thanks and hope to see you Sunday!

p.s. Don’t forget to check the Chicago Cross Cup’s site for schedule, online registration, etc http://chicrosscup.com/

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