After a month off from racing, I decided to make today's ChiCrossCup race in Lansing, IL, down in the far southside, my big return. Predicted conditions were 35 and windy, which it was, and the course was said to be flat – a "grass criterium" – which was also correct. I don't like the cold, nor do I like flat courses, so the fact that I was so pumped about this race somewhat surprised me.

I picked up Naz at 8:10 – after missing St. Charles because of bad directions and a late departure, we made sure that we would not have another repeat. After a short drive down LSD and I-94, we got to the race with time to spare, and I had a reason to do well in the race – I saw the promise offered by a Dairy Queen a few blocks away from the race.

After registering, Naz and I were able to get out for a few laps. The course itself started at the east end of the park, swung north, where it travelled along the side of 178th st., then came back into the park for some sweepers and a hairpin. Then, two barriers set about 50 feet apart got one off of the bike. A long paved section led to another barrier set about 30 feet in front of the long sandpit. After that, the course swung around a tennis court to the start/finish. A quick, short blast – nothing at all technical, certainly a hard workout.

Tim, Adrian, Helge, and the Killjoy crew all arrived eventually and sooner rather than later, it was time to get psyched-up to ride. Naz let me have a schmear of some Mad Alchemy embrocation, which I used to dose my toes and fingers, which always suffer so much in the cold. Almost instantly, my hands were tingling (and right now, eight hours later, are still tingling, despite the use of lots of soap) and I started to see how some of those crazies are able to go bare-legged in the cold. I'm a wuss, so I had on a jersey, fleece-lined jacket, two bib shorts, leg warmers, Craft lobster claws, and a cap. I don't like being cold, and I like even less riding my bike while cold. My philosophy: it's easier to unzip a jersey than to have to suffer even more than necessary from the chill.

After calls-ups, us peons jostled for a solid spot, which didn't serve me especially well because my start was terrible. I found myself in the back 1/3 and because the course was especially tight, I wasn't about to move forward until after the first lap. By then, I had passed all my teammates and found myself picking through a few stragglers who had gassed it all in the first go around the course. Of course, the leaders who had both gotten a good start and had good fitness were already way up ahead. So, I was out racing my own race and did so for the next 9 laps. I only bobbled once, in the fourth lap, when I botched a remount and struck my right angle against the left pedal. Hurt it pretty bad, so I had to soft-pedal for a minute, but everything subsided and I got back into the swing of things.

Photo by Amy.

Near the end of the ninth lap, I could see the race leaders only a little bit back. I don't like being lapped, like every other cyclocrosser, but I was determined to hold them off so that I could finish the race on the same lap. I put some extra gas into my pedal stroke, took the corners a bit quicker, and managed to avoid being lapped by a Burnham Racing rider by about 20 feet. Ended up finishing 20th out of 27 finishers and 33 starters. Not great, but I feel better about completing the rest of the race series, so today was certainly a success in that regard.

After a mediocre lunch at a Mexican joint, Naz and I got some Baskin-Robbins and got back in time to see off the Men's 4 races. Lots of dollar bills were handed-out, and Hemme got yelled at by the organizer. Awesome. I love this sport.