Epic Road Squad, 2009.

And so it begins: we're careening headlong into 2009 and with it, the road cycling season. Mountain bikers think that they're tough, what with their bruises and bloody knees. Everyone knows, though, that the road cyclist is the true hardass. Riding a bike on wet, windy roads, grit stuck between teeth, and cars brushing by only inches away is an activity left best to the dedicated or insane, or both.

And that's what defines the Half Acre Cycling road squad for 2009: the Year of the Ox.

And in a way, we're all oxen, too -- brute beasts tasked with the punishing work of propelling a bike at speed.

So, what then, aye, are the men and women of Half Acre Cycling planning to punish themselves with this year? What races, here in Illinois, and elsewhere, do they plan to grace, to pedal with heart and race for the truth of glory?

The list is long, naturally:

Perhaps for many of the HACT road riders, the major race of the spring is Hillsboro-Roubaix on April 4 on the windswept, gravelly, jarring roads of southwestern Illinois. Last year, a fine group of four HACT riders made the trip down. For 2009, the goal is to double that number, or treble it. This is not to say that the Burnham Supercrit on March 29th in Beloit, Illinois is forgotten – no, of course not, look for HACT there, testing out their legs and lungs for a mad dash around a motor speedway..

After that, the season opens wide: Vernon Hills in suburban Chicago, the Snake Alley Criterium in Iowa, the whole of Superweek. Besides Illinois and Iowa, states such as Indiana, Wisconsin, Kentucky, Ohio, among others, will play host to Big Blue.

Most importantly, who are all of these riders? Let us name them each individually. 'Course, other riders from the team will join them on occasion:

Kevin Clark
Vince Giovinco
Isaiah Jay
Patrick Kenny
Sarah Lu
Thomas MacNeill-Zimmerman
Mia Moore
Ben Reed
Joe Schubert
Eric Shivvers
Adrian Silva
Jeremiah Smith
Dan Stanojevic
Stan Sterlinski
Ryan Thormann
Robert Zach Thomas

Remember them all, aye.