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A Hillsboro Last Hurrah

After a fatal flat in 2012 and being crashed out with 4 miles to go in 2014, I was hoping for some redemption this year at Hillsboro, especially knowing it was the last edition of this terrific road race. I did all the things I thought would take me into town with the lead pack. I punched up through cracks in the group to stay near the front. I split up some St Louis ladies, whom I thought would try a breakaway. I maintained decent cadence up the hills to stay close to jumpers.

I hooked onto the wheels of W1/2 and fast 3's trying to drop all others. An aggressive pace, I'm pushing red without the ability to refuel. Suddenly, I'm going backward. The Mack racer in front of me grabbed a handful of brake in a downward road that sharply turned up. I'm now ten spaces back, on the opposite end of the mass. Sarah Szefi goes into TT mode off the front, the pack chases and I'm yo-yo'ing for the next 5 minutes before "pop", I'm alone watching the group pull away. I ended up pace lining with four other pack orphans for awhile, but eventually fall off when they upped the pace. Dead man walking.

Pushed myself into and around the town square as quickly as possible. Sophia Robinson (Ten Speed Hero) magically appears out of nowhere on the last quarter mile. Sprints for the line, I battle back, but legs slump and she crushes 18th place. Like shooting a dead carcass. Guess she was pissed at her mechanical. I could blame the race for being out of my league when it went "open" and three W1/2's signed up, but other 3/4's came in with the peleton. Just wasn't my day.

Hillsboro still has my heart.

Jen Groen

Showing Up to Throw Down

It is sad to say goodbye to the only real road race somehow close to Chicago; I have raced Hillsboro-Roubaix for the last three years with two different teams with mixed results but this year was a great and memorable one because during that trip I was accompanied by the finest bike lovers around, Half Acre Cycling.

This year was supposed to be different from past ones; I am finally getting to my desired fitness goal as I have been working hard to accomplish that (it is about physics, less weight = more speed)... I totally had in my mind to place top 10 and get some elusive upgrade points as I want to upgrade in the road races, not in criteriums.

I do not know but it seems to me that the Cat4s this year were ex-athletes or current triathletes, Cat3s or 2s in disguise, or just a bunch of dopers. The race was fast from the start, I sat on the back as in previous versions of the race but the field was pushing hard enough that it took me about ¼ of the first lap to be at the front; usually road races are like sex, mellow at the beginning and hard at the end.

Finally I meet up with our Dan and Karson from Johnny Sprockets; we stayed with the front group for a bit while Wildcard and xXx in high numbers were controlling the pace as 4-5 riders sped away; one xXx, one Wildcard, one Bloomington rider and other two unknown ones. I saw them getting more and more time and I started to get more and more frustrated with the “super fit-exathletes-Cat3s or 2 in disguise” from all over the Midwest that were doing nothing.

If you have ever raced next to me in the past, you will know by now that I am an angry old man with a dirty mouth while racing… Dan and I tried to organize the peleton to bring back the 4-5 escapees, but the two of us cannot do much against the xXx and wildcard folks who just want to slow us down.

Ask Dan if you want, but one by one of the escapees faded away and we were able to catch the last two remaining riders by the start finish line.  I do not know for how long I was at front… it seems it was forever. It was then time for me to recover, eat and drink as much as I could.

Then the race turned ridiculously slow… I was expecting an attack from xXx directly as I know by then that Wildcard was protecting just one guy, the same guy we just brought back home at the start finish; he even told me that he wasn’t going to get away again because I was going to waste his effort… I think, why don’t you ask me to join your effort instead? I guess his ego doesn’t allow him. (Btw, that dude is one of the ex-athletes or whatever).

Another rider asked me if I want to win the race, I responded that if that is not your goal today what are you doing here? What kind of question is that one? Uhhh?

I speed up, and they speed up, I slow down, and they slow down… even Karson and I were side by side for a mile kind of surprised on what was going on. I think I should have attacked at that point, what could have happened? I guess I could have been really tired at the end of the race and that is all.

It seems xXx and Wildcard were tired of me holding them; in a synchronized attack, the two teams formed a perfect pace-line to town… except me who was playing between teams trying to break their pace. I believe we were rolling 26-28 m/h at that point, passing several riders of the Open Master and Cat3 field. I love when that happens, I even had time to make fun of an ex-teammate as our field sped away.

The end of the race was insane fast; basically I stayed behind the two teams for the last 8-6 miles to the finish. I felt strong, I really did… First hill went fine but I started to suffer, second high hill I was fading away, over the false flat I see people passing me, going downhill I recovered but that was too late, first left turn and the bricks felt as they were pulling me back… I see my top 10 gone, last left turn I sprinted as hard as I could… I finished.

Soooo close. I am not disappointed of what I accomplished on the road, I worked hard, I stayed at the front, I was a player, and I made that race interesting.

I am happy that Karson won, he is a great person and rider… I do not know my final place yet, I am guessing to be top 20s one more time.

Thanks Ashley, Jen, and Michael for the weekend. I am so glad we stayed in a hotel instead of driving the same day; resting helps a lot during the race. Thanks Dan for leaving power on the road for Half Acre.  I got the chance to know more my teammates… Now I know that Michael Sojka loves vans, in particular the Dodge Caravan… Just kidding.

Andres Quiros

From the Cobbles of Paris-Roubaix to Hillsboro

What can I say? Super fun course that apparently will never be again. Solid group of guys in the 3s but after a week off the bike and some fit issues with my seatpost after bike transport from Belgium, I was feeling a bit sluggish and off. After spending 25 miles doing nothing, a 4 man break had about a minute on the group and I started getting antsy. Against all of my better judgement and all of my plans before the race, I went to the front to ramp up the pace and ended up a little too far into the red on the hill going into town.

I tried to just drift back through the pack intending to finish the hill at the back and then just hang on through the town, but somehow I got gapped and never closed the gap. I chased by myself, super hard, for about 15-20 minutes, passing guys that were getting spit out the back of the group, and I got to within about 15-20 seconds of the pack but just never made it.

3 of the guys that had gotten spit out the back were able to jump on my wheel and recover a bit so we had a 4 man group to finish the race. I did most of the work to get us back to town and two of the guys were glad to let me lead our group across the line, but the younger guy decided he wanted to sprint for it from 500m out.

Needless to say I came around him easily with 200 to go and just looked over my shoulder and shook my head at him. I don't like sprinting for 30th place, but pride and all. Not sure how far behind the main pack we were, but in that 15-20 minutes of hard chasing, it was like my legs turned on and remembered what bike riding was and suddenly felt strong and light.

C'est la vie.  Still an awesome day on a great course with some fantastic people.

Michael Sojka

2013 Race Season Has Begun!

First off, let’s get this out of the way now: this has been the longest winter EVER! At first I thought it was just part of living in Chicago – a purgatory I happily (ignorantly) signed up for when I accepted my new job and moved away from temperate Kansas City. Every day during the month of February, I would log on to and check not only the forecast for Chicago (surprise, surprise: mostly cloudy, highs in the 30s) and Kansas City (most of the time, sunny and highs in the 50s). Then I would check every sunny, warm snowbird destination and crunch the budget figures over and over hoping each time I would magically find a way to finance a week-long traincation to: Tucson, San Diego, Austin, etc.

Then everyone got hit with Old Man Winter and no matter where on the map I threw the dart, everyone seemed to be suffering from unseasonably cold temps and SNOW. This was March.

An additional perk of this purgatory was training inside. Every day. For hours. Every. Day.

Every. Day.

For. Hours.

Most of the time this took place in my landlady’s basement which is lit by only four single light bulbs, and with a very low ceiling with *just enough* clearance so that you can climb out of the saddle. And then there is the clutter. JB and I are allowed a six by three foot space to set up the trainers (they make too much noise in our apartment, which she lives below). We made due and passed the time watching bike races downloaded on our laptops.

Then there was HPI (Human Performance Institute) and two nights a week computrainer pain sessions with the teammies, which helped pass the time EMENSLY.

But even that had its expiration date and with two weeks before my first race of the season, I was burnt out. I didn’t want to race and I certainly didn’t want to get on the trainer, or computrainer, again.

So I inserted a few days of rest going into race week and that helped.

And again, every day I logged into but this time, I was checking the weather for Hillsboro, Illinois, home of the Hillsboro Roubaix, a road race with a 29 mile loop on country roads. Two weeks before the race, JB and I headed down there for a little recon of the course and got extremely lucky with the weather – it was sunny and 58! I was so blissed out happy to be riding my bike OUTSIDE for the second time in two whole months that I almost cried.

Race day blessed us with similar weather – sunny and high 40s.

Leading up to Hillsboro, I was scared. Nervous. Anxious. I had numerous conversations with JB about it. I whined. A lot. I tried to put my finger on what it was that I was so worked up about – I mean, I wasn’t going to forget how to pedal and simply fall over, would I? It all came down to… bike racing is new to me and something that I have spent hours, days, and months in the basement training for. I knew my fitness was there, but what about my skills?

Luckily, HAC had four women registered for Hillsboro and we had a plan.
Race morning, I “warmed-up” – a couple of quick laps of the start/finish and getting acquainted with the killer hills and pavers this race is known for.  I’m a good climber and I knew I had that going for me, but what about the others? How fast could they take those hills? Would it come down to a sprint finish?

Women 4 were the first to race. We lined up and I realized I was overdressed. Rode back to the car, grabbed a vest, back to the line, back to the car to get MY vest (I had grabbed JB’s), back to the line where I got dressed as the RD said a blessing to keep and protect us.

The whistle blow and we were off! First mile was neutral with a nice downhill where, to my surprise, everyone hit their brakes. Then there was a loud POP, and the group let out a groan… someone flatted before the race began. Bummer. Riding, riding, riding, slow and steady, and Maria (Cuttin’ Crew) comes along side and tells me it was Annie, my teammate, who flatted. Ugh. Annie wanted to race more than any of us that day and was devastated that she hadn’t put wheels in the truck – none of us had. (Except for Vanessa, but she rides 650s).

So Annie is done, and now it’s just us three from HAC: Erica, Vanessa and me. La la la la. It’s a nice sunny day and we’re doing a bike race and the pace is slow to tempo. Then, around mile six, I got an itch and I attacked which resulted in a solo break for like, 100 meters and it was SO FUN, but I don’t have the strength to go solo at 23mph for 21 miles, so I got back in the group.  A couple miles later, Desiree (xXx) went and I went with her and I thought we could make it stick for sure, but back to the pack we went. A couple more honorable attacks (one by Erica) and each one was reeled back in.

Coming back into town and I was so thankful I had ridden the course two weeks ago. The two road races I have done in the past, I did without knowing the course and therefore, not knowing how close the finish line was until people were winding up for the sprint. This time, I was mentally prepared by the landmarks around me and then… we hit the twins from hell. The twin hills aren’t long, but they are somewhat steep.

I was near the front and did my best to breathe and relax as my heart went from “rest” to “redline”. There were about six people ahead of me, including Erica, and I just tried to focus on staying on whatever wheel was in front of me and PUSH! PUSH! PUSH! all the way through. I knew the key to the hill would be to continue in a big gear at the top instead of recovering, and that is what I did – PUSH through the flat leading to the downhill and then click, click, click to the biggest gear, then SCREAM downhill, yell at Erica to “Come on!”, hit the cobbles, up and around the corner AND DIG!!! There were still about five or six girls in front with me and my brain was yelling, “PUSH ANDREA! PUSH!”  I knew there was a slight downhill right before the final turn home and I clicked down a gear, got in the drops, rounded the turn, and gritted my teeth. I passed about two girls in the final sprint and ended up 5th out of 31 finishers in the women’s cat 4 race. Erica came in 10th and Vanessa finished with the pack.

My goal was top 10. Not bad for a girl who spent 99% of her training indoors over the past three months.

It’s still cold here in Chicago but we’re flirting with 40s and 50s this week. Hopefully spring doesn’t turn out to be a saucy tease and actually sticks around before we go straight to summer. The season is off to a great start, despite the weather.

Yay! Bikes!

 -Andrea Devine

Hillsboro: Pushing to get in, pushing for the podium.

I registered for men's cat 5 Hillsboro-Roubaix on February 1st, 20 minutes after registration opened. I was 75th for a 50-rider field, dead last on the waiting list. Bummer.

Fast forward to last Monday. I was up to 14th on the wait list... still didn't look good. A day later, 8th... a glimmer of hope. Then I got the idea of upgrading to Cat 4 because I noticed an opening in that field--DENIED. Three days before the race I was up to 3rd on the wait list, then 2nd, then next in line! I must've refreshed a thousand times that day but I went to bed without the knowledge that I would be racing on Saturday. Crap. I woke up the next morning to find an e-mail from the race organizer that registration was closed and that they were clearing out the wait lists and refunding our money. #@$#!!!%&$*# I was gutted.

Then around lunchtime on Thursday I decided to check one more time just for the hell of it. A Cat 5 opening?!?? It can't be, it is! I contacted the race organizer first by e-mail (no dice) then by phone. I begged for that last spot and got the final confirmation a couple hours later... "Jamie, you are in the race" *fistpumps*

I arranged for some last minute accommodations, a ride for me, a separate ride for my bike... Half Acre teammates rule! Thanks guys! Now on to the business of actually racing this thing.

We did a team pre-ride of the last few miles of the circuit which consisted of two climbs with a short gap in between, one descent, two cobbled streets (Main St. and Fairgrounds Ave.) and the smoother start/finish stretch. I knew immediately that this was where the race would be decided.

At 10:50am our race rolled out in a neutral start behind the pace truck. Todd and I planned on sticking together near the front and ready to jump on any serious looking move. It quickly became apparent that the wind would make that extremely difficult, so we just sat in. I don't know if it was nerves, inexperience or what but the first couple miles could best be described as imperfect. I had one rider drift across me and hit my bars with his thigh, nearly taking me down. There were riders grabbing handfuls of brake on a straight descent because of a little bit of gravel. It was pretty sketchy to start but Todd and I survived until a loud puncture just behind me!!! Please don't be Todd, please don't be Todd. I went immediately to the front with the rider from Proctor Cycling to stay out of harm's way. As the field twisted and turned it's way through the countryside I talked to various riders to try and find out who was involved in the crash. Although no one confirmed that Todd was in it, I could only assume that I was on my own the rest of the way. My plan was to wait for the climbs and bricks. The pace was pushed pretty hard as the race unfolded but I managed to stay near the front and mostly out of the wind. 5-6 miles to go and a little pain starts to set in. This is where your mind starts playing tricks on you. Am I the only one hurting? Are these guys hurting too? Whatever, keep pedaling.

As we approached the hills, I tried to position myself so that I wouldn't get stuck behind someone who can't climb. I started to feel outnumbered, 2 Proctor riders, 4 riders in identical Black and White kit, a couple other guys here and there. We hit the first climb hard and I got out of the saddle. My legs responded. I crested the first hill in the top 5, riders were dropping left and right. We then had a short flat stretch where we regrouped and recovered for the shorter but steeper 8-9% climb. Thank you 11-28! I crested the next climb in 3rd but my heart rate was off the charts (I peaked at 203!!!), left turn, then a fast descent into the bricks. I felt like I was about to pop but I just kept going. We hit the bricks at ~35mph and I caught air @#$@#!! I don't really know how to describe how it is riding on those bricks when you have almost absolutely nothing left. My bike handling skills are not great on a good day, but when you're spent those skills just go out the window. I just kept thinking "keep pushing, don't crash, keep pushing, don't crash." We turned left again on to Fairgrounds Ave., more cobbles. At this point, I'm 5th or 6th on the road. DIG! I thought "you're hurting, they're hurting, lets find out who's hurting more." One final turn and we're off the bricks. The smooth pavement felt like a velodrome. I gave it everything I had and made up a couple more spots. With the line in sight I'm 3rd! I fought the temptation to look back and just kept hammering away. YES! PODIUM!!!

I got a brick!


 -Jamie Sanchez

A Smashingly Great Hillsboro.

Half Acre Cycling blue was flying all over the southern part of our lovely state last Saturday, as 9 riders toed the line for the spring classic.

HAC riders placed 9 in the Women's 4; 8, 10, 14, 32, and 40 in the Men's 5; 25 and 73 in the Men's 4; and 47 in the masters  40-49.  Great results and good times, all around!

Read riders' accounts of the cobbled miles of joy:  "Kevin Clark,": "Joe Schubert,": "Tim Strege.":