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Jingle Cross

How the Grinch Stole My Virginity

Well, snow virginity.  This past weekend's Jingle Cross Rock was quite possibly the most fun i've had at a race ever.  Here's how the weekend went down:

Friday:  Dan and i drove to a paintball field just east of the Mississippi which had open play all day.  If you've never played paintball, it's a total blast.  I used to play a lot and playing Friday really reinvigorated my interest in the sport.  The running, sliding, peeking around corners to shoot, the sensation of hundreds of little pellets whizzing by your head at 280 feet per second, it all adds up to a real heart-pounding day.  Next time I'm bringing a heart rate monitor.  Even though I had some issues with my marker at the end of the day, we drove away saturday quite satisfied but hungry for more.  Half Acre Paintball Team anyone?

The new Marriott in Coralsville is the nicest Marriott i've ever been in.  Granted, it's brand spanking new, but it has a library and LCD TVs in every room.  And Deadliest Catch on TV all the time.  Which by the way i was reminded how good that show is.  Riveting.

Dan took me to a food co-op in Iowa City which is far and away better than any Whole Paycheck I've been into.  Everything was totally delicious.  A few sixers of beer and we were back at the hotel chilling with Julie and Ben, waiting for Tim to arrive.  Upon arrival, i took delivery of my very first Half Acre kit (on loan from Julie since she got to wear the super-chill HRS Rock Lobster jacket).  Note: never drink a wheat beer from a can.  Also note:  Tim knows a lot about buying speedos.  Yet another note:  my ass looks really great in a speedo.

Mmmmm, beer.  Some was spilled.  One of the Marriott workers gave us a queer sort of look in the hot tub, but we were pruned up in short order anyway.  We went back to the room to chill and due to a quite hilarious altercation with a pillow, even more beer was spilled.  Deetz are available on flickr!  So anyway, Tim had an extra bed in his room and even though Dan is quite cuddly, i opted for us both to have our own bed.  Man, was that a good choice.

The next morning i woke up overeager and dragged Tim and Julie to the venue before the officials even got there.  There was some time to walk the course a bit, but that time could probably have been better spent sleeping or eating more breakfast.  The ground was cold and crispy, and the two quick creek crossings were frozen solid.  Tim was on his bicycle already as i should have been.  A little waiting around and bike prep, and i was in the car "warming up".  In hindsight I should have been on the bike or a trainer actually warming myself, but this was comfy.

I was called up in the order of my number, in the third row.  As per usual, I didn't get a very good start and settled in about halfway down the pack.  The course was fast, and featured one pretty steep runup on Mt Krumpet, the big feature on the course.  One set of barriers was in place pretty early on in the course, then a short and steep uphill to an off-camber sidecut, then behind the stables to runup on Mt Krumpet.  The descent was fast and after that it was a mixture of slow-speed maneuvers, a sandbox that exited through a questionable doorway and a log hop.  I raced my own race, picking up positions as the laps counted down.  on the final straight toward the finish, i had some issues shifting into the big ring and lost a sprint to the finish by half a bike length.

The race was over for me and i was pleased.  I felt great and there were some high-fives with the other racers.  I ran Julie back to the hotel to collect Ben and made it back just in time to hand Tim his clothing after racing the single-speed race in a speedo.  Unfortunately the "free swag" they were giving out to the speedo wearers was basically something to put your bits into and keep them warm while you rubbed some ointment on the chafed parts.

Time for lunch!  Again, a delicious meal from the co-op.  I returned to the venue in time to smear some food into my mouth and help Julie and Ben get ready for the UCI C2 race.  Seeing the elite racers race was mind-boggling.  These guys were faster in the slow sections than i was in the fast sections.  Too soon the race was over and we were all headed back to the hotel.  All of Half Acre proper went to a questionable Mexican joint and fed our faced with margarita and cheese and meat.  The Wells brothers and their crew went for Mexican as well.  Julie of course was preoccupied with listening into their conversations ;)

More sleep, and up at a slightly later time the next morning.  Snow!  This would be my first time racing in snow.  We got to the course early enough to kit up and take a practice lap.  Even with no races having been run, it was already getting messy.  The course had changed and now featured a really odd sidecut over the bleachers that i determined was faster to run, essentially dragging my bike with me.

Soon enough the race was on and when the whistle went off i was still messing with my helmet.  I managed to get myself moving fast enough and picked up the back half of the pack.  I made some good movement through the first straight and tried to settle into not crashing into someone in front of me.  The sidecut on the hill went fine and i picked up a few places, but on the straightaway out i slid out.  My bike fell right into the racing line as i slid through the tape, and a rider behind me hit my chainring and went over the bars.  Dazed, i picked my bike up and headed out.  My bars were crooked as well as my big ring, but i could still get moving.  After that i just kept moving steady, picking people off in the technical sections and barriers/dismounts.  Joining the Killjoy crew on Wednesday practice and watching them dismount and mount made what i felt was a world of difference, since i wasn't losing any speed or momentum on any of the sections i was off my bike.

A couple laps later and it was over too soon.  I couldn't quite pick off the pack of riders just ahead of me in the final straight due to again, issues shifting into the big ring.  Despite that, i felt pretty awesome afterward and remarked with Brandon of Team Pegasus that we could have gone quite a bit farther.  The course was a blast and my snow virginity had been taken.  I was ready for more the next weekend at Montrose.

The rest of the day went great, Tim wasn't in his speedo but still did well in the SS category, and Ben finished with what he said was his best finish yet.  My new fur-lined Sorel moccasins did the trick on the cold front (the free keg at the bottom of the mudslide helped as well).  Tim and i got our superfan-dom on during the elite women's and men's races and the day ended on an incredibly high note.

Taco John's rules.  Iowa 80 truckstop is really huge and you can buy swords there.  We made it home safe and i passed out immediately.

The End!

-Chris Jensen

 

Iowaaaaaaaaaaah

That's right.  This Thanksgiving weekend, while everyone was at the mall shopping for ultra-discounted-flat-screen-blu-ray-wii-wireless somethings, some of us rolled to beautiful Iowa City for some Jingle Cross Rock UCI action in a county fairgrounds, where we had some speedo'd, hard bikin', shirtless fallin' in the snow, mudball fun.

First up was the men's beginner race, where new member Chris Jensen flew the colors with pride.  He had a strong start and hung with the pack for the first half of the race, but then he turned - it - on.  Seriously, passing people like they were standing still.  In his first non-Chicago race, Chris really rocked it out for a top-25 finish!

Saturday was clear and not too cold, so when the promoter asked singlespeeders to wear speedo's, Tim Strege was happy to oblige.  I had the great honor of writing his race number on his back in sharpie, along with "Half Acre Cycling *heart*s you!"  It was c-c-c-cold but Tim held his own for a finish with a smile.

And then I hung out in the pit and did nothing, but I shouted alot, yeah?

Sunday was a mudhole.  Dan rolled up minutes too late for registration, so he joined me in the shouting section instead.  Slippery, sloppy mud surrounded by snow was the name of the game and it was Chris' first venture into a non-dry course.  He did awesome.  It's like... it took him a lap to get it down, and he was in 36th the first time we counted, but he came back like a bandit to take another top-25 finish.  Yowsa!

The officials had cut out the run-up to the so-called Mount Krumpet because the downhill was "dangerous" for the beginners and really kind of silly.  It was slick and steep and had a 90-degree turn at the bottom... so naturally they'd add it back in for the singlespeed race and leave it there for the day "as long as we don't break anyone."

So, Tim's field was the first over the hill and, ki-ya!, that was nuts.  Dan was standing at the top of the hill doing corn dog handups, but from where I stood halfway up, I could see the full effect.  It was a slip-and-slide of Iowa's finest dark mud, taking people down who dared make a misstep.  The first time down Tim slid on his feet, bike in hand, but after that he rode it.  You could smell the spectators' whisky and cider from miles away.  Most everyone fell at least once, racers and onlookers alike.  Insane.  Tim finished strong and in one piece, once again.

When the Elite race came, I took my place in the pit.  Tim and Chris took their shirts off and played superfan, cheering on the guys as they slid down the hill.  By all accounts, Chris did a shirtless faceplant in a snowbank, resulting in him grunting half-naked behind a tree while reapplying clothing and reportedly distracting more than one confused racer on the course.

It was a good day.

 -Julie Popper