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Show Up, Take Risks, Ride Fast and Soak in the Cheers!

Show Up, Take Risks, Ride Fast and Soak in the Cheers!

CHI CROSS CUP - W 1/2/3 

CCC#1: LaBagh Woods
The first race of the year is usually held at Caldwell Woods, but it’s in a low-lying area and heavy rains flooded the park a few days before. The race staff pulled off an amazing feat by securing a new venue and creating a brand new course in a matter of days. The park is relatively small so the course had a TON of turns which I enjoyed. For whatever reason I did pretty well, and somehow ended up in 5th place behind some fast ladies. However, 3rd was not that far off…I should’ve pushed myself harder. My take-away from the race: go faster next time! Take risks!

CCC #2: Hopkins Park
I raced at Hopkins last year and besides the flyover, my only memory of the course was that I didn’t like it. I couldn’t remember why I didn’t like it until I rode the course again- so damn bumpy! I had a good start but quickly dropped from 3rd to 9th over 6 laps. Mistake of the day: substituting a pack of Honey Stinger chews for a gel right before the race (I only had one and usually eat two). What was I thinking?! By lap two I wanted to puke. It sucked.  On top of that I felt like I was riding a jackhammer for 45 minutes- my back was really sore and every bumped sucked the energy out of me. We had some very fast out-of-towners come in for this race and I was just happy to take 9th. Blah. The take-away from this race: run tubeless or pony up for tubulars next year. Lower pressure would’ve been nice.

CCC #3: Dan Ryan Woods
Admittedly the only reason I was excited about doing this race is because of the park’s proximity to Rainbow Cone. I love Rainbow Cone.  But DRW also happens to be my favorite course in the CCC because it’s very mountain-bikey, with a lot of climbing, singletrack and fast downhills.  I woke up this morning feeling extremely tired and even stayed in bed for an extra hour (which I never do). Then there was the toddler and cockatiel beatdown.  Ugh! Sometimes I think it’s a major victory if we just get out the door on time and don’t forget anything.

Before I go any further I should mention that most of the top lady racers were up at the Trek Cup in Wisconsin this weekend.  Moving on…  So based on series points I got the first call-up, and even at the start line I felt tired. Just…sleepy.  My legs felt awful but were shocked into submission as I moved around the top five. At one point I was second, then fifth, and then fourth. I even tried bunny-hopping the little barriers, but in reality I looked (and felt) like a buffalo crashing into a fence. Ha!  I went slower and slower as the race progressed, and pretty much just let the fifth place girl pass me. I had nothing left. So I ended up in fifth and took home another $80. I am kind of disappointed though because I feel like I should’ve placed higher in this race. Oh well. On a side note, when I got back to the team tent and flopped on the ground, AKA rushed over to take care of me with the ice pack from our cooler. She kept asking if I was OK and even wiped the dirt off my legs. So darn cute!

Random Thoughts:
It’s mid-October and so far I’ve done 3/11 races of the series. 11!  I know it’s early in the season but I can’t help but feel a little discouraged. I really try not to compare life before/after AKA but boy, I used to be a lot faster!  Is it because I’m a mom now and have different priorities? Or the fact that I’m 37? Or because I have chronic insomnia and never feel rested? I’m guessing it’s a combination of those things and probably other stuff too. I don’t have the mental drive like I used to either- I used to put up a fight if I were passed, now I just kinda shrug my shoulders and think “It’s not like I’m a pro or something.”.  I’m starting to wonder if I hit my personal peak a few years ago and should just be put out to pasture in a masters category. Or take up singlespeed.

On a positive note, this year’s CX season has been way better from a social standpoint. Last year I didn’t know anyone and now I have people cheering for me all over the course! It’s great.

So I might to back to the drawing board and re-evaluate my goals for the season. I had planned on racing the entire CCC but it looks like I’ll have to miss a couple races, and at some point I’d like to try another race in Wisconsin. Maybe Jingle Cross too.

Stay tuned…

-Karyn A. 

As the wheels turn...

There are a multitude of things that need to come together in a cyclocross race to have any kind of "winning" results. Text book stuff, like proper rest, nutrition, training, smooth transitions, picking the right lines, etc. But there's one that people don't talk much about. Maybe because it's more of an implied factor. To me though, this is the one thing that I've been chasing and I'm not sure how or why it finally clicked.

I call it "battle". Now, some people just seem to be programmed for it. Not this gal. Until recently, my best shot at it was hoping every thing else mentioned above lined up. I feel it now though. It's in my belly.

Spoiler alert: I'm not setting the stage for a big come-uppance story. I rather loathe the start line brawls and might never embrace what it takes to cut up through that mess. But I have patience, which is fairly valuable in cx. Their mistake could be my gain (or vice versa).

I feel this new mentality driving me forward in races and I relish it....

~ Jen Groen

My Time Among the Achtervolgers

I am having a blast this cyclocross season. I’m up front in the Category 3 race. And I have the good fortune of racing with (and against) some really great people. Honestly, it’s a pleasure lining up against my nemeses. Andrew Haala (Tuxedo Thunder) has been tearing it up. Brian Piotrowski (xXx Racing) encourages me, even when he’s the person I’m pursuing. And Tyler George (xXx Racing) keeps beating me for the holeshot. While Andrew and Brian often get a gap on me and keep it, Tyler sometimes fades off the front after a lap or two. But just when you think you have him beat, Tyler finds a second wind and overtakes you in the final lap or so.

This weekend I raced at the fourth ChiCrossCup race in Carpentersville, where I went from being in the lead group to the chase group. With Andrew sitting this race out, I was excited to be the second racer called to the starting grid. Beating my call up position would have meant winning the race. I knew that wasn’t going to happen. But, I felt pretty good about my chances for a podium spot. The course was fun and technical. The ground was moist and tacky and only a little bit leg-sapping. Plus, a cardinal landed right at the official’s feet, delaying the whistle for a couple of minutes. (I have no idea whether it was an omen, but it was an interesting little event.)

Once the bird was safely in the hands of a spectator, the whistle went off and we were racing. I got a good start. I was second into the holeshot. I followed Tyler’s wheel in second place for half a lap. But when we got into the back section of the course, four racers came around me. This time, Tyler didn’t fade. He and Brian worked hard to build a gap and keep it. I passed one of the riders in the lead group, but then I soon lost touch with my friendly competition. By the end of the first lap, they were no longer in view. I didn’t see them again until I heard their names being called for the podium. Instead, I fended off attacks from the rest of the chase group of six or seven riders, most of whom were right on my wheel for the entire race.

The excitement came in the last lap of the race. I thought I was in the clear. But there was PJ Cavoto from Spider Monkey. He’d fought through the crowds to end up on my wheel. He got past me somewhere on the back stretch with one and a half to go. I passed him briefly on the banked turn, forcing him to take a high line, but he caught me on the straightaway. The bell rang as we passed the official’s tent. One to go. I chased him through the twisty section, down and up the little gully, past the back stretch and into the corn field. I gained a bit on him on the rollers, but he pulled away on the pavement. I followed him over the first barrier and into the grassy section. He pulled away again on the paved path, but I caught him again on the little bump of a hill. Around the off-camber we went. I was right on his wheel. He pulled away on the descent, but I caught him again on the barriers. He beat me to the banked turn this time around and took off down the home stretch. I came off the bank and got into my drops. Pumping the cranks, I did what I could to catch him. My heart was beating about as fast as it could. The long right arc toward the finish line had a little kink in it at the end. PJ braked at the kink. That’s all I needed to get right on his wheel. As we approached the finish line, I started to pull around him. I hoped I had enough course left to get past him. We threw our bikes at the line. I had him by half a wheel length.

It was the first time I had successfully timed a sprint. In fact, I don’t really think of myself as a sprinter, but I guess I have a little of it in my blood. The effort earned me a fifth place finish. Five seems to be my lucky number this year. I’ve gotten fifth in all but one cyclocross race I’ve done this year. I’ll take it. Last year, I managed to finish that high only once. I’m having a breakthrough season. Hopefully, I’ll earn my way onto the podium at some point this year. But even if I don’t, I’ll be out there going as hard as I can and having a great time while I’m at it. See you at the races.

by Paul-Brian McInerney

Lake Geneva - two different races in two weeks

Treadfest - WORS mountain bike series

The 10th in a series of 12 races.  A challenging course that begins with a long uphill climb forcing the riders to work hard to be first into the single track. 

Rich Baumgarten continued his quest to stay on top with his 1st place finish in the Cat 2 Sport class in his age group.  Two more races to determine if he takes overall top podium spot for the series...again.

Paul-Brian McInerney also made the journey north and put in a hard effort to nab 2nd place in the Cat 2 Comp in his age group.  This guy is ready to take on the upcoming cx season.


Lake Geneva CX - WCA series

We had our fun season preview at the CX Relay in Jackson Park a few weeks ago.  Yesterday, however, things got the full kick-off.  The Lake Geneva CX race had all the natural obstacles a cx racer would want to ride: mud, sand, climbs, and off-camber sections.  A group of our riders made the journey north to test out their early season skills.

  • Masters 45+   Paul-Brian McInerney 5th
  • Men's Cat 3  Eric Holm 10th, Bill Guy 25th
  • Men's Cat 4  Michael Sojka 25th
  • Women's Cat 3  Andrea Devine, 4th, Jen Groen 8th
  • Women's Cat 4  Ashley Heidenreich 5th
  • Masters 35+  Jen Groen 4th, Jen Mosley 7th, Laurie Chipps 8th

Next up for the cx squad will be TrekFest and then Caldwell woods, the starter to the Chicago Cross Cup series.





Race Report: Barry-Roubaix 2014

Jacob Ortony at the start. Calm before the storm.

Jacob Ortony at the start. Calm before the storm.

By Jacob Ortony

The race was unbelievably painful for me. This was my first race with Half Acre, my first gravel race, and my first time combining a season opener with endurance racing. I was very well rested as my body has been recovering all winter from a nasty fall and hip injury.

With only two weeks of training for the race, I suffered for all the hours I didn't spend suffering; and as I was force-fed pain, these memories below are my pain foie gras. In the transition to fitness, my speeds usually drop while my body starts to adjust to the constant recovery of training. I was lucky that my speeds were relatively high, but I paid for the lack of preparation with epic unrelenting pain when my endurance ran out. My memories of race day seem like continuous disjointed fragments. There was the flash of morning and preparation drinking in the vast amounts of information of teammates going through various preparations, while running through my own thoughtlessly.

I ended up putting away a couple bowls of granola, a couple doughnut holes, a pint of beet juice, and 3 cups of coffee three hours before race time. I prepared 24 fl oz of fuel drink from 4 fl oz of agave nectar, two "5 hour energy drinks," and water. Reflecting on the horrendous taste, I kept one bottle filled with pure water as a chaser.

We arrived 20 minutes before the start and queued in the bullpen. I spent the time examining the racers around me and recognizing friendly faces (sensibly warming up) while I oscillated between worrying I was going to tip over from perched on my seat, dominoing a line of waiting racers, and searching out the strongest riders I have ridden with who give me a variety of inspiration. As the minutes dwindled in blinks, we were directed to the start area. Many more riders poured through gaps in the fences, warmed up and ready, as we packed into the crowd-contained column of street headed by a digital clock counting down the last 3 minutes. Here it was warm, and thousands of motivations affected sips of water, clicking, clacking, beeping, and deep breaths which were audible as the chatting quieted.

The start was dense! It seemed inevitable that crashes were impending as bars and wheels crossed, locked, and unlocked in the exponentially accelerating mass. With no easy transition, my thoughts quickly turned to pack tactics on an unknown road. The center line rule was out the window. There was never a time in the first 9 miles where only riding 2 abreast was a thought or concern (if it ever was). The column of cyclists distilled into fractions of varying fitness levels by flowing and catching on each other. My flow came in breaks up the left side trying to follow Paul-Brian who quickly disappeared. Being careful not to be caught in the left lane while representing Half Acre I made a surge for the front group. I jumped from group to group, looking for teammates to stay close to. I caught sight of Paul-Brian at the rear of the front pack, realizing that I was in the wind alone at an unsustainable pace. The fears hit me then; knowing I was not going to be able to keep this pace for minutes let alone 50 some miles. I dropped back with a sigh and a mental break to the second group just as we crested a hill and descended into new territory.

At 35 mph, the first of the pack hit deep mud, ruts and hiding holes. People slammed on their brakes and the pack reformed into lines following the deepest ruts. I chose a bad line and tried to hop across the ruts. As I hopped, my rear wheel caught the lip of the rut. As my weight came up and forward, my bike started to fishtail. I put a foot down and managed to stay up and steer to the road edge coming to a stop with a twinge of pain in my lower back. The second pack disappeared with me standing in 6-inch deep mud, wondering for a moment if I would kill my pedals if I tried to clip straight in. My Time ATACs gave me a little bit of happiness as I clipped in and seamlessly rode on.

Occasionally riders would pass in small groups, but for the most part I only had my hammering heart, pain pulsing up my back and the novel sound of my bike grinding gravel in every moving part. My mind broke with the pain of my back, and despair of being lost off the back with seemingly no-one behind me. I nearly lost to myself there nearly 9 miles into the race with 53 miles to go. Mike called out to me from a group zipping by, offering help, which I quickly declined. He looked like he had great rhythm and air enough to speak I wanted him to continue to enjoy it. Seeing him was enough to seed my second wind, though. I gained the resolve to fake a mechanical (concealing my weakness) and stretch my back while "examining my brakes." That 30-second stop was exactly what I needed. I decided the combination of the stresses of technical pack riding and inefficiencies of adapting to others' rhythms outweighed the benefits of aerodynamic efficiency at ~20mph.

I made a firm decision to make this my race and dropped into time trial mode. I regulated my breathing, worked on my form and technique. I stayed away from groups, passing quickly those I could and slowing to let others go ahead. The change in perspective changed the entire race for me. My warm muscles obeyed, my mind sang with endorphins, and I rapidly consumed miles for hours. I saw most of my teammates during this time. Ashley, Annette, and Mike. I was glad they saw me at my best. I danced up hills and even played with bunny hopping muddy craters with the freedom of not worrying about crashing anyone but myself. I did a lot of chatting as I passed people in their pain caves. Mostly 24-36 recreational riders, who smiled as I joked around with Thomas the Tank Engine quotes, and commiserating groans coupled with smiles. Some of the more serious riders looked a little grumpy and didn't respond to my friendly hellos. I caught up with Chernoh "The Train" Sesay and company from Johnny Sprockets. We passed each other back and forth until mile 44ish.

At the turn before mile 44, I crested a hill shortly before a turning point, which was signed by a mother and son. The son was playing with the sign throwing it up in the air spinning and catching it. When he saw me he was in the left lane holding the sign to go straight ahead. I zipped passed. Then, I noticed the mother running from her vehicle with a look of worry and frustration. I slowed down a bit, watching back for riders, nervous that I had been misdirected. As the volunteers shrunk in the distance I could just make riders turning left at the intersection. With a grumble, I turned back. Within a couple minutes I was back pointing the right direction with some sincere apologies given and accepted. I had a brief surge of energy to reclaim the time. I was flying past riders confused at my second passing and started to realize my impeding exhaustion. My shifting became clumsy and ill timed. When I hit the hills I would lose momentum and my legs seemed heavy and swollen. I switched my cyclocomputer away from the mileage as the constant calculation of time to go started to fray my resolve again. I kept looking for my next landmark which was the rejoining of the 62, 24, and 36 mile courses at the bottom of a steep hill into a right turn. I kept turning right at the bottom of fast descents, watching with extra caution for bicycle cross-traffic but the signs all were marked only for the killer course.

My overall average speed started to decline slowly from 17.5 to 17 mph. I calculated again and again that I would be done within the hour with a time of between 3 hours and 3:30, in the worst case that my overall average ended up being ~16mph. My math sucked. My speeds declined to 7 mph uphill, 19 in the flats.

With 8 miles to go, trundling along, I found some more motivation. One of my frequent commuting routes along the lakefront is about 8 miles along. I have ridden it many times in states of utter exhaustion at the end of very long rides. I just imagined that home was so close, I knew I could make it if I just gear it down and keep moving. It wasn't a race anymore. It was getting home. With 4 miles left to go I caught a single speed rider in agony. He was walking the hills and silent to my compliments of his singlespeed tenacity. He asked how long we had to go, and I told him that it was about 4 miles and that I had turned it into a commute to home which had a certainty of finishing soon. He told me that he couldn't often commute because his work was 20 miles away. I couldn't think of a response fast enough. After utilizing all of my gears and bombing down the next hill he disappeared.

With a couple miles to go I started passing cargo bikes with giant plastic bins strapped and racked on. I couldn't fathom what was going on and asked if there was a cargo category to enjoy their laughed reply. I saw the city limits sign and indulged in thinking about how wonderful it was that this was a small town. I would only be a mile or so away. I started pushing the pace. I passed the last group of cargo bike volunteers cleaning up trash and course debris. I asked one thick legged rider in florescent yellow if I could ride in his rack. He looked at me without a smile. I turned my attention to the hill and accelerated over the top. I entered the city on smooth pavement and pushed harder for my last show of strength at the finish line. Looking back I saw a lone rider a block back. I tucked down and hit the corners hard, yelling out for a hazard of pooled water at one of the last turns and then after a couple short corners I saw the finish line. The chasing rider had made up a lot of distance, and despite the scope of the race, I didn't want to lose a place with so little to go.

I gave it everything as an alien horrible sound broke out just behind me. I pulled to the left and was passed by the unsmiling volunteer with a rack half full of bouncing bottles and cans sprinting for the finish line. I shook my head in weary disapproval and bunny hopped over the finish line. After coming to a stop I looked around an recognized no one. I had no idea where I was, or where I should go. I had fantasized about collapsing into the waiting arms of my teammates, carried to the back seat of a warm car, and being given chocolate Ovaltine. Instead I was confused, wobbling along on the sideline wondering if I was going to fall over. I saw Lily Grumbles smiling and celebrating and I wobbled over to her. I don't even know what I said, but then I found myself looking at the grass and thinking I need to go lay down on that. I excused myself and wandered to the roadside and looked at the grass again. It was a mud pit splotchy with snow and grass and looked like a really bad idea. I started to wander towards the biggest crowd.

Realizing I was representing HAC, I put a hard game face on, straightened my kit slowly, and walked into the crowds. Warmth and sound grew and within minutes I had rested my bike against a barrier, hugged teammates, and was standing carefree next to the bonfire, steaming among warnings that it might be smoke drinking an Old Dirty Bastard and eating good warm food.

The post-race blended into evening and night with parties which has left me very impressed with my new team. I was totally wrong about my time, I had calculated it was going to be about 3:20:00 in the last 15 miles, but even two digit multiplication was beyond me then. I ended up finishing in 3:49 at 97th place. If I hadn't been misdirected I might have been able to ride it in with Chernoh from Johnny Sprockets, which would have been great. All of the other ifs and buts were fully in my control, and perhaps next year I can shave 45 minutes off my time and finish with the lead group... =) I also need to thank Chamois Buttr. While it might not be the intended effect, embro gave me something to focus on when things got fierce and allowed me to compete at a higher level despite the biting conditions. 

What Happens at CrossVegas....

Cyclo-cross season is upon us. As everyone gears us for the first big Midwest race of the year at Trek HQ I get to take the weekend off and work on recovering from not just the race but the non stop atmosphere of Interbike out in Las Vegas. The hole reason for the trip was to participate in Cross Vegas. I came out with few expectations knowing it would just be a ton of fun. Cross racing after dark is quite possibly the best thing to ever happen to cycling. The course looked challenging and rewarding. Then a few days before they decided to change the course, for the better, and make an already difficult course even more so. New additions included a bermed corner and a second flyover.

I was seeded 144 of 154 but managed to be starting in the last row. Looking at the reality of the situation I gave up all hope of doing well and just set out to push my self and have fun. That's exactly what I did, and it payed off. Off the start there was not much flat fast wide grass course which broke up the field and I managed to work my way up and put myself in a good position for the technical part of the course. This included quite a few short steep climbs up what seemed like a grass covered wall, a wooden bermed corner, 2 18inch barriers, 2 massive flyovers, and 3 sets of 4 6 inch barriers with what we all call kitty litter behind it. This made for a lot of getting off your bike sending your heart rate through the roof and hopping back on with not much time to recover in between each obstacle. All of this made for the most challenging course I have ever and will probably ever come across. This meant at the end of the race it was all the more rewarding to finish.

Being in the last line of riders my goal quickly became do not get lapped. The light at the start turned from red to green and all I heard was someone 10 rows up yell out, "hey shut up back there the race has started." 30 seconds later it was time to clip in and get going. I made sure to take it easy and not make any stupid moves on the first lap. Take it easy and play it safe I keep telling my self. And by the time it came for the first big climb I found myself catching up to the only other person I knew in the race who was staged in the 60's. I knew I was doing well but it was just the first lap. The second lap I felt even better. The field was strung out I found out where my Chicagoans were and made sure to go just a little faster through the sections they could see. The third lap started off great I felt great I was flying through the course. I hears someone say, "look at this kid he is killing it," and then came my least favorite part of the course. A sharp descent with a 90 degree turn off of pavement onto grass. I came into the pavement section from the grass bunny hopped up and was flying down and then it came time to start turning and when I leaned into the turn my rear wheel got away from me and I went down, and hard. I heard my body hit the ground, then my head, then I heard every spectator gasp, and finally as I was still sliding down the pavement a UCI official yelled out, "are you okay?" I thought to myself it's go time. If I do not get up now I am going to be pulled from the race. So I hopped back up grabbed my bike remounted and was off. Only 3 more laps to go. Each one of those laps hurt more than the last. Lap 5 I could see the race leaders as the course snaked back and fourth and I thought to myself it's go time. If I do not pick it up I will be pulled a lap short and feel like a failure. I made it, time for lap 6. The pain of hitting the concrete, dehydration, and just general tiredness set in. My legs felt heavy and I did not want to pedal anymore. I finished the race and came very close to passing out at the finish line.

About 15 minutes after everyone finished the results were posted and I saw I came in third place in the Mechanics Challenge Presented by Feedback Sports, yes every thing had a sponsor. About ten minutes later Vince on Half Acre Cycling, who was in Chicago, sent me a picture of the overall leaders board someone had taken and congratulated me on having won the  Wick Werks fastest lap competition. I had the single fastest lap time out of all 154 people in the Wheelers and Dealers race presented by Bicycling Magazine. All in all it was the most fun I have had at a cross race this year. But then again the Chicago Cross Cup has yet to start. Lets stay classy and have some fun this year.

See you on the grass in a park near you soon.       

 -A. Baldyga

Women, Junior Girls and Transgender Cyclocross Clinic ...

CALLING ALL LADIES NEW(ER) TO CYCLOCROSS RACING ...Sunday, Sept 15th, Half Acre Cycling is back with their instructional clinic.  This is geared towards someone new or almost new to the sport (couple races under your belt).  The clinic will run from 10 a.m.-1pm.

"Registration": opens on Mon, Aug 19th @ 12:01 a.m.  To ensure learning space both in lecture and field practice ... the clinic will be limited to the first 25 registrants.  Make sure to read the details on this event page.

Don't miss this opportunity to learn in a ladies only setting with the fast and fantastic sisters, Sam and Skylar Schneider leading the shebang and sharing their tips! Make sure to bring your helmet...and bike, of course.

Good times in DeKalb.

More than 300 riders tore up Hopkins Park yesterday.  It was great fun.  Thanks to our partners at North Central Cyclery and to our teammates and friends, things went off really, really well.

(Photo by Jason Henry)


Race Reports:

We went to DeKalb and had fun.  Lots and lots of fun.

Blogs: Adrian, Julie, Zach

Photos: Ed White, Jason Henry's mom Sandy, John Cline, Soupy

Special thanks to race sponsors North Central Cyclery, Specialized, Twin 6, Hammer Nutrition, Surly, Yojimbo's Garage, Ollie's Frozen Custard, along with all the sponsors of the Chicago Cross Cup series.  Buy their stuff, eh?