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monsters of midway

Once Again. Never again.

Monsters Of The Midway 2016 M1,2,3, race report.

Monsters of the Midway. I’ve done this race so many times, and yet I always ask myself why?
The course is basic, the surface is appalling, the prizes lean, there’s no neutral support, the wind always howls down the long midway dominating strategies and ruining attacks. Moan moan moan.

The reason I’m here, the reason everyone is here is because it’s here, in the heart of Chicago, at that precise moment in the season where everyone wants to race, is (just about) ready to race, needs to race. And hence everyone is here, making for a big competitive event you can test yourself against. So shut-up, harden (the fuck) up and line up.

I arrive in time to pay and register. Yes I decided, make that folded, into doing this thing at 10pm the night before. Actually, make that 10:20 after reviewing the tv weather forecast. Those lying sack of shit forecasters, they said nothing about the thunderstorm brewing up literally 10 minutes after I’ve committed and unloaded the bike. The weather radar looks like a Jackson Pollock, the sky darkens and wind is suddenly whipping around in every direction.

Too late to do anything now. Tents are blowing over and barriers on the course too, letting unaware motorists drive on. It’s not raining yet, we wait on the line freezing in the cooling breeze for the all clear and whistle.

By some miracle the winds drop, skies brighten, barriers are righted and we are off and racing. No rain.

Early pace is high and I’m struggling to keep up, but after a lap I’m warmed up and revving for action. The wind as usual seems to be a strong headwind in both directions. Down the straights the bunch snakes around, hunting for respite. Grit and gravel fly up from the gutters and riders curse each other, but we throw ourselves into the turns 3 wide glad the rain is holding off.

There are some classy riders here, Weather Channel have three and expect to dominate, Burnham are not so sure about that. Half Acre has one, and he’s holding 10th wheel with no expectations at all. Several riders flat out, one right in front of me. Nobody panics, hand up off to the side. I have my spare wheels in the median this year after last years calamity. Here's hoping they just sit there. Still no rain.

As usual there are drops in the pace that swap the order, as the back of the race swarms the front, followed by furious fightbacks. It’s fast and fun. I'm enjoying it.

An attack of six goes off, this looks dangerous, Weather Channel are weather making at the front. As teammates block I’m also working to improve my position and get thrown to the lead of the chase. A lung bursting pull up the straight, no help and we are up to the rear three who seem to have become detached. Gasping I roll off and let someone else mop up the rest. 4 to go.

One lap in shelter and I’m recovered and looking for better placing, in fact feeling pretty good. Up the gutter on the back straight, jink around the big pothole, avoid the hay bale marking a water filled chasm and hop back in line top 10 before the narrowing chicane around the center crossroad.

By monsters standards it’s only a small pothole, but hitting it blows my back wheel out instantly. Off to the right as I swear, brake and stop. No more free laps by now but maybe I can get back swap a wheel and get out in the time of the half lap I will miss. Astonishingly I think of all this in the moments it takes to pull up. Adrenaline surging I’m across the course and riding the grass back up to the wheel pit, all over the place on my flat. I grab my spare and throw it on - the ref yells me I have to chase as I sling the old wheel away - I’m off up the road in seconds but alas the bunch is past and I’m 100 yards behind by the time I shoot out onto the course. Maybe 10 seconds too late.

With two to go I’m pretty much screwed, but rushing on adrenaline so I chase hard burning it up. No dice, no way I can close the gap as the bunch revs up for the end. It’s the saddest bell lap I ever heard, looking like a dropped looser, which in many ways I am. I continue and finish, even mopping up a few riders who are shelled off the bunch as it charges to the line and a weather channel win. Final placing was 41/49.

So not much luck today but the 2016 road campaign is underway and I seem to be at least in the mix competitively.

And as for Monsters: once again, never again. See you next year.

~Bevan Brookfield

Keeping the Monsters in Check

So hurrah May 9th, it’s so cold, damp and foggy I’ve accidentally moved back to England. Perfect. I point the car south for Monsters of the Midway.  I’m doing the masters 35+/45+/55+ Cat 1,2,3 - a mouthful that means the best of the old fu(n)ckers.

Toe the line and it’s a decent field of about 40. I notice the service area is a bunch of peoples own wheels chucked in the median - no neutral support. I also recall my spare wheels sitting in the car…

A slow start, these guys have been round the block a few times. This block probably. No rush and crash, it just slowly relentlessly speeds up to ballbreakingly fast, with plenty of digs at the front, and immaculate 2 wide cornering. I chase one attack down and realise this, on top of the pace, and I’m in the red zone, resolving to rest up in the pack. Yet soon I’m second wheel to a scarlet fire rider who is pulling us around, he tires and moves offline but I’m not ready for another turn so I follow him wagging my elbow. At that moment there’s a deflating feeling from my back wheel.

To paraphrase Andres’ Hillsboro report, this race has turned into bad sex, a lot of excitement, then a big explosion and it’s all over too quick. But wait, it might not be a limp departure, I roll up the median on my flat tire and the USAC official asks if I have a spare wheel. ‘Yeah over there in my trunk’, ‘Go get it quick then’.

I leave the bike and run in cleats 100+ yards over grass and streets, pop the trunk, grab both spare wheels and run back. A Formula 1 speed wheel change and somehow I’m ready before the racers come around again, I’m cued up to go, held as a lead group of 4 go by, then pushed off into the pack.

It’s times like this I realise I must really love bike racing. Despite the cold and wet and bullshit of the monsters course with its cracks and holes there’s nowhere I’d rather be at this moment, working through the snaking pack as they attempt to chase down the lead group.

Before I know it, it’s two to go. I have something left to move up a bit, but the lead 4 are away for good. No point doing anything heroic. I’m still dithering on the last lap. On the back straight I go up the inside following a wheel, he tucks into a half gap and I can either continue forward to the front or hold behind him. I hold. Why I don’t know, but I’m round the last two turns in good shape but too far back, and the sprint is from the corner.

I wind up speed well and take two riders but no more.  I’m relieved and delighted to finish at all. On the line I’m P8, but in this bag of cats and ages I’m also 2nd cat3 and 4th 45+. Wahey, 2 points for that entirely theoretical 3-2 upgrade.

-Bevan Brookfield

The Miracle at Monsters: How To Crash on Grass in a Criterium

The Miracle at Monsters: How To Crash on Grass in a Criterium

The week before Monsters, a little voice inside my head said, “Katie Casey, you should race those fancy new carbon wheels you just got. You haven’t raced since Super Crit, your training has been less than awesome, do yourself a favor, help yourself out and race those race wheels.”

And then another not so little voice said, “Katie Casey, it’s a crit and you race a steel bike for a reason. Race your Velocity A23s and just get it done. Get tough, get fast, and get it done on good old fashioned metal.” That not so little voice prevailed and I’m glad it did.

The cat 3/4 field was large at 43 women, but there were only a handful of 3s and this race looked manageable to me. I rode down to the Midway Plaisance on the HAC train with Tommy Riley’s super steady and well paced wheel pulling us along and found myself wishing Tommy Riley would race the Women’s cat 3/4s and lead me out.

My goal was to stay in the top ten throughout the race, to move up from there in the last few laps, and then to execute a super awesome slingshot pass to gain as many places as I could at the finish. The race started fast. We were cruising at 29.6 mph in the first lap. With speeds of 23- 28 mph along the straightaways and 18-20mph through the corners, this race was significantly faster than Super Crit and managed to shed a third of the field in the first lap alone. I saw my teammates hammering away at the front and knew at these speeds I didn’t have the power to join them.

I was hiding out in the front pack, trying to conserve energy and reminding myself to stay on the inside.    But 14 minutes into the race and coming out of the southwest corner, I found myself on the outside and saw two women right in front of me collide into each other, bobble, and then veer. My only option was the outside line, but one of the women kept veering and the next thing I knew I was lying on the grass underneath that veering crashing woman (how I got over that curb, I’ll never know).    My Garmin says I crashed at 20 mph. Maybe that’s enough to jump a curb.

She was crushing me, the veering crashing woman racer, and so I politely asked her to get off of me. She apologized, got up and asked me if I was okay. My first instinct was to get back on the horse. I looked for the pack. It was already halfway down the straightaway. Then remembering Kelly Clarke’s race report from LaCrosse, I told myself “the race ain’t over ‘til it’s over. There may be a lot of racers ahead of you, but there are plenty still behind you.” And with that I grabbed my bike, threw my leg over it, and paused only to stare dumbly at my bent and twisted hoods. The veering crashing woman rushed to my aid, straightened out my hoods, and said, “you know you can get back in with a free lap, right?” And I said, “What? A free lap? For real?” I thought I had to chase for the rest of the race!

According to my Garmin, I was back on my bike 1 minute and 15 seconds after the crash. I called out to my teammates to see if they wanted to get back in too, rode up to the start/finish andsomehow had the sense to jump back off my bike to realign and test my brakes before the pack came around. I jumped back into the race exactly 3 minutes and 10 seconds after the crash.

I was in the front pack again, but this time barely. I felt the bruises on my knee, I saw the dirt on my sunglasses, and I felt something trickling down my calf and wondered if it was blood. I was struggling and I was getting gapped and I was falling further and further back in the pack. When all of a sudden Jen Groen appeared, gave me her wheel, and hauled me through the gap with strong legs and encouraging words. I was beyond words at that point. I think all I could muster for a thank you as I got back into place was, “I hurt.”

For the very first time in my racing career, I noticed the lap counter and started counting down. I rallied myself. The pack surged and then slowed, surged and then slowed, and then finally surged for real out of the last corner. I surged too, but not fast enough to hold a wheel and execute a slingshot. In absolute desperation, I sprinted alone and somehow managed to crank out the slowest, longest, and most painful 28.4 mph finish I have ever experienced. That finish felt like an eternity. At Super Crit I had gained seven places in the final sprint, but I had the advantage of two separate slingshot opportunities. At Monsters I lost two places in the final sprint and finished 18/43.

Afterwards I noticed the lump on my head and found three cracks in my helmet. Sara Szefi talked to me until I convinced her I wasn’t concussed or that, if I was, at least I was wearing it well. Amy Dykema gave me advice on recovering from a crash. And Mike Palmer fixed my bars so I could ride my bike home very very slowly and in the escort of John Casey. And while my bike is in the shop for repairs, my body is barely bruised thanks to that grass, that lovely, fresh, springy, green grass of the Midway Plaisance.

Katie Casey

The Monster In Me

I am not as fit as I was earlier in the spring. It was a humbling half hour. The good thing is that I was only upset about it while I was racing. For what it's worth, it was a fast Cat 5 race. The rest of the collective field was obviously gaining good form while I got fat.

I started off pretty strong. tim was around early for a minute but I never really found his wheel, which I had hoped to do in order to conserve early. I was part of a 'break' with some eventual good finishers but couldn't hang. I worked with David of xXx on his sweet Steelman for a lap or two too. Don't know how I placed. Don't care.

The main reason I was a bit morose, is that it was a good time. My night prior was a really good time too, but that didn't aid my ability to perform well as a cyclist. It was the last planned race on my 'calendar.' It just would have been that much more of an enjoyable experience if I had done as well as I had predicted I would (I wanted to win).


-Kevin Clark