Cross is delightfully brutal. The ChiCrossCup is a series that brings suffering to life in always changing ways. This year, the season’s first race changed venues from Jackson Park, in downtown, to Caldwell Woods on Chicago’s Northwest side. I initially liked the change in locations because it cut about a half hour off my drive. After racing the course, I like it because it was awesomesauce.
This course had a little bit of everything: power sections; a little bit of technical; fast, sweeping sections; off camber; climbs; and a big, steep run-up. The only section that seemed like it offered a chance for recovery were the few tight turns after the run-up. That section was fairly short and then you were directly into a little power section into a downhill and then a short, steep climb. Just enough to catch your breath a little before cranking it right back up again. One of the things that I really liked about the course was it was super fast. Turns were tight enough that you couldn’t stay full gas, but if you chose good lines you were able to carry a lot of speed through turns and maintain speed. The layout also presented plentiful areas for passing safely.
It may be a euphoria just from CX season returning, but Caldwell Woods has immediately jumped toward the top of the list of courses I like. Great job by the xXx crew and our USAC officials. Awesome way to start off the season. From a racing perspective, my races were fairly uneventful. My only close calls were skimming my right foot over the barrier next to the beer garden on the second lap of the 4/5 race and hitting my rear canti arm with the outside of my right knee at some point during the first race (counts as an official race because I drew my own blood). My fitness isn’t quite where I’d like it to be, but I was encouraged by the consistency I had during the day. All six laps were within 18 seconds of each other and my overall time for the second race was 1 second slower than the first race. My last lap of the day was only three second slower than my first lap of the day. 34th in the Men’s 4 Race and 18th in the Men’s 4/5.
I managed to take a day off work and head North for a day of racing Tour of America’s Dairyland (ToAD). This is the second time I’ve done a ToAD race, the last race being 2011 in Thiensville. With Beloit added as a stop this year and being a little over an hour from home, I thought it was a good fit for my schedule. While there were some scattered showers on the drive up, by the time I arrived and started warming up, it had stopped sprinkling. By race time, the sun was coming out, the winds were calm and the temperature was in the mid 70s. About as nice of conditions as you could hope for.
I scored a spot on the front row for the start and after receiving instructions we were off. The course is a five corner “L” shaped layout with four rights and one left. The last right leading onto the front stretch was a wide sweeping turn that sent you through almost a 180 turn, but had you returning a block over from the backstretch. The corners were all really wide open with plenty of room. I learned later that there was a crash in the last turn on the last lap, but had no idea at the time. I found myself behind the series leader early on, figuring that was probably a better place than most and decided to follow him for a bit. There were a couple of attacks that went up the road fairly early, but nothing stuck. With the corners being so wide open, the speeds stayed pretty high and every attack was brought back in short order. Early on, I also found myself briefly behind Sean McCarthy for the South Chicago Wheelman. Sean has come a long way in the few years that I’ve raced with him. Unfortunately for me, he has still not gotten big enough for me to draft off of. Remembering the futility of even trying to draft him on Wednesday nights at Pella had me quickly finding another wheel to follow.
About twenty minutes into the race I found myself third wheel coming across the line and heard the call of “Prime!” The field was fairly strung out at that point because the pace had been up for the lap prior. I was on a Michael’s Cycles rider’s wheel and moved into second wheel as the lead rider dropped off down the back stretch. Heading into the last corner, another Michael’s Cycles rider came up on my right with another of his teammates all the way to the inside. The first arriving Michael’s Cycles rider swung in front of me and it looked like their teammate was starting to dig to try to create a gap going into the last turn. With no teammates in the race, I figured I might be seeing a chance to have someone else’s teammates block for me. I came out of the last turn second wheel and with about a 150 yards to go swung out, put in a little effort and took the prime. I hadn’t really intended to go for the prime, but I was lucky to be in a good position at the end of the lap and thought, “What the hell.” I scored a $25 gift certificate to Beloit Bicycle Company, the local shop that was right on the course.
Most of the rest of the race was uneventful. I maintained good positioning in the waning laps of the race, only to find myself in the middle of the pack with no room to get out and move up going into the last turn. This is the area that I’m consistently finding I need to work on. I really have to make sure that I’m either inside or outside heading toward the last turn so that I at least have an opportunity to move up heading to the line at the end. I ended up taking 14th.
No wrecks for me, a prime, I got to hang out with Rob Curtis to watch some races and I got to talk briefly with Laura Van Gilder her teammate Laura Jorgensen and Jeannie Kuhajeck as Rob visited with them. It was a good day all around.
2014 PSIMET Fox River Omnium
This Omnium encompasses my favorite and least favorite races to compete in. They are by far my favorite races to watch. The Omnium is comprised of the Elgin Cycling Classic and the Fox River Grove Criterium. The Elgin Cycling Classic is a six corner L shaped course. Flat through left-hand turns one and two, a short climb up the first quarter of the back stretch, level to the left hand turn three with a downhill into another left-hand turn five with a quick upslope into the only right-hand turn in six. Then a hundred fifty yard sprint to the finish. The course is a little technical and all of the corners give ample opportunity for someone to attempt a break.
My first race of the morning was the Men’s Cat 4 race. Eight-thirty start time has me warming up when it has even broken 50°. I’m really glad I packed my knee warmers. As far as the race, not much to write about here. I was feeling good… then I wasn’t. Fifteen minutes in I’m at the tail end of the back. The rider two wheels up gets gapped and I and next-to-last rider, Gary Dicicco from Bike Haven, attempt to bridge back for the next two laps. The Gary made a last attempt to bridge, and I was left with my thoughts for three laps. I hopped on with two other riders as they caught and passed me and we swept up two other riders. Five laps after seeing him go, I learned that Gary had failed in his attempt to bridge as we swept him up. We picked of a few more riders and had a rather anti-climactic sprint as we were pulled. The officials were considerate to give us a one to go before pulling us, so we got to pretend and sprint a little at the end. For whatever reason, I wasn’t feeling it and finished 29th.
The Masters 4/5 race was a big contrast. The sun came out, it warmed up and my cheering section extraordinaire showed up in the forms of my lovely wife, Lisa and son Matthew. We had a good number of PSIMET riders in the field including Andrew Lowe, Kurt Bentsen, John Meyer, Randall Swanson & Matt Sebo. I hung around the front of the field and about fifteen minutes in, Andrew Lowe is in a group of three that has eased off the front and is hanging about 50 yards off the front going down the back stretch. I’m content to hang on the front and set a false pace with the two xXx riders who also have a rider in the break. Then another xXx rider eases up and I’m boxed in. I figure that if xXx is intent on blocking then they done need my help and if we can establish a four man break with two PSIMET riders in it, all the better. I jumped going into turn three and by turn four I’ve covered half the gap. I’ve got a clear line going through the chicane and I’m able to ease onto the back of the group halfway to the start-finish line. Halfway down the back stretch we are caught by another PSIMET jersey, that has Tower bibs paired with it. I’m a little confused by this but welcome another red jersey being flown by Mark Misicko. Somebody apparently thought it was a bad idea to have three guys with the same jerseys in a five man break and while the field is strung out, it is pretty much back together headed for the chicane. About 27 minutes in, a Mad City Velo rider is off the front and a Bloomington Cycles rider attempts to bridge. Andrew Lowe is immediately on his wheel and there are several xXx riders, myself, Kurt Bentsen and Mox rider Chris Kim at the front. There ends up being about six riders in the break and Kurt and I do a good job of sitting on at the front and setting a false pace. xXx also has a rider in the break and three of their riders join and we effective control the rest of the field until, much to the dismay of his teammates, a xXx rider attacks and attempts to bridge to the break. He makes it, but has the rest of the field in tow. Going into the last lap, the Mad City Velo rider is off the front with a Wild Card rider and I’m sitting about fifteenth going down the back stretch. I picked up several spots between turn three and four and missed tenth by a half a bike length. I take eleventh, my best road finish to date.
Sunday is Fox River Grove. I’m not a climber. I didn’t finish last. Mercifully, I’m the first rider pulled. I end up 37th of 39 finishers. Back on my diet and additional hill training is added to the training schedule.