Friday, June 26, 2009

Happy Friday!

Between Critical Mass and Taste of Chicago tonight, traffic's going to be a total clusterfuck. If only there was a place you could ride to and share a delicious hot dog with friends...

Oh wait, there is.
See you at 5:30.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Soldier Field Cycling

Soldier Field Cycling #1

I had no idea what to expect when I arrived at the south parking lot last night. The site was well put together and showed a lot of promise, but designing a website is quite different from designing a race course and playing host to a bunch of twitchy roadies with calories to burn.

When we rolled up, I was impressed by the inflatable start/finish archway courtesy of SRAM as well as the Kozy's Cyclery and Pepsi Max presence. There was a good amount of signage around the start/finish that indicated financial support from other businesses such as Chipotle. For a group who hadn't promoted and hosted a bicycle race before, they seemed to be way ahead of what some well-established teams manage to coordinate.

The registration table was a breeze since I had pre-registered, though the USAC waivers weren't already filled out with my information. (Race Organizers take note - you can make your lives and ours easier if you pre-fill the waivers for preregistered riders!) I whipped out one of my handy pre-filled forms, added the race name and date, signed and recieved my number. With the Women's race down to 5 laps to go, I pinned up and noticed that there sure seemed to be a lot of people warming up - it was later confirmed that the 4/5 race had indeed sold out via pre-registration.

Soldier Field Cycling's course was well marked with cones, barricades, and fencing - and the appropriate medium was in the appropriate place- rather than barriers in tight corners, cones or snow fencing was used to minimize injuries in the event of a crash. Well thought out, Soldier Field Cycling. Recognizing that race organizers can only go so far in preparing a course, I can't complain about the parking lot's surface too much... except for the huge hole in between two of the hairiest turns on the course. I'm convinced this hole is what kept the race so strung out. Between turns 3 & 4 was a 5 foot long, two foot wide gash in the pavement that was filled with water. I'm hoping that Chicago Park District is able to get out and patch this thing before the next race on July 1st.

Racing went well. Being a brand new course and a 4/5 race at the same time, the first two laps seemed rather tenative as people seemed to be sizing up the competition. I started out about 10th wheel and quickly decided that I wanted to use this race as an opportunity to work on things I struggle with and to try something I've never done before... I started with the latter and decided to take a flyer.

With a strong xXx presence doing quite a lot of work at the front, I moved from about 20th wheel to the front at which point I realized that I was going about 5mph faster than my teammates and I'd have to hit the brakes to settle in with them. Rather than letting friction undo my hard work, I shifted, stood, and rocketed off the front to see what would happen. Having watched many, many of these unsuccessful efforts in the past, I expected to be chased down rather quickly. To my surprise, I managed to stay off for an entire lap while a chase effort was put together by the field, no thanks to my blocking teammates I'm sure. I managed to get about 1/3 of a lap on the field at one point, but after passing the time clock with 18 minutes to go, I knew I couldn't time trial my way to victory and soft pedaled until I was caught.

The remainder of the race I shifted from hanging off the back to mid-pack and with single digit laps to go I seemed to find myself on the wheel of the next guy being dropped... I'd realize what was happening and have to sprint to make up not only the rubberband but also make up the gap that had formed between the pack and the dropped rider. Each time I managed to catch the pack, but I also towed a fair number of riders back up with me, who showed their gratitude by accelerating around me as soon as we caught back on.

I had a blast at the inaugural Soldier Field Cycling race last night and I'm very much looking forward to the remainder of the series. It was sketchy at times, but no more so than most 75-rider 4/5 criteriums.

Many thanks to the folks at Soldier Field Cycling and all of the sponsors who helped make it happen. Here's to a Chipotle burrito prime next time!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Corsica Photos

A fantastic trip with an incredible woman at my side.

More Pictures on facebook... if you can't see them, you need to friend me!

Friday, June 5, 2009

A Decent Proposal

I asked, she said yes. Woot!

You think she was excited? :)

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Eric Sprattling Memorial Ride

I've wanted to do this ride every year but haven't ever felt like I was in shape enough to hang with the group past Old School. I'm hoping that Saturday's epic will agree with my body.

There's something about how you feel after something like this... food tastes better, the sun feels warmer, and you're oh so very glad to be alive. That sounds like the perfect way to kick off a vacation.

For more information on Eric, click here.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Wonder Lake Criterium

I'd waited until the last minute to decide to race Wonder Lake, and I'm very glad that I made the drive out there for the race. The course was easy to find, the weather couldn't have been more perfect.

When we arrived, I wasn't surprised that the course went through a residential area, though the mailboxes lining every street were a little disconcerting. No attacking in the gutter on this one! I took a preview lap of the course - smooth pavement, no sealant-filled cracks to get your tire stuck in, and a nice little downhill immediately before the finish. Despite all of these positive characteristics, I couldn't help but think that this course was quite narrow for the advertised field sizes. With the road as narrow as twelve feet(a guesS) between turns 1 and 2 I'm not sure what the officials would have done had the 4's field reached the limit of 100 riders - no way you could get that many out here without some carnage. With 24 starting riders, we still had a few issues but overall the 4's kept things safe.

In the past, I've had problems in staying at the front and have always been dropped. I knew that I'd be able to move around in the field since it was so small, so I allowed myself to move back and forth a few times. My track experience suits me well because I'm more comfortable in tight situations than I ever have been, but I found myself braking into turns several times and having to put considerable efforts in to make up for it. Backing off the brakes in lap four I found it much easier to keep my speed even and was grateful to keep my position through every turn.

Throughout the beginning of the race, I managed to stay in the top 10 wheels despite being on the brakes, but had been slowly drifting back. Around 10 minutes into the race, we came across the start/finish and a kid on a BMX bike cut across the course only feet from the lead rider. This really freaked a bunch of people out since we'd been coming through around 28-30mph, and many riders sat up. Capitalizing on this, a few people attacked, entirely mixing the field up. Within the next few laps, we came around turn 4 and got another "present" - someone had backed a white minivan out of a driveway and was sitting in the middle of the course as we came down the hill at 30mph right before the finish line. A rider yelled "we need to cool it a bit guys this is too much" and the race did seem to slow a bit.

Despite the general slowing, I wasn't interested in the probing attacks being thrown off the front by Bob, Dave and Tom so I allowed myself to drift back. The rubberband effect was noticeable but wasn't so bad because of the small field, but it was there. With the pace slowed, I moved up a wheel or two each lap to make sure I was placed well. Positioned in the middle, I noticed that people were starting to jockey for position, including the rider that decided to move up on my outside right before turn one. I felt handlebars in my hip, and noticed a mailbox coming up on my left so I took a quick glance - I heard a wheel rub and saw a flash of blue heading through someone's front yard. I pedaled HARD through turn one to distance myself from that lunacy.

With three to go and a predictable pattern of slowing/accelerating, I carefully chose my efforts to maximize positioning on the last five laps. Many props to the teamwork shown by Dave Dokko, pulling the entire field HARD and stringing things out for two or three solid laps. Sitting near the middle with with one to go, I made my move up the inside between turns one and two, then up the outside between turns two and three. I didn't make it up as far as I'd have liked on that last effort, but seeing four teammates ahead of me I knew that we'd have some good results on the day. Coming around the LONG outside of a sweeping turn four I put the hammer down, pushing my Tiburzi into a 38mph sprint and netting 10th place. Tom Briney closed a decent gap to take the top of the Podium, with Bob taking a respectable 6th place finish.

I'm hoping that Wonder Lake will be on the calendar for next year, but with some field size limitations and some additional staff to marshal the course. It's a fantastic area with great scenery, but isn't suitable for large fields.