Friday, December 12, 2008

2008: Greatest Hits

My 2008 cross season started one year ago at Montrose with my first cyclocross race. I lined up dead last on my freeride bike. The goal was pass someone, anyone. It was also an important proof of concept for me - would I like cyclocross? Aaron was in the early stages of starting COURAGE and I was considering having him build me a cross bike, but I needed to make sure I would use it. Affirmative. I had a blast. I crossed the line knowing I'd be back for more.

In college I raced mountain bikes for ASU, but that was about cheap parts and was less organized than a beer run. A few years ago my friend Moshe got me out to my first crit. Since then I've been getting major beatdowns in the 5s, typically racing three or four crits in a season. However, knowing that I'd be representing COURAGE I really wanted to piece together a decent cyclocross season. I never formed any plan more in depth than ride my bike a ton, but I can at least claim to have stuck to that plan pretty well.

With a bunch of spring and summer miles in my legs I showed up to Jackson Park with Laura, Ruby, and a seriously hot road bike. Unfortunately my team cross bike got hung up in shipping. I was determining to represent COURAGE in the race so the Intense stayed home and my skinny tired bike came to play instead.

I love crap conditions for cross. Cold, wet, windy, slick, you name it and it will probably put a smile on my face. But better minds would prevail and I was happy to see the weather dry, a nice compliment to my tractionless tires.

The race went well. I finished 12th and had a great final sprint. I was able to close a decent gap in the last 100 meters to take one more spot. However, it was practically cheating as I opened a huge sprint in a 50x12 closing on Tim McGovern on a fixed cross bike with a kiddy trailer hitch.

My next race, at Hawthorn Woods with the first sled hill of the season, I finished 9th. This time Tim held me off on the last lap. He and I had a few laughs about our finish line duels.

I got my first call up at Carpentersville. That was pretty cool. Felt like I was delivering for my sponsors. The next big highlight for me was the sand pit there. I crushed it hard and felt good about putting my dusty old mountain bike skills to use. Also, at this point in the season people were staring to recognize COURAGE - tons of cheering and a bunch more questions about the bikes. The season was starting to gel.

All I remember from Bartlett was having to pedal down hill on the finishing straight in 40+ mph gusts. Ouch.

St. Charles was a spectacular course and I was doing my first really active racing at the front of the pack. John Villena, Adrian Redd and I were battling for 3-5. We constantly swapped positions until I got in front of them on the backside of the final lap just before the course got technical. I held them off to the line for 3rd place. It was my first bit of strategic racing and it felt good. All of this was made sweeter by the Half Acre posse at the bottom of the hill cheering like mad for everyone.

Another great course at Northbook. I loved the hill and figured I did the equivalent of 16 flights of stairs in my little four lap race. Double ouch.

The sand pit at Lansing made the race and made me $2. Those 25 meters of tube sock deep Cream of Wheat combined with the loudest and most involved heckling of the year brought out the best of me even though I had one of my worst finishes. All I wanted to do was crush that sand pit with everything I had so people would cheer louder. Easy on lap one, harder there after. I think I made it 4 for 6 through the sand. Most importantly I powered out the last time through with major crowd participation. I exited the backside on the last go round so jacked I was able to close a gap on one more guy before the line. A special thanks to Mike Hemme for bring the insanity to a new level...

Then the ultimate highlight of my season, Frances Marjorie Fairman, born November 18th. My second little girl. I'll skip a lot of the personal family stuff, but I want to take a moment to give my wife Laura a huge thank you for being so supportive of me this fall while managing a three year old, me and a pregnancy. You did it with grace.

Here we are at the end, IL State Championships in Montrose Harbor. I'll make this brief. I had my first hole shot of the season and managed to keep everyone behind me but John Villena. It felt really good to race that well and make the call home to Laura. I finished out the season in 4th place overall and feel really good about going into 2009 with a lot of valuable experience.

I'm a little jealous of everyone in balmy KC this weekend. I can't wait to hear all the stories.

Thanks to everyone who volunteered or got underpaid to run the ChiCrossCup circus. Thanks sponsors, racers, photographers, spouses, kids, dogs, and metal cover bands for making such a great scene.


Mike said...

Great season!

goldscott said...

Hey Jon, I don't know if you remember me (really, though, how can anyone forget the kid on the dual suspension beast of a MTB) but I raced a few 4B races over the season. Now that I have a solid job, I am searching around for a decent cross bike, and Courage is clearly at the top of my list (I fell in love with your bike). Reading your blog makes me miss CX a lot. Has it really only been three months since the end of the season? I have to race my road bike all summer?! Ugh. I suppose I should email Aaron about a bike, or is the wait-list too long by now?