Monday, September 27, 2010

Madison USGP: Shouda' Been a Gunslinger

This is going to be a long one. Big props, new faces, some tech notes, an R rated description of PRO cyclocross, a couple of tails from a gunslinger, tips on buying craft jerky, and how to bet on pigs.

Big Props

Sunday morning at registration I overheard 487 people were registered to race. I inquired how many more they expected to register and was told if it was like Saturday maybe 20 or 25 more racers would be on the final manifest.

The Chi Cross Cup opener in Jackson Park had 541. Bam x 30 peeps yo! Chicago is getting it done with huge, fast fields and a great scene. Word.

Saturday Cat 4

Too hot to handle

This was my first USGP event. When I preroad the course a few details jump out at me. It is walled from start to finish, very video game like. Where it's not taped there are full on walls made with sponsor banners - not forgiving of sloppy handling. This was made more dramatic by how tight some of the course got. There were going to be some major bottlenecks on the first couple laps. All in all it was an exceptional course with a lot of varied terrain and a wicked run up.

Aaron's advice to me was go until you think you're going to puke, then back off a bit. I took that one to the bank. I got a front row start and was feeling pretty jumpy. When the gun went off so did I - I gave it everything. Holeshot baby! I had it, I couldn't believe it. I ran through the gears and entered the first corner with a gap. WTF?! A gap. They announced my name over the PA! I made it to the back side of the course where Laura and my girls were cheering and I totally surprised them. It was awesome. Then I started to feel the tempo rob me of power. In hindsight I think I burned about five of my eight matches on the first lap. Four laps to go.

I started counting spots. Can I hold on to top five? Top 10? When Forest from Johnny Sprokets and Mike Gregor from RVBR came ripping by, I new I was going down. Those two were moving at into the top 10 and I couldn't hold on. I did my best impression of a washed up heavy weight prize fighter sloggin it out until the twelth round. When the bell rang for the last lap I swore to myself I was going to pass someone. It took until the last 50m, but I did it at the line again for 18th. Race one in the bag and not far from my goal of a top 15. I needed to refuel.


The fam and I rolled into Madison for the farmers market to find some much needed nutriment. We had the famous cheese bread. It was good, like a nice savory challah with cheese and crushed red pepper, but it was pretty low tech. I was looking for something to really blow my mind. Like a decedent, blueberry and cheese danish. Home run. It was flaky, a little chewy, and had a deep center overflowing with sweet marscarpone cheese and fresh blueberry filling.

Butter, sugar, cheese, fruit

Next up was some local cheese. A sheep and cow mix with a beer washed skin. Firmer than I expected it to be but delicious sliced on a fresh baguette. Last but not least, home made jerky. Here's some advice, if the jerky has a litany of ingredients it won't be good.


The pro race was incredible. Almost indescribable, but I'm going to take a shot at what it looked like watching Hemme represent COURAGE in the biggest show on Earth.

Run for your life!

Imagine how hard you would push yourself if you were being chased by an angry, hungry bear. How fast would you run knowing a half ton animal wanted to spread your abdominal kit all over the woods? Now imagine you're being chased down a twisty narrow gauntlet with various incarnations of slick, catawampus surfaces. Can you feel the bear getting closer? Finally, top it all off by wearing an ego mincing, one piece spandex clown suit while you're heckled by hundreds of spectators until your certain death.

When the moment arrives, your will succumbs and the predator flays you. You stare out into the nearly silent world with only your heart beat pounding in your head and you beginning to wonder why you volunteered your life for such a spectacle.

Then, as the fear exits the fibers of your body, and you realize your still alive and there was no bear, just the fastest cyclocrossers on the continent, you remember why you race. Incalculable glory. Men cheer, women throw cupcakes, children shout your name and want to stand next to you. People take your picture and blog about it. You just survived 60 minutes of Jurasic Park meets Running Man. You are a god among mortals. On Saturday, watching Mike Hemme race for COURAGE as a pro was awesome. Mike, you are the man.


It was great to see so many Chicago people up in the land of cheese. Roscoe Village Bikes Racing had some great finishes in the Cat 4. A lot of Pegasus, Johnny Sprocket, xXx and The Bone Bell regulars where representing Chicago. And The Pony Shop saw strong finishes from the always fast Holly Klug, 13th in the Pro women event, and Mike Sheer with an awesome 25th place in the Pro mens race.

I got to hang with the the My Wife Inc crew a bit too - good folks from Kansas City and Milwaukee. They made the vibe in parking lot PRO and chill all at once.

Race Tech

Talking with Molly I got a nice look at her one-off Indy Fab carbon cross bike. It is exceptional up close. For a first gen/prototype the fit and finish were superb. Based on all the hard work that went into the bike expect IF to be selling these next season.


"All the pros run tubies." Nope. The French National Champion, Francis Mourey, the dude that is winning everything in the States right now, he did it all on clinchers. I have one less excuse in my arsenal.

Sunday Cat 4

Give 'er

I got the same front row starting spot on Sunday. Bang! gun goes off and I took a monster holeshot again. I should have been a gunslinger. My fast twitch muscles were dialed all weekend. This time I kept the lead well into the second lap. Then setting up for a fast gravel corner I washed out in the wet, greasy corner before it. Shit. I lost so much ground in the second lap the MC heckled me about getting lost when I came through so far back.

I was going as deep as I could. I fought better for position on Sunday, then I suffered the obligatory mid race pass from Forest and Mike and a few more guys. I was racing better, I made a few big moves on the last lap and took back two additional spots on the last run up and in the final straight. 15th place, mission accomplished.

Apple Holler


My family could not have been a better cheering section for me this weekend. Thanks girls. After Sunday's race we headed to Apple Holler south of Milwaukee. Brats, pig races (always pick the ringer that lines up backwards), pony rides and of course a bunch of apple pickin'. It was a nice way to wrap up the weekend.

Little travlers

Monday, September 20, 2010

Jackson Park Race Weekend

Drum roll please. And the winner of the Chicago Cross Cup Tshirt contest is... Word Jumper. Duh. With all the voting shenanigans that went on in the last few days I feel a bit like Jan Ullrich on the podium next to Lance Armstrong. Be sure to get a tshirt to support the CCC, WBR and show the world there is such a thing as cyclocross.

Always a bridesmaid...


I was heckled pretty well yesterday, but mostly because Hemme is my teammate. The context: Hemme had a great race earlier in the day, me, not so much.

Mike started in the second row which can cause a few problems for the guys who got the lottery-system first row call ups for the season opener. When an elite racer hears the whistle it's like dropping a match in five gallon bucket of gasoline. Bam! Equal parts instantaneous power and complete disregard for anything around. I'm sure Mike's aggressiveness caught a few guys in the front row by surprise. After a 150m drag race and a couple of corners he sat in fifth wheel.


The lead group opened a pretty big gap on the nearly 2 mile first lap. Then it was classic battle, swords bloodied, shields dented. McLaughlin opened a gap a few laps in, Mike made some big pulls, then I saw him contemplating if he should rip his rear shifter off the bike. The hood had rotated 180 degrees and jacked his shifting. Damned if you do, damned if you don't. The 15 or 20 seconds it would have taken to fix it would have meant a nearly impossible chase back to the lead group. Mike road it out for a great fourth place finish to officially kick off his cross season.


My Hemme face

I had about one of everything in Sunday's race. It started with a call up to the second row as a consolation prize for being the first looser in the tshirt contest.

Cole Trickle

Next up, I caused a pretty little ditty of a crash in the second corner. Sorry everyone. I was sitting just outside the top ten when I tried to set up for the corner and tuned my wheel directly into the back of someone. I almost saved it but instead ended up getting a tire burn on my arm as I made my way to mother Earth. I got up quick and tried to keep it together.

The second lap was a little clumsy too, I was stopped once behind a wreck and got slowed down going over someone's bike that went down directly in front of me. I'm pretty sure someone called me Slow Hemme as I came by - like Danny Devito and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Lap three was my best. I was warmed up and pretty clear headed, and wanted to do some productive racing. I made four passes, three of them in the more technical parts of the course and the final one was a bike throw at the line for 22nd place.

All. Most. There.

Big thanks to the Chicago Cross Cup and xXx for starting the season off right. It should be interesting to see how the growth of the sport, the new rules, and all the new faces shape this season. If there is one barometer we can use to judge the health of our local scene it is the participation of so many badass women racers. As it has been since the beginning of time, where there are women, there will be men.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Mountain Biking Plus Hoonage Equals Cyclocross

Surfing a few of my favorite blogs this week turned up some premium video watching.


First I ran into the Life Cycles clip on Benlikesbikes. I cannot figure out how the teaser eluded my radar for so long. It is stunning. Then I saw a new Ken Block Gymkhana video on Autoblog. Ken always takes hoonage to 11.


Friday, September 10, 2010

Chicago Cross Cup Tshirt Contest

I don't spend enough of my time designing for the pure joy of it. When I saw the Chicago Cross Cup was hosting a tshirt contest I decided to give it a go, albeit a late go. I submitted my design 45 minutes before the midnight deadline this morning...

The Concept

Where will the 2010 Chi Cross Cup take us? Deep into the bowels of the Pain Cave? Sure. But also on a Autumn mecca from one race course to the next. Each stop providing a slue of experiences.

The Sketch

A little doodle with Ruby the other night after dinner proved I could make something clever out the the map concept.

The Execution

I'm pleased with my final submission. A graphic that will let the racers and the rest of the traveling circus anticipate what will happen, then as the season unfolds, provide a trigger to recall the experiences they had at each event. You can check out the comp here to watch it unfold.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Unseasonally Cyclocross Weather

Few things make me smile when I get up at 6am on a Saturday morning - but a surprise 53 degree weather report in early September somehow pulled one from my tired face. Had I not been headed to Montrose for a little off road workout the cool temps would have been a bummer, but with cross just around the corner it gave the ride a bit more validity.

A few other signs I encountered this week said the cross season is here...

Fresh kits

The smell of rotting leaves

Little girls imitating dad's weekend shenanigans

A big pile of stolen dreams

My seasonal farewell to The Tube-I-Hate-to-Love

I've had this pesky tube for three years. Its valve is 2mm shy of being the perfect length. Everytime I fill up my front tire I have to do this obnoxious little dance where I hold the pump to the valve with one hand and use my gut to pump the last 10 psi because my arm is too weak to get the tire all the way to 105psi. I'm usually doing this half asleep at 5am in a poorly lit basement with my sunglasses on. I'm talking real pain in the ass here. But the tube keeps on ticking - never a flat. It's been remounted four or five times with three different tires and it just keeps going. I hope I didn't just jinx the poor thing.