"It never gets any easier. You just go faster." ---Greg Lemond
"Don't buy upgrades. Ride up grades." --- Eddy Merckx
"You drive like shit." ---The Car Whisperer


Chubby Spud

(Photos by Ed White and Sandra Samman)

Race #4 in the Chicago Cross Cup series brought the bike party out to Carpentersville, Ill, northwest of the city. The course took up the entire park, save for the northeast corner where the Oktoberfest party was.

Easily the most technical race of the series so far, the race was full of switchbacks and off-camber turns and creative barriers, both manmade and natural. A small creek ran through the park and the course crossed it at least twice; North Branch Cycling also included a set of "pumpers" - speed bumps, essentially - which require you to pump your bike while taking them at speed. If you keep your weight back and body relaxed, you go over them with ease. If not it's not pretty...here's me barely making it through the first lap of the 4B race after coming in way to hot and out of control:

Here's how to do it right:

The first race for me was the Master's 30+...probably the most broad range of experience and talent of the day. The leaders of the 1/2/3 field were in this race, as well as dudes who've never raced in their lives - which probably the best thing about Cyclocross, and what keeps everyone's sense of humor at the front the entire day.

It was five or six laps, I can't remember which. I lost track after three. But it was all of them. I narrowly avoided being lapped by the leaders. I watched them come up behind me and I was not going to let it happen, securing myself the moral victory of getting do the final lap, while people warmed up behind me. And I finished 30th out of about 60. Which meant over half the field did get lapped, and they finished with the leaders in front of them. Lucky me.

In between races, I thought I'd give the food vendors a visit, and came away with this, the "chubby spud":

A potato pancake, swiss cheese, ham, bratwurst, with kraut and spicy mustard. A gut bomb if ever was one. I inhaled it. Thank God it was four hours til my next race.

The last race of the day, the 4Bs, the "beginner's" race (it's not sandbagging until you win it, I tell myself - besides, until I can stay with the leaders, I don't need to move up), it is truly the main event. The spectators make sure of that. All the day's racers are now here, and they relish every second to urge us on, heckle us, and tempt us:

After the hole shot, I hear Luke yelling at me that I'm the last of the lead group of riders. My technical skills are sorely lacking and through each of the tight switchback turns - while Kirby dropped down through each section of tape to heckle me further: "WHY ARE YOU SO SLOW?!" - the gap between us grew. By the first barrier and my poor - to put it nicely - remount, all hope was lost. It was then two laps with a Project 5 rider glued to my wheel.

I didn't dare turn around, just listening to his breathing and whiring chain, he didn't pass me until about a half-lap to go. I left him go around me after the tricky barrier, but he slowed down. He must've just been hanging on, and I became worried as the riders behind us were gaining. Some where between the sand pit - "Come on, Morrissey! He's on a mountain bike!"...

and the hill...

...I repassed him. At this point, the expression on my face is in reaction to a) Jeff Holland screaming at me that I am in 8th place, and b) knowing that the chubby spud is definitely on its way back to freedom at some point in the very near future.

I completely buried myself and kept the gap open, nearly losing it crossing the creek. I saw I wasn't going to get caught, and drilled it to the end back on pavement, crossing the finish line 8th. I sat up, blinked, and thought to myself, "yep, here it comes..." and my stomach lurched and tossed up a mouthful of lunch onto the pavement. I had to pull off on the grass and grab my knees for a second and let the moment pass.

The "bucket award" as Coach Randy says. First time I've puked. I think I can check a Rite of Passage off my list.

The best part is, I got 26 points and moved into 10th place in the series, which means I get a call-up this Sunday in Bartlett.

Bring the bucket.


Jeff said...

The chubby spud was amazing.

Pankonin said...

Congrats on the "Bucket Award" -an important day for sure.