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Thursday, February 29

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Cycling Tue Jul 29 2008

Chicago Cycling's Heating Up

In Grant Park this past Sunday, the first-ever Chicago Criterium saw a few surprises climb to the top of the podium. Adam Bergman of the Texas Roadhouse squad, an amateur rider, albeit one with a solid racing resume, won handily in a field full of some of cycling's biggest guns, including Chris Horner of Team Astana, and Freddie Rodriguez of Rock Racing.

Working in a five-man breakaway near the end of the 80km race, Bergman, the winner of the 2007 running of the Evanston Grand Prix, outsprinted Dominique Rollin of Toyota United and David Veilleux of Kelly Benefit Strategies to take home a $5,000 grand prize.

The women's Pro/1/2 race was won by Amber Rais of Team TIBCO, with a brave solo effort 20 minutes to go. Wisconsinite Sam Schneider of Mesa Cycles took second, and Rais' teammate, Brook Miller, came home in third.

But perhaps the greater glory should go to all those brave Chicagoans who came out to represent their city. Chris Padfield of Team Pegasus continued his Superweek streak and came in first place in the 4's; in the men's master's 4/5 race Nate Iden of Spidermonkey Racing rolled in ahead of Newt Cole of XXX Racing-Athletico and Ed Ekstrom of Tower Racing. XXX Racing-Athletico also dominated both heats of the men's 5 race, bringing in Tom Briner and Dave Moyer for the win in each race.

As for this weekend, the place to be is in Elk Grove, just a bit past O'Hare. There the Alexian Brothers International Cycling Classic Tour of Elk Grove will be held, with criterium and time-trial racing Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The schedule's up, slots appear to be available in most categories, and as this race is one of the jewels in the midwestern racing scene's crown, many of the big guns that have torn up the recent Superweek and Chicago Criterium races will be in. Oh, and this race has some huge prizes - $2,000 for the men's 4's? $3,000 for the women's open category? And can't forget the $70,000 for the overall men's pro champion? Some lucky (and strong) cyclists will have the rent and utilities paid for quite some time after this weekend.

And lest we forget, cycling's not all about shaved legs and spandex. Sometimes it's about working in the heart of the urban jungle, dodging death by bus and cab, and delivering packages and paychecks to surly secretaries, all the while taking orders from a frantic dispatcher. The messenger life is not one for the weak, and after speaking with any cyclist who makes his or her money with their legs and a bike, one usually comes away with a certain amount of respect for any of those hardy souls.

Every year, those messengers get a party all their own, and this year it's right here in Chicago. The North American Cycle Courier Championships, or NACCCs, over the weekend of August 29 to September 1, and open to all, messenger or not, will feature a closed-course race in Garfield Park, messenger prom, parties (and afterparties and after-afterparties), and a panel discussion to improve the working lives of messengers. The cost to register is going up quickly, so hurry over and sign-up.

Paired with the NACCCs on the same weekend is the North American Bike Polo Championships and registration right now is $30 per individual and $90 for a team. Teams from all over, many of them also competing in the NACCCs, will converge on Chi-Town to engage in the sub-sector (some say subcult) of bike polo, which as a sport has received a great deal of attention from the popular press.

If not interested in actually going out and playing, consider just spectating - not just NACCCs weekend, but most, bike polo is played in Garfield Park on Sundays at 2. Loaner bikes are available, so there are few excuses for not taking a mallet by the hand and poloing about.

Lastly, while the summer's cranking along in mid-stride, with August around the corner, we're reminded that fall is coming and with it cyclocross. The Chicago Cross Cup starts with the season opener at Jackson Park on Sunday, September 21. Just past 57th and on the lake, Jackson Park is quite the pastoral setting for one of the more brutal and violent of cyclesports. Mark your calendars now, and expect to see plenty of coverage here.

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