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Tuesday, April 16

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Cycling Mon Apr 02 2012

Illinois Road Racing Season Kicks Off


Cat 4/5 Men's heat two on Thursday night's Gapers Block Crits / Photo: Amy Dykema

Racers got to test their early-season legs last week at the Gapers Block Criterium Series and the Burnham SuperCrit, two annual races that mark the start of the region's road season. The local season lasts through mid-August and includes criterium races every weekend along with several longer road races.

The annual Gapers Block Criterium Series hosted by Half Acre Cycling came to a close March 28, once again seeing large fields of beginning racers as well as strong riders vying for early-season wins to qualify for category upgrade points. I competed in the series all four nights alongside nearly 40 women who raced in the cold Calumet Park wind.

Saturday's Burnham Super Criterium was the first of seven races in the Illinois Cycling Association's Illinois Cup Series. The Criterium runs on South Beloit's Black Hawk Farms Raceway, designed for racecars and motorbikes.

The Gapers Block series has traditionally aimed to highlight women's racing, and this year the effort really showed when pre-registration for the women's field sold out in less than a day. It was incredible to race against so many women every night. I had never experienced racing in a criterium field that large, and I'm sure most of my competitors hadn't either. Racing got faster and smarter as the week went on and we gained confidence riding in a big group.

Local teams like Team TATI, Half Acre Cycling and xXx and were dominant in our races and practiced race strategies that earned their respective riders Kristina Young, Robin Hoecker and Sue Wellinghoff second, third, and fourth place overall. I earned the week's top omnium spot by working with riders from different teams and securing a good position early in the last lap to attack with my strong sprint before the finish.

Andrew Toftoy of Nature Factor/Finer Finish was the stand-out rider in the men's heats, winning five of the six races he entered by riding off the front of the pack mid-race. Teams like Play It Again Sports and Half Acre Cycling were well-represented and seen working on race strategy throughout the week in the men's fields. has full results for the series.

Over 500 starters were counted between 13 categories at Saturday's SuperCrit, from beginners to cat 1 racers to elite masters. Many races saw riders who doubled up between categories, including a few elite women who raced with the men. has the results.

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