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Bicycling Fri Mar 28 2014
By Nick Wright
This week, the Tribune ran a story about the delays that spring sports — baseball, soccer, softball — are facing because of the still-frozen fields. Talk about a bummer. It's supposedly been spring for a week now, but it seems Mother Nature's joke is on us.
Ice-afflicted earth aside, the end of March always marks the beginning of road bicycle racing season in Chicago, beginning with the sixth annual Gapers Block Criterium, hosted by Half Acre Cycling. The series is four days (Monday, March 31 through Thursday, April 3), with races each evening for men and women. If you're new to road racing, this is the chance to test the waters. The course is a 1-mile loop at Calumet Park on Chicago's south side, a stone's throw from Lake Michigan.
What's a criterium, you ask? Essentially, a criterium (or "crit") is a race in which road cyclists ride laps around a closed course for a set time. Beginners race for 30 minutes, and higher competition categories race longer. The races are usually held on closed-off city streets, and the course is generally 1 mile long. (As a first-time crit racer last year, I often describe it as NASCAR for bikes.)
Half Acre Cycling, a local competitive cycling team, targets the Gapers Block Criterium for beginner bike racers. It's a low-cost, low-key racing enviroment to get a feel for crits, how to handle your bike, how to ride in a paceline, and position yourself for a sprint finish.
Our recent recon indicates the road is in excellent shape at Calumet Park — no need to worry about potholes!
Races each day begin at 6:10pm, 6:50pm, and 7:30pm. Online registration is closed, but there will be 10 spots open for walk-up registration for each race. Walk-up registration is $20 per day for men and $15 for women. Even if you don't race, come down and cheer on your compadres! It's a great spectator sport, as riders fly by every couple minutes. Word is that local 10th Ward Alderman John Pope will be in attendance, too.
There will be a free beginner road racing clinic on Sun. 3/30 at Johnny Sprockets in Lakeview.
For full details and registration, visit halfacrecycling.org/events.
Nick Wright is the secretary of Half Acre Cycling. Gapers Block is a team sponsor.