Gapers Block has ceased publication.

Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
 Thank you for your readership and contributions. 


Thursday, May 23

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Bicycling Mon Mar 30 2015

Race the 2015 Gapers Block Criterium

Half Acre Cycling Gapers Block CritsStill in your winter malaise? Haven't really prepared for bike racing season? Well your chance is next week with Half Acre Cycling at the 2015 Gapers Block Criterium in Calumet Park, 9801 S. Avenue G, starting Monday, April 6 and running through April 9. For four days, racers of all genders interested in criterium racing can come gain experience and motivation to get ready for the upcoming racing season. Registration costs $40 for women's cat 5, $60 for men's cat 4/5 or 5.

Jake Payne

Cycling Thu Jul 17 2014

Intelligentsia Cup Rides Through Chicago on July 26

ICPSCS_full_logo_email.pngWhile the world's premier cycling event powers through France, the Chicagoland area will play host to it's own bicycling competition, the Intelligentsia Cup, from July 18 to July 27, with a stage near downtown Chicago set for the penultimate day of racing.

Intelligentsia Coffee, started right here in Chicago back in 1995, is the title sponsor of the Prairie State Cycling Series that will hit Waukegan, Lake Bluff, Crystal Lake, Willow Springs, Beverly, Elmhurst, Chicago, and Downers Grove over the eight days of racing. Prizes will be awarded to the winner in every category each day, along with overall winners receiving podium treatment after the final day of competition based on points accrued for finishes each day.

Anyone wishing to register and race on the day of the Chicago event must have a valid USA Cycling License and pay a fee of $53 ($63 for Women/Men Pro 1/2), but note that there is a limit to the amount of participants in each field. A strong payout structure for, at minimum, the top three finishers in each group awaits to the racers, along with jerseys for the winner in almost every group.

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Chad Ruter

Bicycling Tue Apr 22 2014

Chicago College Students, Grab Your Bike for Bike2Campus Week

b2campus_week.jpgBy Nick Wright

If you're a college student in Chicago who bikes to campus, this is your week to shine. Don't ride much, or at all? Air up the tires of that Schwinn 10-speed, or grab a Divvy bike. It's Bike2Campus Week.

During this week (April 21-25), Bike2Campus Week is part collegiate competition, part challenge that encourages students from ten local colleges and universities to use two wheels for trips to and from class. At the end of the week, the school with the highest participation percentage will earn a winning title. Prizes, too! The top pedaler at each campus gets a one-year Divvy membership, and the top rider overall earns a four-year Divvy membership with his or her photo featured on

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Bicycling Fri Mar 28 2014

Half Acre Cycling Hosts Sixth Annual Gapers Block Crits

By Nick Wright

gapers block crits 2013This 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.)

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Cycling Mon Aug 13 2012

Bikes, Beers & Hot Dog Costumes at the Cycle Messenger World Championships

Photo by Chris Dilts

By Scott Klocksin

We didn't get the 2016 Olympics. But keep your chin up and your eyes on the swirling traffic, Chicago, because we did host the 2012 Cycle Messenger World Championships.

A swarm of 375 world-class athletes from 13 countries converged on the south parking lot of Soldier Field Aug. 4-5 for two days of closed-course racing and side events such as a sprint race, a cargo-carrying race and a skid contest.

The specially-calibrated electrolyte drinks and energy bars seen at most bike races were mostly abandoned for greasy local fare and the hydration method favored by bike messengers the world over: cold beer. (It didn't hurt that Pabst Blue Ribbon was an event sponsor.)

There was even a dude who raced in a hot dog suit. Of course there was. And of course, it was mustard, not ketchup on the dog.

Amid the revelry, the main race was a mentally challenging simulation of what bike messengers do in an average work day, with riders picking up and dropping off envelopes and packages along a course requiring them to make sharp turns, stop often and account for their deliveries with a written manifest.

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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.

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Eleanor Blick

Cycling Fri Mar 02 2012

Winter Bike Swap

Saturday, Pulaski Park Fieldhouse will be filled with booths hosted by local bike shops and private sellers looking to unload extra gear at steep discounts. Local cycling organizations will also be on hand to give demonstrations on winter bike commuting and family cycling, and host various activities throughout the day.

The bike swap runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 1419 W. Blackhawk Street. Admission is $5 for Active Transportation Alliance members, $10 for non-members. Kids under the age of 12 can enter for free. The event also benefits Chicago Bike Winter and The Chainlink. For more information on the swap's vendors, additional scheduled activities or how to sell a bike of your own at the swap, visit

The video above is a tour of last year's bike swap.

Eleanor Blick

Cycling Thu Mar 01 2012

Gapers Block Criterium Series Filling Fast

Twelve hours into online registration, the annual Gapers Block Criterium series presented by Half Acre Cycling already has more category 4 women pre-registered than have ever lined up to race in past years.

The surge in female racers is exciting to see -- local road racing has not seen the same level of women's participation as local track and off-road disciplines. The boom in registrants is surely thanks in part to additional attention for the ladies: top finishers in the women's category 4 race will receive prizes, TATI cycles has offered a free pair of cycling shoes to any female registering for the series for the first time and local cycling teams and classes like Pedaling With a Purpose have been promoting the races for weeks.

The series runs nightly March 26 through 29 in Calumet Park on Chicago's southeast side, accessible by bike via the Lakefront Path. Races are designed for beginner competitive cyclists (category 5 and 4 men and category 4 and 3 women) who are new to racing and looking to gain experience before the road racing season picks up in the spring and summer. The flat, 0.8 mile course features wide turns and long straight sections, perfect for riders who are still uneasy with tight corners and shoulder-to-shoulder pelotons.

Pre-registration for the series is designed to be highly affordable: $50 total for men and $25 total for women for all four nights. Day-of registration runs $20 for men and $10 for women for each night of racing. Pre-registration closes March 22.

GBC flyer.jpg

Eleanor Blick

Cycling Fri Dec 30 2011

Ringing in the New Year with Cyclocross


A Half Acre Cycling racer offers a pickled herring hand-up at a Chicago cyclocross race / Photo: Amy Dykema

Champagne hand-ups? Puff pastries on the podium? No one is quite sure how cyclocrossers' at this weekend's New Year's Resolution race plan to ring in the New Year. But with some of the country's top professionals in town for Chicago's first national-level UCI race, raucous locals no doubt have plans to show off the unique flavor of Chicago's boisterous cyclocross community. Chances are, several resolutions will have to wait until Monday.

Team Rapha-Focus riders Jeremy Powers and Chris Jones are favorites to lead the men's race, joined by Barry Wicks (or Larry Bicks to the locals) of Team Kona and Justin Lindine of Team's Garage. For Ryan Trebon of Team LTS-Felt, the race will be a test--his first race back after his successful season was stifled by an injury in mid-November. In the women's UCI race, Sue Butler of River City Bicycles-Ridley and Laura Van Gilder of C3-Mellow Mushroom are expected to be riders to watch.

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Eleanor Blick

Cycling Fri Dec 02 2011

Riders Ready for Cyclocross Championships


The start of the women's category 4 race at Montrose Harbor in 2010 / Photo: Amy Dykema

Cyclocross is a peculiar discipline in cycling. It requires combining the fitness needed for a road race, the handling skills of off-road riding and the blood of a sailor to tolerate, let alone enjoy, the sport come late November and early December weather.

But a record 622 preregistered riders and two sold out categories at this year's Illinois State Championship shows more and more riders are up for the challenge. Or maybe they're just coming for the taco truck.

The annual race at Montrose Harbor is notorious for brutal weather, be it biting wind off the lake, a high of ten degrees, eight inches of snow or the slippery, cold mud that could result from this weekend's forecast. Chicagoans who traveled to race Jinglecross in Iowa last weekend might be at an advantage on Sunday.

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Eleanor Blick

Cycling Fri Nov 11 2011

TyK Pinup Proceeds Empower Women to Speak Up

TyK1.jpgMs. August, as featured in the 2012 TyK calendar. / Photo: Kimberly Capriotti Illustration: Jana Kinsman

You know what happens when you assume: you make an ass out of you and... me? Or her? Wait, which pinup are we pinning this tale on, anyway?

The Thought You Knew pinup calendar takes real-life female cyclists from Chicago and styles them as their self-chosen pin-up alter egos. TyK aims to promote female empowerment and ownership of one's sexuality. Controversy surrounding the fourth installment of the calendar has swelled on Facebook and message boards during the past week, after a few TyK models got the attention of the cycling community by revealing they only recently learned proceeds from the 2012 calendar would not be donated to the Chicago Women's Health Center, as they had been in previous years. Some models said they felt "duped" by the news, and rumors about plans for the proceeds quickly followed.

TyK founder Alexis Finch responded via Facebook, clarifying plans for the 2012 funds, TyK's relationship with the CWHC and other concerns. In the note she said 2012 funds would stay within TyK's LLC to help start "The Monthly Cycle" programs in cities nationwide, bringing women into bike shops to learn basic mechanic skills and meet employees.

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Eleanor Blick / Comments (7)

Cycling Tue Aug 23 2011

Interim Velodrome Track Opens For Business


Three racers compete in a scratch race at Sunday's event / Photo: Eleanor Blick

The outdoor interim track at Chicago Velo Campus held its first races Sunday, and many curious cyclists and neighbors alike made their way through to watch. Racers competed in track-specific races like the scratch and the miss-and-out, and set the first track records in solo timed events.

For some racers the excitement surrounding the casual, fun day of racing meant something more: Sunday's event marked the first Velodrome races held in the city of Chicago in 65 years.

The outdoor track at 86th Street and Burley Avenue was erected as a precursor to a larger planned facility, to be built on a portion of the former U.S. Steel South Works site. The full Chicago Velo Campus plans to include an indoor Velodrome, mountain bike and cyclocross tracks and several other Olympic-level training facilities. The project, led by Chicago Velo Campus President and local racer Emanuele Bianchi, is slated to open in 2014.

In the meantime, local racers are ecstatic about the new outdoor track. Volunteers built it by hand in just 35 days and the materials are designed to withstand winter elements, so the track can remain standing for a few years.

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Eleanor Blick / Comments (1)

Cycling Wed Jul 27 2011

Taiwan National Champion Wins Superweek


Liz So (center) of Tati Cycles poses with members of the Hong Kong National Team / Photo: Tati Cycles

Superweek wrapped up its 43rd year with the Whitefish Bay Classic Sunday evening, concluding the 17-day series with races across southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois. Local and international competitors raced alongside each other for a chance at stage jerseys, sprinters points and final top spots in the overall standings.

Taiwan national champion Feng Chun-Kai stood at the top of the Men's Pro 1/2 podium Sunday, marking the first time an Asian rider has won the event. He shared the podium with Laurent Beuret of Switzerland and RIcardo Van der Velde of the Netherlands. In the Men's Pro 1/2 Amateur category, Brandon Freehery of Homewood, Ill., won overall, riding for Mesa Cycles.

In the Women's Pro 1/2/3, Nichole Wangsgard of Primal Racing/Map My Ride took the overall competition, followed by racers from Taiwan and China. Local racers Kristen Meshberg and Stacey Applewick of ABD and Liz So of Tati Cycles took 12th, 15th and 16th, respectively. So also clinched 4th place overall in the Women's 3/4 category.

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Eleanor Blick

Cycling Thu Jul 21 2011

Dry, Crowded Trails at Palos (Finally!)


Two Half Acre Cycling riders climb the grassy hill at last year's Palos Meltdown race / Photo: Amy Dykema

Area mountain bikers have been moping for months. Groups have been carpooling up to Wisconsin's Kettle Moraine, wishing Ray's were open during the summer or even resorting to riding on the dreaded pavement to get some miles in. Chicago's unusually long, wet, cold spring took its toll on local trails this year.

But the weather has finally heated up and dried out enough to help all of the mud-slogged singletrack trails at Palos Forest Preserve turn to perfectly packed dirt.

And everyone is making up for lost time. Hikers, bikers, runners and equestrians are flocking to Palos on the weekends and trails are as crowded as they've been in recent memory. Huge groups of bikers are plowing down the big grassy hill while strings of trail runners traverse roots and ravines. For maps and guides to the trails, click here.

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Eleanor Blick / Comments (1)

Cycling Fri Jul 15 2011

Area Cyclists Hit Weekend Two of Superweek

This weekend marks the halfway point of Superweek, a 17-day cycling series with races spread from Milwaukee to Chicago. The Point Premium Root Beer International Cycling Classic, commonly known as Superweek, is the longest running multi-category race in the world and attracts top-level riders from all over the globe.

Pros and amateurs alike compete for daily winner's stage jerseys as well as the overall series jersey for their category. Currently seven of the top 10 pro 1/2 men's overall spots are held by racers from Europe and Asia, while six of the top 10 pro 1/2/3 women are from Hong Kong and Taiwan.

This weekend racers will compete at The Great Downer Avenue Bike Race in Milwaukee and at the Evanston Grand Prix. The Downer Avenue race is always one of the most popular, known for giving away giant primes (prizes awarded mid-race to the winner of a particular lap) and for live music, food and huge crowds.

The series wraps up July 24 with the Whitefish Bay Classic. For a full schedule of races, click here.

Eleanor Blick

Cycling Thu Jul 07 2011

Women's Meet & Greet Aims to Aid Beginners

Cycling has always been a boys' club. Many local teams make efforts to host women's clinics and women-only group rides to encourage more female racing, but pack-riding and talk of pelotons can be intimidating to true beginners, even in a learning environment. Heading out a group ride alone as a new rider takes guts.

"It's a lot less intimidating if you can make some friends who have been through the same thing," said Becky Welbes of Kinky Llama Racing. "[Friends] can answer a lot of your basic questions, give suggestions and be a supportive, smiling face at the races."

That's why Welbes organized a Women's Cycling Meet & Greet at Logan Square's New Wave Coffee (2557 N. Milwaukee) this Friday from 7 to 10 p.m.

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Eleanor Blick

Cycling Fri Jun 24 2011

Local Race Attracts National Competition


Racers come into a turn in last year's Glencoe Grand Prix / Photo: Ed White

Saturday marks the fifth annual Glencoe Grand Prix. It is the Illinois state criterium championship and one of two Illinois races on USA Cycling's 2011 national calendar. Last year pro riders from eight countries lined up at the start while high-level amateur racers from across the country came out to compete alongside them.

Races kick off at 7:15 a.m. and run all day. The pro 1/2/3 women start at 4 p.m. and the pro 1/2 men close out the night with a 6 p.m. start. For the full schedule, click here.

The village of Glencoe always strives to make the race a family affair, putting on free one-lap kids races at noon and hosting an all-day block party with food, beer and music. Spectators pack the start/finish to watch the pros sprint to the line and fill Triangle Park for the "King/Queen of the Hill" competition. Racers can accrue points mid-race for being first to the top of a short hill in the 1.3-mile course loop.

In addition to tomorrow's race, Team TIBCO will be hosting a free women's race clinic and preview of the course this evening from 6 to 8 p.m. For more information on the clinic and tomorrow's race, click here.

Eleanor Blick

Bicycling Fri Jun 17 2011

Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein Meets Chicago's Bicycle Community

by John Greenfield

Today's Bike to Work Week rally in Daley Plaza was inspiring, a far cry from last year's lackluster event, thanks to big plans for bicycling from new mayor Rahm Emanuel and forward-thinking transportation commissioner Gabe Klein.

In 2010 Chicago's efforts to become a world-class bike town had stagnated. The city had installed over 100 miles of bike lanes and over 10,000 parking racks, achieved bike access on transit and educated multitudes about safe cycling, but we seemed to be resting on our laurels. Meanwhile other U.S. cities were pioneering car-separated bike lanes, automated bike sharing systems, on-street parking corrals, traffic-calmed "bike boulevard" streets, car-free "ciclovia" events and more.


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Tailgate / Comments (5)

Cycling Wed Jun 15 2011

South Side Riding With Major Taylor Cycling Club

major taylor ride.jpg

Bobby Mitchell, Elihu Blanks and DeWayne Ferris (left to right) fix a flat tire / Photo: Christopher David Gray

By Christopher David Gray

I pulled my red Montgomery Ward cruiser bicycle up the stairs at the 79th Street Red Line station on a Saturday morning last month and hit the road.

I pedaled down quiet streets past Simeon Career Academy and west on 83rd Street, to the Dan Ryan Woods in Auburn Gresham and the start of the Major Taylor Trail.

The air was cool but not cold and I didn't pass another cyclist in three miles.

The Major Taylor Cycling Club awaited me at a parking lot in the Dan Ryan Woods, checking tires and equipment for a 14-mile ride to the southern city limits and back. The group of mostly black cyclists formed three years ago and remains one of the few of its kind on the South Side.

"We're trying to heighten our visibility so people are aware of us," said Peter Taylor, one of the core members of the club.

In February, the Chicago Department of Transportation released its first bike count survey, based on data collected in 2009 at 26 sites around the city.

The data showed some impressive cycling statistics: 14 of the locations had more than 200 bikers a day, and on one stretch of Milwaukee Avenue, 22 percent of all vehicles were bicycles.

But on the South Side, the statistics painted a much different picture. Not a single location south of north Bridgeport had more than 200 cyclists a day, and the nine lowest rider totals were all on the South Side, with fewer than 60 cyclists a day.

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Cycling Mon Jun 13 2011

On the Right (Cycle) Track?

Chicagoans sound off about the new car-separated bike lanes on Kinzie

by John Greenfield

Richard M. Daley had a widespread, if somewhat undeserved, reputation as a bicycle-friendly mayor. But with Rahm Emanuel in power, along with progressive new transportation commissioner Gabe Klein, it looks like there's going to be a sea change in the way the city pushes pedaling.

Emanuel's Chicago 2011 Transition Plan includes three bold, possibly unrealistic, bike goals. But it's refreshing that the City is finally making big plans that have, to paraphrase Daniel Burnham, magic to stir cyclists' blood.

The mayor's bike proposal, obviously influenced by transition team member Randy Neufeld, former director of the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation, calls for expanding our anemic automated public bike sharing system from only 100 bicycles to thousands of vehicles. The mayor also promises to build the Bloomingdale Trail, a 2.65-mile elevated rails-to-trails conversion on the Northwest Side within his first term, although it's taken two years just to get the design contract approved and the price tag for the trail is estimated at $50-70 million.

The third goal may be the least realistic but most exciting, and there's already rubber, nay bike lane paint, on the road. Rahm has pledged to install 100 miles of European-style "cycle tracks," bike lanes that are physically separated from cars by medians, parked cars and/or posts, within his first four years in office. This would require a lot more money than is currently spent on striping eight miles of conventional bike lanes per year, and it would involve taking away travel lanes and parking spaces from automobiles.

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Tailgate / Comments (7)

Cycling Mon Jun 13 2011

Bike to Work Week is Here

Chicago's annual Bike to Work Week is all geared up for five days packed with appreciation for bicycle commuters throughout Chicagoland. The week-long event is designed to promote bicycle commuting and encourage new riders.

It is hosted by the Active Transportation Alliance and the City of Chicago with help from many area organizations. This year over 400 companies are participating in the Bike to Work challenge, all competing for the highest percentage of employees to bike to work.

Every morning this week starting at 6:30 a.m., riders can stop for coffee, snacks, chain lube, air and other goodies at several Bike Pit Stop locations throughout the city and at suburban Metra stations. From one of this morning's Pit Stops at Ciclo Urbano in Humboldt Park to one of Tuesday's Pit Stops at Blue City Cycles in Bridgeport to Thursday's Pit Stops at the north and south ends of the Lakefront Trail, riders all over should be able to find a Pit Stop on or near their route to work.

This year riders also have the opportunity to freshen up in the morning with complimentary showers at six Fitness Formula Club locations. For a full list and map of Bike Pit Stops and shower information, click here.

Daily Bike After Work events like movie screenings and drink specials round out the evening commute, and the week culminates with a Bike to Work rally Friday morning at Daley Plaza. Rides can meet up at four local Caribou Coffee locations to ride to the rally in groups. For more information about the week's events, click here.

Eleanor Blick

Cycling Fri May 27 2011

Memorial Day Weekend Races Are No Picnic

Memorial Day Weekend features two notorious destination races for Chicagoans: Saturday's Snake Alley Criterium in Burlington, Iowa, and Sunday's Gravel Metric in DeKalb.

The Snake Alley Criterium has boasted some of the toughest, most technical climbs in Midwestern road racing for 29 years. Amidst 123 feet of elevation change over the 15-block course loop, a one-block climb up Snake Alley features five switchbacks in 60 feet. The average grade of the grueling hill is 12.5 percent, according to the race's website.

The historic, brick-paved Snake Alley is a favorite viewing point for fans and hecklers, fighting for spots to egg racers on as they try to defeat hills many flatlanders have only seen in the movies. Only a few of the most svelte Chicagoans have made it atop Snake Alley's podium in the past.

DeKalb's dusty country roads, in contrast, stretch flat to the horizon. North Central Cyclery and Half Acre Cycling's Gravel Metric (62 miles), in its second year, gained a punishing reputation because of last year's 90-degree heat. Sunday's forecast looks slightly more forgiving, but with promises of more gravel and more mud riders should still fear the worst.

Tobie DePauw, owner of North Central Cyclery, said the goal is "to have it be just painful enough to be interesting, but not so exclusive that people are unwilling to try." DePauw called the race a "tasty sample" of some other Midwestern endurance races, like Trans Iowa or Almanzo 100.

Good luck to riders making the trip to either race. You'll need it.

Eleanor Blick

Cycling Tue May 17 2011

Ride of Silence Honors Cyclists Injured, Killed


A Ghost Bike on Lincoln Avenue honors a fallen cyclist / Photo: Angie Naron

On the third Wednesday in May, cyclists in cities around the world gather to honor riders who have been killed or injured while biking on public roads. Started in 2003, the Ride of Silence aims to raise awareness for cyclists' right to share the road.

Tomorrow, cyclists will ride in silence at a slow pace, wearing black arm bands in solidarity for victims or red arm bands to signify a personal injury from an accident. Routes pass by the crash sites of cycling victims, which are marked with ghost bikes in many cities.

Chicago's ride will start tomorrow at 6 p.m. at Daley Plaza and pass several of Chicago's ghost bikes. Visit for more Chicagoland rides.

Eleanor Blick

Cycling Mon May 09 2011

Monsters and Fox River Grove Next Weekend


A Bouledogue Tout Noir rider rails it up the Fox River Grove climb / Photo by vectorbug

Two of Chicagoland's more unique and popular criterium races are happening next weekend. Saturday, May 14, the action will be heating up on the Hyde Park Plaisance at the Monsters of the Midway, a 1.1 mile rectangle loop around the Plaisance. A deceptively challenging course due to the wind factor, the Monsters race is often one of attrition due to the high speeds forced by packs of racers desperate to shell all riders not up to snuff. What's especially cruel about Monsters is that one can see the entirety of the course from most spots, which if you're one of the shelled riders, truly hits home how much you need to do your homework. Registration for the fun is here.

Sunday, May 15, the fury on wheels heads west to Fox River Grove. Saved from the jaws of death with a last-minute effort by Psimet Wheels, the Fox River Grove race is a unique one in that it has terrain. Honest, there is an actual hill - and a steep one at that - to race on. A true treat for most Chicagoans whose only concept of terrain involves the rollers of suburban Sheridan Road or the boat ramps, the hill of Fox River Grove will have most riders cursing for they must make the climb every lap. But what goes up must go down and the course also features a winding descent that may have flatlanders white-knuckling as they negotiate the turns. Registration is here.

Zach Thomas

Cycling Thu May 05 2011

Trail Days Program Takes Kids Off-Road


A West Town Bikes-sponsored rider at a 2010 cyclocross race / Photo: Amy Dykema

Many people cite a feeling of freedom among the reasons why they ride a bike. In Chicago it can mean freedom from cars and traffic or freedom to get around the neighborhood without relying on a bus schedule.

Outside the city, this freedom can mean something else entirely.

West Town Bikes and The Bonebell are partnering to help help kids explore this feeling with West Town Bikes Trail Days. The program will take youth and young adult participants to Palos Forest Preserve to try off-road riding. It will offer urban kids a rare opportunity to escape the pavement and explore nature while they try out a different way to ride a bike. The first ride is scheduled for May 7.

[UPDATE: The first Trail Day is still pending, due to weather and transportation conflicts. Sorry!]

Volunteer ride leaders from various local cycling teams will take small groups of kids out on the trails, instructing them on the technical handling skills needed to steer bikes over small roots and rocks. Bicycles and helmets will be provided by West Town Bikes and sponsors are helping cover picnic lunches and transportation costs for the four tentatively scheduled Kids Trail Days, but total fundraising goals have not yet been met.

Continue reading this entry »

Eleanor Blick

Cycling Tue Apr 26 2011

Ladies' Choice: Disc Wheels or Dirt


2010 Roger DeLanghe Trophy Night at Northbrook / Photo: Eleanor Blick

This Saturday female riders have a big decision to make: Channel their inner sprinter at the Chicago Women's Track Clinic or become a maiden of the mud at the second Chicago Women's Dirt Day.

The track clinic, sponsored by Half Acre Cycling and Alberto's Cycles, will start with the basics. Francine Haas of Alberto's Sport Racing Team will teach riders about the mechanical differences of a fixed gear track bicycle and help first-time riders spin around in a smooth, safe environment.

Attendees will learn proper track etiquette like when to ride above the stayers line and the danger of attempting to pass a rider in the apron of the track. The clinic will also introduce riders to the various types of track races, like points races, win-and-outs and chariots, and practice a few mock races to demonstrate how to ride in a group.

The clinic runs from 8 a.m. to noon at the Northbrook Velodrome. Registration is $10 for USAC-licensed riders, $15 for non-licensed riders. Loaner track bikes are available through Alberto's Cycles, George Garner Cyclery, Turin Bicycles and Yojimbo's Garage.

If skinsuits and skinny tires don't sound like the way to spend a Saturday, the second Women's Dirt Ride will be meeting in the Wolf Roads parking lot of Palos Forest Preserve at 9:30 a.m.

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Eleanor Blick

Cycling Mon Apr 11 2011

Pelotons, Echelons Feature at Upcoming Women's Cycling Clinic

Women's Pro/Am category.

Gritting teeth in the pouring rain at the 2009 Glencoe Grand Prix / Photo: Edmund White

This Thursday, April 14 and Sunday, April 17, Half Acre Cycling is hosting a two-part intro to road racing clinic for women cyclists new to the sport. The instruction will come from experienced, accomplished cyclist Kristen Meshberg and coach Greg Meeker, who will go over the nuances of riding in a pack at speed, how to corner effectively and safely, and how to maneuver through a peloton.

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Zach Thomas

Cycling Wed Apr 06 2011

Women & Trans Night at West Town Bikes

wtb women and trans.jpg

Colleen Hughes attends to a wheel at a Women & Trans Night last year / Photo: Eleanor Blick

The window of perfect riding weather is fast approaching, so you'd better get ready to roll. Maybe your winter steed needs a good scrub or your bike has been in hibernation and is thirsty for lube. Whatever the damage, female instructors at Women & Trans Night, brought to you by West Town Bikes, can help you from start to finish or just provide the space and tools.

Every Wednesday from 7 to 10 p.m., the shop at West Town Bikes/Ciclo Urbano (2459 W. Division, 773-772-6523) is open for women and transgendered cyclists to work on everything from flat tires to front derailleurs in a laid-back, female-forward environment.

The women's wrenching night has been around for a while, but Kim Werst, one of the lead volunteers, says it has been gaining momentum recently. They set a donations record a few weeks ago and more new faces are stopping by. Werst said there's usually a mix of about half veterans, half new participants.

"It seems every week there are at least one or two people who have never been here," she said via email.

Continue reading this entry »

Eleanor Blick

Cycling Mon Mar 28 2011

Gapers Block Crits: Team TATI stands out


The women's race on Friday night / Photo: Amy Dykema

The Gapers Block Criterium series came to a close Friday after five bitter cold nights of racing in Calumet Park. The series is great practice for beginning and intermediate racers to gain experience before the season picks up. As many first-time racers as first-time road racers came out to the crits, with familiar faces from other cycling disciplines lining up on the start.

The women's category 4 field was hotly contested. Racers were battling it out for enough overall points to win a Hulot Frame courtesy of TATI Cycles in Hyde Park, and TATI's women's team dominated the races in both numbers and strategy. Its four main riders tried attack after attack, breaking from the pack and whatever their "Platoon" strategy was to win four out of five nights of the women's category 4 races. The competition for the frame came down to the final night, when Katie Isserman of Bellum Racing earned the most overall points by winning Friday's race, added to three previous second-place finishes.

The men's category 4/5 races saw more mixed results. On Monday the men had two full heats, but participation waned as the temperature dropped. Cesar Hernandez of Play it Again Sports Cycling braved the cold and worked his way to three consecutive wins in the second men's heat.

Click here for full race results.

Huge thanks to Half Acre Cycling for organizing the series and to the volunteers who bundled up and came out every night.

Eleanor Blick

Cycling Mon Mar 21 2011

Reminder: Gapers Block Crit Series Starts Tonight

Are you ready to race? Hopefully all those training miles have started to pay off because tonight is the first night of the week-long Gapers Block Criterium series in Calumet Park.

Day-of registration will be open: $20 for the men's 4/5 and $10 for the women's 3/4. Click here for more information.

The Gapers Block races are some of the few bike races in the Chicago city limits and only 20 minutes from the Loop. They're great to spectate, but it's even more fun to participate.

Zach Thomas

Cycling Fri Mar 11 2011

3 Floyds Ride

For some reason, Chicago cyclists have this reputation as being big drinkers. Could it be the good amount of great breweries in the vicinity? Aye, but also the fact that riding bikes and beer drinking goes so well together.

This Sunday, March 13, go for a ride at a quick pace to 3 Floyds in Munster, Indiana with the Bonebell Crew. Meet at 9 a.m. sharp at the Lakefront Path and 63rd in Hyde Park for a spirited jaunt to enjoy suds and food at one of the premiere area brewers.

Please take note of the advice in the above link. The ride is not for pure novices or folks who have not ridden a bike since last fall. Expect to work up an appetite with about 30 miles of raw bike action.

Riding a bike on the open road is the same as driving a car, with respect to the law, so responsibility and maturity is of course warranted.

Zach Thomas / Comments (1)

Cycling Wed Feb 23 2011

Registration for Gapers Block Crits Opens Tomorrow

Big news: CDOT's approved the paperwork, so now we get to race. Thursday, Feb. 24, registration opens up for the week-long Gapers Block criterium series in Calumet Park in southeastside Chicago. The week of racing stretches from March 21 through the 25th. And just like in the past years' iterations, these races are for beginner competitive cyclists who are new to the sport and are looking to get some experience ahead of the spring and summer racing season.

Pre-registration for this low-cost race series is $50 for men and $25 for women for all five days (USAC license required to pre-reg). Day-of registration is a bit more at $20 per male and $10 per female.

Even if you can only race a few days of the series, it is considerably cheaper to pre-reg and get the low price. Many racers did just that, registering for the entire series knowing they would only be able to hit up three or four of the individual races.

The course follows the Calumet Park south loop, a 0.8 mile of flat, smooth pavement with no tricky corners and great sightlines. See the map of the course here.

Nightly race schedule after the jump ...

Continue reading this entry »

Zach Thomas

Cycling Thu Feb 17 2011

Bicycle Film Festival Landing in Chicago

A tradition here in Chicago for the past few years, the Bicycle Film Festival is cinema velo, a celebration of all things celluloid (er...HD) and pedal-powered. This year, the party starts Thursday, February 24 and runs through Saturday, the 26th. Just as in past years, the films are partnered to a whole gaggle of other activities, including Goldsprints and an alleycat race in honor of Gary, the sadly-passed-on shopcat at Yojimbo's Garage.

All film screenings are at the Viaduct Theater (3111 N. Western Ave.)

Below is the itinerary. Click through for flyers and more information and specific times.

Thursday, February 24
Kick-off Party: Beauty Bar (1444 W. Chicago Ave.)

Friday, February 25
Movies, Goldsprints and Afterparty: Viaduct Theater (3111 N. Western Ave.)

Saturday, February 26
Movies Viaduct Theater (3111 N. Western Ave.)
Afterparty: Darkroom (2211 W. Chicago Ave.)

Continue reading this entry »

Zach Thomas

Cycling Tue Feb 15 2011

Quick Spins: Mark Your Calendars

Not the Tour de Groundhog, but the sentiment is the same. Photo by Ed White.

Coming soon is one of the first races of the year, the Tour de Groundhog (PDF), on Sunday, Feb. 20 in New Salem State Park, near Springfield.

This is a cyclocross race, so it'll be run rain, shine, snow or mud. And with the snow melting, there should be lots of mud and snow and slush to make for treacherous conditions and great racing. The course at 1.3 miles will be good for spectators and based on this report from last year, the race was sloppy, mushy and fun.


Also coming up is the Chicago Cycle Swap (not to be confused with the recent Chicago Winter Bike Swap) on Saturday, Feb. 26 at the Pulaski Park Fieldhouse (1419 W. Blackhawk) from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Hosted by Active Transportation Alliance, this swap helps support the ATA and Chicago Bike Winter while allowing cyclists to purge their collections of unneeded derailleurs and pedals.

Continue reading this entry »

Zach Thomas

Chicago Tue Feb 01 2011

Short Hops: Stocking Up Before the Storm

ramirez tribune.jpgPhoto: Nuccio DiNuzzo, Chicago Tribune

Sports fans always love keeping the guys we know and love, and the White Sox sure have been doing a lot of that lately. They brought back free agents Paul Konerko and A.J. Pierzynski, picked up Ozzie Guillen's 2012 option and Monday they gave shortstop Alexei Ramirez a four-year, $34.5 million contract extension.

The new deal, which includes a $10 million team option for Year Five, wasn't strictly necessary. The 29-year-old Ramirez was entering the final season of the cheap four-year deal he signed as a Cuban free agent three years ago, but the Sox could have kept him around for a few more years through arbitration. Instead, they decided to give him a little more money on the front end in exchange for a few years of cost-effective security on the back end. And it won't cost anything this season.

Jim Margalus of South Side Sox likes the move: "I'd call this contract fair, with an overtone of fun. Ramirez is often a blast to watch, and he's not going anywhere. That's good."


Good news for the Bulls too, as Joakim Noah had the cast on his right hand removed Monday after practice. The fourth-year center, one of the league's premier rebounders and post defenders, will participate in non-contact drills with the team on their current road trip and could be ready for game action after the all-star break in three weeks.

Continue reading this entry »

Jim Reedy

Cycling Mon Jan 31 2011

Illinois Cyclists Race for the Race

Photo of Chris Eatough at the 2008 Lumberjack 100 by davisrc19

Every year, usually on Feb. 1, cyclists throughout Illinois sit at their computers, waiting with impatience to start the Race Before The Race. Espressos in hand, fingers clicking mice with frantic jitters, these riders are vying for a coveted few slots in some of the season's most popular races.

Yes, some races in Illinois and Michigan have become so popular that just getting in is accomplishment enough. Limited slots and wide-ranging reputation also cause consternation for cyclists who right now are headway into preparing for the racing season, still months away. And the race begins in just a few hours.

Continue reading this entry »

Zach Thomas

Cycling Fri Jan 28 2011

Chicago Velo Campus Might Actually Be Happening

Keirin final.
Photo by Ed White

If you're a Chicago competitive cyclist, you may have heard about an effort to develop a Chicago "velo campus" that would feature an indoor velodrome, BMX and mountain bike tracks, and other cycling-specific facilities. You may have heard that some pretty big local names in cycling were involved in the effort and that funding was coming along.

Well, it seems that things are coming along better than we thought. The A.V. Club reported today that the Chicago Velo Campus (Facebook) is scheduled for completion in 2013, with some events beginning later this year on an "interim" wood track. Rumors are swirling that its location will be in the south side of Chicago, perhaps as part of the new U.S. Steel lakefront development.

Continue reading this entry »

Zach Thomas / Comments (1)

Cycling Fri Jan 21 2011

Palatine's Winter Bike Swap & Sale

Nice bike pile
Photo by juicyrai

In dire need of some new wheels ahead of spring? Desperate for some new cycling shoes or retro neon racing kit? Check out the annual Chicago Winter Bike Swap at Harper College (1200 West Algonquin Road, Palatine, IL 60067) on Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. As in years past, the Harper College gymnasium will be turned into a bazaar of all things bicycle-related. $5 per adult entry, free for kids.

Marvel at the vintage DeRosa with full Campagnolo C-Record and gawk at last year's Ridley cyclocross bike closeout. Dig your hands through boxes of old cranksets and pedals. Bike swaps are full of similar bike nerds who get their rocks off buying and selling the ephemera of cycling.

The big question: Go early to find the best stuff or wait until later in the day in hopes of deep discounts? It's a tough decision that's never made easy. Or while you're out that way, you could take a break at Mitsuwa for a smoothie and something tofu and come back to the sale to clean out the place.

Zach Thomas

Cycling Wed Jan 19 2011

Winter Bike to Work Day

Photo by A Hermida

Thursday morning, Chicago's Active Transportation Alliance is hosting its annual celebration of all things frozen and two-wheeled with its Winter Bike to Work Day from 7-9 a.m. at Daley Plaza.

Tomorrow's forecast calls for temperatures at or below 20 degrees throughout the day, so participants will be in for an invigorating ride. Fortunately, the ATA warming tent will have coffee and cheesecake for all participants. Plus, we've got all the winter riding tips you'll need.

Zach Thomas

Cycling Thu Jan 06 2011

ICA Announces 2011 Race Series, Category Changes

The Illinois Cycling Association, the body that oversees road, track and cyclocross racing in this state, has announced the 16-race Illinois Cup series. With races near and far (Hillsboro-Roubaix, Great Egyptian crit), this series looks to offer a good variety of road and crit racing opportunities. For those that will be competing for the overall series winner, be prepared to tack on the miles.

The complete list of races and category changes after the jump:

Continue reading this entry »

Zach Thomas

Cycling Mon Jan 03 2011

2011 Racing Starts Now

It's sometimes hard to think ahead a week, let alone a month, but with only a few short months until the first races of 2011, it's time that the mind starts wandering toward planning goals and target races. By now, most Chicago cyclists are in the depths of winter training hell, with the end goal the promising glimmer of spring.

One of the first races of the year is the Tour de Groundhog on Feb. 20 in New Salem State Park, near Springfield. This is a cyclocross race, so it'll be run rain, shine, snow or mud. And that early in the year, expect lots of the latter two.

Also coming up is the ABD Indoor Time Trial series at Winfield Middle School in Winfield. Three indoor TTs on Jan. 23, Feb. 20, and March 19 serve as training for the outdoor John Fraser Memorial TT on April 10. How does one do an indoor time trial? Special computer-controlled trainers attached to a central computer monitor a racer's time and change the resistance to simulate terrain or wind.

Continue reading this entry »

Zach Thomas

Cycling Wed Dec 15 2010

Cocktails With Christian

The Chicago Area Mountain Bikers advocacy organization is hosting a meet-and-drink Sunday, Jan. 2 in Tinley Park with local hotshot pro Christian Vande Velde of Team Garmin-Transitions. Vande Velde has had some major successes at the top tier of the sport of cycling and this event will allow guests to down a pint with and ask training advice of one of the few Americans to ever wear pink. Other local pros, including ex-USPS rider Robbie Ventura, are expected to attend.

"Cocktails With Christian" will be at the Tin Fish (18201 S. Harlem, Tinley Park) from 1 to 4 p.m.

The event flyer is after the jump.

Continue reading this entry »

Zach Thomas

Cycling Thu Dec 09 2010

The Off Season

As the final rider of the Cat. 4B ChiCrossCup race at Montrose Harbor crossed the line last Sunday to whoops, cheers, and heckles, the 2010 Chicago competitive cycling season drew to a close (well, besides this), racers' thoughts turned toward how to improve for 2011. Of course, not without first taking some well-deserved time off from the bike in favor of spending time with long-ignored friends, lovers, and pizzas. Mike Sherer of the brutalizing Pony Shop squad was crowned the 1/2/3 king; teammate Jessica Hill was the Women's champ.

Due to the wide variety of different permutations of cycling, the off season can be longer or shorter for all manner of folks. The road racers have better start in with the serious training shortly, but the track stars can bum around for a month or two more. Bike polo players...what do you do?

Continue reading this entry »

Zach Thomas

Cycling Wed Dec 01 2010

Waning Days of CX

The 2010 ChiCrossCup is drawing to a close. At this point in the CX season, there should only be one or two more dabs of embro left in the tub and race bikes are creaking and shuddering (a reminder to check out one of Chicagoland's best shops for CX bike goodies). The high of Sunday afternoon will soon be replaced by the drudgery of the indoor trainer and/or frigid miles on the open road.

It's like the waning hours of a really good party. You know tomorrow morning that life's going to be hell, but for now, let's dance.

Luckily, there are two more opportunities this year to get sweaty. This Sunday, December 5 is the Illinois State Championship of Cyclocross at Montrose Harbor. Chicago's front yard and Turin is once again hosting the focus of many racers' 'cross season. Who will come home with the State Champs jersey? One of the local favorites or a darkhorse from downstate?

Last year was remarkably mild, but this year the forecast is calling for wintry weather that will play havoc with tire traction and make for difficult clothing choices.

Also coming up is the Afterglow at Humboldt Park on Saturday, December 18. By then you should have said your goodbyes, but consider this one last kiss before the CX season goes to bed.

Zach Thomas

Bicycling Sun Nov 28 2010

WTTW's Geoffrey Baer Discusses His New Show, "Biking the Boulevards"

This article was submitted by John Greenfield.

geoffreybaer.jpg"Biking the Boulevards," premiering on WTTW on Monday, Nov. 29, at 7:30pm, focuses on three topics: Chicago's 28-mile boulevard system, the often-overlooked neighborhoods and parks connected by the boulevards, and the history of cycling in Chicago.

In the show, host Geoffrey Baer, a veteran of many local travel and architecture documentaries, leads a tour of this network of tree-lined streets, first developed in the 1860s, from the seat of a Pashley Roadster Sovereign bicycle, showcasing features you might not notice while speeding by in a car. He pedals by landmarks like Bronzeville's Walk of Fame, Laredo Taft's Fountain of Time sculpture on the Midway Plaissance, the golden dome of the Garfield Park field house, and Logan Square's eagle-topped Illinois Centennial Monument.

I recently talked to Baer about the making of the program, aspects of the boulevards and local bike history that may come as a surprise to Chicagoans, and his own ideas about how to improve cycling here.

Continue reading this entry »


Cycling Sun Nov 28 2010

Icy Riding

Fall 2010 has been exceedingly kind to Chicago cyclists. Besides only a few rainstorms and abbreviated chilly days, most of the season has been balmy and comfortable.

But that's all changed. The inevitable has made itself clear: winter is now on its miserable way. Unlike many other activities, cycling makes few allowances for precipitation. And sometimes it revels in it. Greg Lemond and Lance Armstrong both earned their world champion stripes in hellish, wet races that saw large portions of the field excised by crashes caused by slick roads. In amateur cycling, there is a whole subculture that speaks to the "Epic" ride defined by venturing out in conditions that would have most normal and sensible people inside by the fireplace.

Continue reading this entry »

Zach Thomas / Comments (1)

Cycling Wed Nov 17 2010

CX Bingo

Via Ruby Too Design!

Try and get "Bingo" at this Sunday's race at Northbrook (weather permitting). The sights most seen in the Chicago 'Cross Cup seem to lie along the lines of "Awesome Race Face" and "Boutique Beer Drinker." Though, "Bad Coverage While Changing" is a chronic problem for this GB staffer.

Here is a map to this Sunday's race, in the lovely north suburb of Northbrook.

Zach Thomas / Comments (1)

Cycling Wed Nov 10 2010

Announcing the Afterglow

December, is one of the darkest of months, only illuminated by the bright promise of Christmas and New Year's. The build-up to those events followed by the deflation and brittle chill of January and February. That's real life.

But in bike-racing land, things are a little different. December is the time of state and national championships, thermoses full of spiked coffee, and the peppery aroma of embro wafting off of shorn legs. Things are great until the end of the championships and then, well, all there's to look forward to are the holidays. Holidays, family, and all that are wonderful, but no substitute for bike racing.

That's a problem.

So Half Acre Cycling (note, I am a member of and race for Half Acre Cycling) and the Chicago Cuttin' Crewhas decided to give everyone one sweet, last taste of 'cross before the skinsuits are thrown into a muddy heap until next year. They're calling it the "Afterglow" -- the heady rush of the day-after. No walk of shame here.

And the best part of all is that this race is in Humboldt Park -- a short ride, drive, or train trip from anywhere in the city. The costs are low, too, owing that this race is not a Chicago 'Cross Cup series race. The juniors race for free, of course. Gotta get the young'ins hooked on more wholesome, albeit dirty, thrills before they discover girls and cigarettes.

Registration is here.

Coming up this weekend is the ChiCrossCup Indian Lakes double-header of racing, presented by South Chicago Wheelment. Last year, a number of livers were heavily abused in the "Cave" and rumor has it that Wizard's Staff and karaoke will feature heavily in the pre/post-race fun. This race is reasonably close -- just 29 miles from the Loop. Registration closes tomorrow.

Zach Thomas / Comments (1)

Cycling Wed Nov 03 2010

Like the Running of the Bulls

Or maybe not, but watching the start of Chicago 'Cross Cup races can be akin to taking part in Pamplona's favorite spectator sport. Depending on one's vantage point, spectating can have its own hazards as riders careen across off-camber turns and bog-down on uphills. At Sunday's Campton Hills CCC race, there were many instances of racers bringing the race a little too close to those watching. And it was a beautiful thing.

Below are videos of the starts of the Men's Category 4A and the crowd-pleasing, utterly anarchic, 4B. Now, imagine if you will all those riders trying to navigate mud, slippery slopes, and staircases and you've got the makings of some pretty awesome racing.

The 4B Race: "Anarchy On Two Wheels or Traction's Revenge

The 4A Race: "We're a Little Better Than the 4Bs, But Not By Much"

The action moves to Woodstock, IL this Sunday. Click here for the deets. Also, did you see this on your commute in this morning?

Zach Thomas

Cycling Thu Oct 28 2010

Old School 'Cross

Sadly, the races these days are considerably more sanitized. Maybe next year the Chicago Cyclocross Cup could incorporate a crossing of the Chicago River by bike or, for one of the races in the suburbs, a romp through a corn field.

There's no point in doing something if it's easy. CX should be hard and while the race above is harder than most cyclists are accustomed to, it looks unbelievably fun.

Zach Thomas

Cycling Wed Oct 27 2010

Halloween 'Cross

For some reason, cyclocross brings out the crazies. Blame it on the fan-driven atmosphere, the slow speeds that allow great viewing, and of course, lots of beer. It seems that beer is the engine that fuels 'cross scenes across the country and Chicago's scene is no different.

But what happens when you combine cyclocross, beer, and Halloween? Oh, it's just the more ridiculous fully-sanctioned parties around. Runners don't have nearly the amount of fun that 'cross racers enjoy at this time of the year.

This weekend features two parties worthy of costuming and bikes. The first is the Velo Trocadero Halloween race on Saturday in Milwaukee. Click here for a sample of the race from a couple years ago. Milwaukee is a short drive away from Chicago. Plus, cheese curds. Registration is here.

Then on Sunday is ANOTHER Halloween race, the Bicycle Heaven race in Compton. Last year, this course was sloppy, muddy, and fun. The weather looks reasonably promising for the weekend, but maybe the predicted shower spell could liven things up. Oh, and if you're in costume, you get a call-up to the front of the pack after call-ups for top-10 riders. The race is in the ChiCrossCup -- and with the season half over, times running short for CX fun.

Costumes that allow full range of motion and mobility are highly recommended, but if one wants to curry favor with the crowd, the more debilitating the costume, the better. And bulky is best.

Zach Thomas

Cycling Fri Oct 22 2010

CAMBR Poker/BBQ Ride

The lovely folks of CAMBR (Chicago-Area Mountain Bikers) are hosting tomorrow, Saturday, October 23 a "poker" ride at 10 a.m. in the Palos Forest Preserve with an itinerary full of scary-sounding events like the "limbo" and "death spiral." The "clunker toss" we know as the tossing of a Huffy, Ross, or other generic and shoddily-made bicycle as far as possible while also consuming mass quantities of beer.

Oh, yes, beer... the consumption of which will be highly encouraged and will go nicely with the reported large amounts of roasted pork available. Yes, a pig roast/BBQ will feature among tomorrow's highlights.

The event will start at the grassy hill, with parking at the Wolf Road lot.


For this CX racing fix, the party moves to Bartlett's Sunrise Park. This race is the home of the infamous "Heckle Hill" which was so fondly remembered by all the Cat. 4 racers who endured a wall of screaming hooligans waving bacon in their faces. The weather this weekend is finally something that approximates CX-specific conditions and should provide a sloppy good time to all participants.

And with this race comes the realization that the ChiCrossCup series is halfway over. If you're holding out trying a CX race, you really should put in an effort to hit up one of these events before Montrose. Gotta get your practice in and all that.

Zach Thomas

Cycling Wed Oct 13 2010

Films and Flyovers

This year, it seems that the Chicago 'Cross Cup is all about surprises. So far, the series has seen a relay race, lots of guest appearances by regional pros, and serious construction in the form of flyovers. This weekend, the action continues with double races: Psycho 'Cross on Saturday in Wacaunda, IL and Carpentersville on Sunday. Because Psycho 'Cross is hosted by Verdigris Custom Homes, there will be a flyover of excellent construction placed on the course. From all reports and photos, this Saturday's flyover looks to be sturdy enough to spend its post-race career as a house or fortress.

Tomorrow night, October 14, eat pizza, gawk at Kona bicycles, and hassle local pro Barry Wicks at Turin Bicycle (1027 Davis Street, Evanston, IL) from 6:00-8:00 p.m. Wicks will answer questions about the sport of cyclocross and will hopefully explain why 'cross racers are really interested in spending lots of their free time riding their bikes and running through the mud. Kona, Wicks' sponsor, will also be showcasing some of their line.

Lastly, on October 25, the Music Box Theatre will be showing the film The Cyclocross Meeting at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available here. The film, hosted by Bicycling Magazine, and filmed by Brian Vernor, explores the connections made between cyclocross racers as they travel across the world plying their muddy craft through fen and field.

Zach Thomas

Cycling Thu Sep 30 2010

Summer Closes with Tweed

Already there are signs that an icy doom is fast approaching. There are pumpkins out at the farmers' markets, there's a chill in the morning air, and the daylight is becoming a scarce commodity. Yes, summer's last gasp is wheezing out, but this is the best time of the year for a bike ride. The cool breeze carries away the sweat, the air is easy to breathe, and one can wear their tweed. Wait, tweed?

Yes, tweed, the rough wool fabric that looks so dashing with a pipe and handlebar mustache is the cloth upon which one of the more interesting group bike rides pivots (or slides upon).

This Sunday, October 3rd, the BBC is hosting its last summer Tweed Ride in Forest Park, leaving from O'Sullivan's Public House (7244 W. Madison, Oak Park) at noon. The ride will meander along the Illinois Prairie Path to the Sheldon Peck homestead for a picnic. Participation is free, but helmets and sharp woolen outfits are recommended.

Click here for more information and updates. Click here for inspiration.

Zach Thomas

Cycling Mon Sep 13 2010

Ramping Up

In case one hasn't been paying attention, cyclocross is one of Chicago's more popular, err...more anticipated, amateur sports. We do a good game of talking 'cross here in Tailgate, but really, the sport has seen a huge amount of attention and what was once a weird splinter discipline of cycling is now something that people exclusively train for. This Sunday's race in Jackson Park is almost sold out and October 3rd's race at Hopkins Park in Dekalb is getting there.

And just to think that five years ago, CX races in the region were lucky to have 30 people show up.

Continue reading this entry »

Zach Thomas

Cycling Thu Sep 02 2010

CX Season Rolls In; Urban Assault!

Oh, goodness. Last Sunday's cyclocross relay race hosted by xXx Racing-Athletico in Jackson Park was real steamy and crazy. Hot temperatures brought on by an unrelenting sun, bikinis, and the shenanigans of the Chicago Cuttin' Crew all made for a day of massive action. Lots of photos of the day are available here. Also, registration for the Chicago Cyclocross Cup series is open. Get in on the action early and you'll maybe get a preferred start, which in cyclocross, is absolutely crucial.

Note that the cyclocross season this year is going to be a real killer with extra races and surprises. Yes, surprises! I'm privy to some details that can't be yet unleashed, but rest assured that it's going to be a good season of muddy racin'.

Also coming up on Sunday, September 12 is the Urban Assault Ride, organized by New Belgium Brewing, and hosted by Murphy's Bleachers (3655 N. Sheffield). Think of the Urban Assault Ride as a sort of alleycat/scavenger hunt/adventure with checkpoints to hit, obstacle courses to maneuver and a city to navigate. The afterparty will feature tons of New Belgium suds, food, music and other enjoyable things. The ride costs between $30 and $65 and the proceeds benefits West Town Bikes. Click here for more information.

Zach Thomas

Cycling Tue Aug 24 2010

One Season Winds Down, One Starts Up

It's still August but the road racing season is winding down with only a few races left dotting the calendar. At this point of the year, the roadies among us have burned through social equity to spend weekends out in the hinterlands of the region, testing their mettle and legs in dozens of races. The non-cycling friends are tired of hearing "Oh, I can't go out to the bar on Friday. I've got to get to bed by 10 p.m. because we're driving to Somewhere-Far-Away-Ville for a 30 minute crit. I'm the designated leadout guy." The girlfriends/boyfriends/wives/husbands are done with the "Please, I know your birthday is tomorrow, but wouldn't you rather spend the day watching me win a pair of socks?"

The trials and tribulations of being an amateur bike racer.

Of the few races left, the closest is tomorrow's Soldier Field Criterium, the last of the summer series. Registration is here. As always, juniors race free. The location is as close as it gets -- Soldier Field. Ride there from work.

All this talk about building up social equity with your friends and partners doesn't mean they can't enjoy bike racing, too. This Sunday is the xXx Racing-Athletico Relay Cyclocross race in Jackson Park. Yes, the race is a "fun" race -- more fun than usual, I guess. Most everyone's gonna be testing their training out and gunning for the win. The catch is that you have to pick a partner to race with -- some folks are selecting teammates or other fast friends -- others (including this reporter) have roped their not-at-all-competitive friends and partners to race bikes with them. How's that for building a relationship? As it's a relay, both racers alternate laps and prizes will be bestowed arbitrarily. Rumor has it that good costumes, ridiculous crashes, and recumbents will receive something excellent. Persuade your pals to join up -- with the full cyclocross season starting soon, this may be the last chance they get to see you.

Zach Thomas

Cycling Tue Aug 10 2010

Chris Horner Speaks; CX Action

At last week's Tour of Elk Grove, Chris Horner, one of Team RadioShack's more recognizable riders, competed in the race solo and brought home a 5th place overall finish. Fresh off the Tour de France, where he earned an excellent 10th place, Horner managed to do well at Tour of Elk Grove -- a race not well suited for his abilities as a "general classification" rider. Ronit Bezalel of Ronitfilms and I were able to catch up with him to ask a few questions about his upcoming plans for the off-season, how he likes his In-N-Out, and cyclocross. Also, we discussed Horner's age -- at nearly 39, he's one of the older riders in the peloton; yet, he's still pulling in excellent results.

Other exciting news, the ChiCrossCup is heating up! The first race of the season is a relay race at Jackson Park on August 29.

Before then, though, you'll need to hone your CX technique. IIT is hosting a cyclocross clinic with professional 'cross racer Jeremy Powers and coach Randy Warren this Sunday, August 15. The clinic will cover proper dismount and remount techniques, barriers, run-ups, and other 'cross specific stuff. Now nine months after Montrose Harbor, most everyone's technique is a little rusty -- it may be prudent to hit this one up before tearing into the Chicago 'Cross Cup series.

Zach Thomas

Cycling Tue Jul 27 2010

A PRO Evening

Tomorrow, July 28, from 7-9 p.m., one of America's favorite cyclists (yes, truly) and lover-of-hamburgers Chris Horner of Team Radioshack will be coming to the Trek Bicycle Store of Highland Park to discuss his experiences racing the 2010 Tour de France with former pro and local Robbie Ventura. Horner is usually thought of something of a domestique, a water-carrier, albeit a good one that once in a while wins some races.

But this year, the guy came in 10th overall in the Tour, besting a certain Texan and teammate by a huge distance. This is a major accomplishment for Horner, who has had a long career working in the service of others and on a multitude of teams both here in the States and abroad. Horner's a familiar face in the Chicagoland area -- he was seen last year in the Chicago Criterium pushing the pace as well in the Tour of Elk Grove, which he will be racing this weekend. (Speaking of which, registration is still available for all categories.)

Expect Horner and Ventura to talk about the platefuls of pasta, the horrendous crashes, the "dropped chain" and awesome tanlines. Oh, and best of all, the event is free. Registration is required and available here.

Also, as a reminder, the Garden Dirt Jam is this weekend. This will be a treat of an event and is very family-friendly.

Zach Thomas

Cycling Mon Jul 12 2010

Garden Puts Down Roots; Northshore GP Needs Help

garden.jpgTucked between the North Branch of the Chicago River and Lane Tech High School at 3400 North Rockwell is a patch of land, only a few acres in size. Once an amusement park, once overgrown and overrun with gangs, broken glass, and trash, there is now at the site the Garden -- a sanctioned, legal, and open-to-the-public dirt jump and mountain bike park. Through the advocacy of CAMBR (Chicago Area Mountain Bikers) and the hard work of that group's volunteer base, the Garden incorporates groomed ramps, jumps, and technical bits for BMX and mountain bike riders in a park within the city limits. Riders there pull gravity-defying leaps and jumps or practice trials techniques on some of the natural features of the park. It's exciting stuff, even if one's only a casual rider.

It's a near-miracle that the Garden coalesced into an official park -- it was close to being bulldozed by the Chicago Park District. To celebrate, CAMBR is hosting a party at noon on Saturday, July 31. There will be a race, raffle, exhibitions, and events for the whole family. Spectating is free, but event entrance fees range from $10 to $30. Event registration is free for any rider who solicits $50 in donations.

Are you feeling extra helpful lately? Need to clean a dirty karma? The Northshore University Healthcare Grand Prix (aka The Evanston Crit) on Sunday, July 18 is in dire need of some volunteers. The NUHGP is an exceedingly well-run race that as part of the Superweek schedule brings vanloads of professional cyclists to the Chicago and Milwaukee area for two weeks of near-daily racing. The Evanston race needs lots of volunteers as this race is in the middle of downtown Evanston and has lots of corners that need watching. Call Dave Knauff at 847.878.1052 if you're feeling magnanimous and have a few hours free on the 18th.

Zach Thomas

Cycling Fri Jul 02 2010

On the Perimeter

An yearly Chicago tradition up there with the Blues Fest and Taste of Chicago is the Perimeter Ride -- a semi-organized tour of the city's edge. The ride starts with a trip down the path all the way to Calumet Park near the Indiana border, before cutting west to meander on the dividing line between Chicago and the Rest of the World. After making its way north, the ride stops at Superdawg for provisions, before taking the jaunt toward the lake and back to Handlebar for post-ride and absolutely necessary libations. This route is, of course, subject to change, but what's consistent is the length -- about 100+ miles and 12 hours of riding. Better apply extra chamois cream. The ride is of a more relaxed pace.

The ride this year is scheduled for Saturday, August 28, leaving from the fountain in Wicker Park, the park (1450 North Damen). The ride takes off at 10 a.m. Visit this thread at the Chainlink closer to the date for any last-moment changes.

Zach Thomas

Bicycling Wed Jun 23 2010

Bikin' Around (in the Rain)

Biking in the rain sounds crappy, but it's basically biking in the snow, only less tedious and with fewer layers of gloves and socks. See? It's not so bad! There are a few precautions specific to biking in the rain.


Continue reading this entry »

Andrew Joanis

Cycling Wed Jun 09 2010

Huck It and Race It!

Whoa, so this Friday from 4pm to 7pm is the qualifying heats of the Red Bull Stomping Ground at the corner of Elston and Augusta Boulevard with the main event the same time on Saturday. What's the Red Bull Stomping Ground? Well, just a BMX race minutes from the Loop featuring some of the sport's best riders, including Ryan Nyquist, Chris Doyle, and Cory Nastazio. Tickets to the event are only $10 and are available here.

Judging from pictures that have leaked out, it's going to be a killer time. See them here.

There're also a few days left and a few slots to register for the Saturday, June 12 Sherman Park Criterium, presented by Alderman JoAnn Thompson and xXx-Racing/Athletico. This is one of the few crits within the city's limits and is easily within riding distance. Register here. Sherman Park is located at about 52nd and Throop. The race course will be held on the inner loop drive -- a fast, easy oval that while lacking technical challenges such as sharp corners or elevation will still prove challenging by the sheer speed the peloton will be able to achieve. This event is always well-run -- a testament to xXx's excellent organizational skills. Hit it up, then the Red Bull Stomping Ground finals and have a Saturday bookended by bike.

Zach Thomas

Events Thu Jun 03 2010

Get Ready for the Tour de Fat and Track

Oh, yes! Everyone's favorite bike carnival and outdoor drinking exposition, the Tour de Fat, will be coming around to Chicago June 26, only a few short weeks away. Chicago's the first stop for New Belgium Brewing's annual festival of all things two-wheeled and human-powered. The whole thing starts off with a bike parade at 10 a.m. and ends at Palmer Square Park (3100 W. Palmer Boulevard in Logan Square). Last year, there was opportunity a'plenty to ride what could be best described as bike contraptions and enjoy all of New Belgium's adult offerings.

In anticipation, Timothy O'Toole's Pub (622 N. Fairbanks Court) will be hosting a raffle to win a custom Tour de Fat bicycle. Enter to win by buying a pint of New Belgium Fat Tire -- that's all. The contest ends June 25, the eve of the Fat itself.

Tomorrow night is the opening night of Category 5 developmental racing at the Northbrook Velodrome (Meadowhill Park, Northbrook). Registration opens at 6 p.m. and the racing begins at 7 p.m. with USAC, citizens, and junior categories. The track is always entertaining and is genuinely spectator-friendly -- one can see how racing tactics work and see the whole race in its entirety from the stands. Rain cancels -- and with the forecast predicting afternoon thunderstorms, this event could be cancelled. Call 847-291-2985 to confirm before making the drive or train ride up.

Zach Thomas

Bicycling Wed May 19 2010

Snakebite Flats and a Biking Column

This is a new monthly, comic-style column covering bike riding, maintenance, and safety. The focus will be on basic bike ideas, for example today's topic is the vexing snakebite flat tire. Chicago may not have any hills, but it's got a few potholes that are basically manholes.


Continue reading this entry »

Andrew Joanis / Comments (1)

Cycling Wed May 12 2010

All sorts of cycling happenings

Wow, it's that time of the year that everything bike-related is happening. Every weekend, there's a race, ride, film showing, or by-bike bar-hop that's worth attending.

Let's start with the big one: the MB Financial Bank Bike the Drive on May 30. This is the annual major fundraiser for the Active Transportation Alliance of Chicago, the group that works so hard to improve non-car transport through this big city. This event brings everyone together, commuters, families, racers, to ride on Lake Shore Drive all morning long and see the city's lakefront from a unique vantage point. Registration is here, with different tiers offering extras. Features this year include a festival, an all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast (load up on the carbs), and other thrilling things.

The NY Velocity Tour is coming to the Kenosha Washington Park velodrome on May 22. This event pits messengers and racers in a number of race formats, including match sprints, miss-n-out, and pursuit. In past years, the NYV Tour was a veritable bike-racing party and celebration of all things "Hipster Nascar." Get into it -- information is here.

The next day, on May 23, CAMBR (Chicago Area Mountain Bikers) is hosting a screening of Follow Me, a film about those brave dirtjump and downhill souls who bomb mountains at ridiculous speeds, at Cobra Lounge (235 North Ashland) at 6 p.m. This event is a big fundraiser for CAMBR's trailbuilding and advocacy efforts, the fruits of which include the Gardens.

Zach Thomas

Cycling Fri Apr 30 2010

Byrne and Bahati; Fair Weather Rules

This is exciting news. Former-Talking Head and urban cycling advocate (and author) David Byrne is coming to Chicago to present a forum "Cities, Bicycles and the Future of Getting Around" on Friday, June 18 at 7:30 p.m. at Daley Plaza (50 W. Washington). Tickets are required -- information is all available here. Byrne will come together with cycling advocates and civic leaders to discuss the bike's role in the city and how cycling can improve community relations and urban ties. The event is co-presented by Goose Island 312 and 93XRT and is part of the Chicago Bike to Work Rally.

Ouch-Bahati Foundation Pro Cycling Team racer Rahsaan Bahati will be in Chicagoland May 10 for a benefit dinner for the Bahati Foundation. The Bahati Foundation is a mentoring and education organization for Southern California youth, with a focus on promoting after-school and summer activities and attempting to present opportunites for youth beyond the corruptions of crime, drugs, and gangs. It's a noble cause very worthy of support. The dinner will be held at EJ's Place (10027 Skokie Blvd., Skokie). The informational flyer is here.

Finally, finally, the weather's mostly cracked. I know there will be some hearts broken when it inexplicably snows in May, but let's go on and cheer that Spring has finally made it. With that, everyone's dusted off the bikes and are rolling around the city. It's inspiring and great to see -- besides the CTA, which is itself losing its ground, there's no better way of getting around the city than by bike. The more cyclists out there, the better.

That said, for some reason, cyclists really need to be cognizant that riding a bike is an inherently dangerous and potentially lethal activity, to crib the disclaimer-speak. Also, cyclists have every right as a car to the roadway, but that means the rules of the road apply as well.

Such, as it were, I'll present a few guidelines to start the season off right:

1. If you're seriously training for the Chicago Triathlon, or you're a competitive/fast fitness rider, refrain from doing your bike workouts on the lake front path north of the aquarium between 4-8 p.m. First, you're not going to get in a good workout with all the stopping and slowing. Second, you're presenting a major hazard to all the other path users. Third, it's annoying and frustrating. The LFP is one of the great resources in this city and cyclists, from national champions to casual riders, use it and love it. But riding the path requires some sense. Those national champions and racer-types are out early in the morning from 5-8 a.m. or later evening when there are no strollers or jogging squads taking up the lanes. There's no excuse for trying to set a personal best from Navy Pier to Belmont on your time-trial bike on a sunny warm afternoon. It's dangerous to all.

2. Running red lights. Yes, everyone does it, but it's just a really, really bad idea. It annoys drivers, is pretty durn hazardous, and doesn't do much to improve cycling advocacy. Us cyclists expect full use of the road, that means we have to follow the laws as well. If you're going to run a red light, just use common sense: blasting through the Crotch or Cortland and Ashland is asking for a serious mangling. The number of people who have been carted away in an ambulance from those intersections after getting hit is staggering. Oh, and get some lights.

3. Learn to lock up your bike. With warm weather comes bike thieves; already Craigslist is full of sad tales of machines stolen in just a minute's time. This guide explains it all.

Expect more curmudgeonly ranting as the season goes on.

Zach Thomas

Cycling Mon Apr 19 2010

Vernon Hills, Palos Workday, Monsters

Registration's open for the 4th Annual Vernon Hills Grand Prix on May 2. This crit, like most other crits in the area, will sell out for the Men's 4 and 5 and likely the Women's 3/4 as well. The Vernon Hills course is a mild one -- about a mile long and with easy corners -- a good introduction to crit racing.

Then there's the Monsters of the Midway, held on the Midway Plaisance on Sunday, May 15 in front of the University of Chicago. This race is a favorite -- if not for its proximity to the city (it's in the city!) -- but also for the cutting westerly wind that usually splits the fields up. The course is a simple one, just around the plaisance, but maintaining position with every lap is tough and requires lots of cunning and hard work.

Lastly, building and maintaining mountain bike trails is tough but rewarding work. Filling in holes, repairing winter and rain damage, and smoothing out dangerous transitions is what makes good trails great. On May 8, CAMBR is sponsoring a work day to help get the Palos trails in good shape for the summer and autumn riding season. Volunteering is highly smiled upon and will be rewarded greatly. Bring boots and bike -- the tools will be provided.

Zach Thomas

Cycling Fri Mar 26 2010

One Last Crit

If you spent any time outside yesterday you were undoubtedly blown and tossed about by that nasty wind from the north. Plain awful to walk in, the wind was even worse to ride a bike in. And racing a bike in that business? You've got some issues.

But hey, lots of folks dedicated to racing their bikes (or lacking a good amount of common sense) lined up to race the Thursday edition of the Gapers Block Crits in Calumet Park. The report goes that going in the starting stretch, speeds of 35-38 mph were seen; going back north, it was down to 10-13 mph. Such is the nature of wind in bike racing -- it's an equalizer and a killer.

Ronit Bezalel of Half Acre said, "[...]My pace crept down into the single digits while the wind whipped me like its personal toy."

One more night of racing, tonight, remains. The wind's not so bad, but the chill in the air is if you're standing around. Bring a coat and check it out.

On other notes: The Chicago Area Mountain Bikers group is hosting a workday at the Palos trail system tomorrow. The harsh Chicago winter has done a number on the trails -- and to get them in working order takes some shoveling and raking. Bring your bike, help out.

NBC Universal Sports is broadcasting on-demand lots of racing from the UCI Track World Championships in Copenhagen, Denmark. Check out the action here.

Zach Thomas

Cycling Tue Mar 23 2010

Gapers Block Crits Are Going

Despite a cutting wind from the north, last night's first night of racing in the Gapers Block Criterium Series went off without any major snags. The fields were full, especially the women's field, which saw 24 racers toe the line, a massive increase from last year.

The consensus from last night's racers is that the wind offered its own major challenges. Coming down the front straight, racers saw speeds of 30+ mph, but as they came around the curve toward the beach, the wind would slow them down to the mid-teens. Such conditions make for challenging racing, but it can offer the advantage of splitting the field, giving the chance of a well-timed break to succeed.

Tonight's race promises a little less wind, but no less awesome racing. There are a small amount of day-of slots open for the Men's 4/5 fields -- first come, first served. There are also some spaces in the Women's field.

Results are here.

Race reports are still few-and-far between, but Kate Carolan (Half Acre Cycling) said this, "This was the first road races for all the HAC ladies. Katie, Sarah, and I rode near one another in the pack the whole time and realized afterwards that we should have had some strategy or teamwork. We're testing that out tonight."

Teamwork is key, so is strategy, but maybe the most important thing for these kinds of races is a heaping dose of luck. Best of it to all.

Zach Thomas

Cycling Fri Mar 05 2010

"The Garden" Grow Up

The derkin' dudes at the Bonebell reported today that CAMBR (Chicago Area Mountain Bikers) and the Chicago Park District approved the opening of Chicago's first-ever bike park in the woods behind Lane Tech on the former Riverview Park grounds.

"The Garden" (3400 N Rockwell Street) has existed for a number of years as the home of renegade bike jumpers, BMX daredevils, and trials practitioners. It was the little secret sanctuary of ramps, pits, and pivots just feet away from the noise and bustle of the streets. Now it's not much of a secret anymore, but that's OK, because the facility is completely legit, thanks to the hard work of a battalion of volunteers, CAMBR, and the CPD.

As the Bonebell so beautifully puts it:

Every serious dirtbagger who grew up on BMX in Chicago in the '80s has attempted some boneheaded move well beyond our skill level behind that high school [Lane Tech]. Bruised ribs, cracked frames, and scarred elbows have emerged from this quaint plot of land conveniently nestled from the view of a busy Chicago boulevard, the busy strip malls and old DMV stations of yore. It was a great place to have known about and ridden on in the past 20 years.

A grand opening is in the works and will be announced shortly. It should go without saying that with all the snowmelt and predicted rain, the park will likely be unrideable for a few days.

Zach Thomas

Cycling Fri Feb 12 2010

Gapers Block Crit Series is GO

So, get this... Gapers Block is sponsoring a bike racing series. That's right, everyone's favorite Chicago website is the headline sponsor of a week-long series of criterium races in Calumet Park in southeastside Chicago from March 22-26. Just like last year, these races are for beginner competitive cyclists who are new to the sport and are looking to get some experience ahead of the spring and summer racing season.

Pre-registration for this low-cost race series is $50 for men and $15 for women for all five days (USAC license required to pre-reg). That's right, if you're a woman you can race for $3 a day -- there is no other racing in the area that is that cheap. Day-of registration is a bit more at $20 per male and $10 per female. Even if you can only race a few days of the series, it behooves you to pre-reg and get the good deal. Last year, many racers did just that -- they registered for the entire series as a failsafe, but opted to skip a race when life or fatigue got the better of them.

The course follows the Calumet Park south loop, a .8 mile of flat, smooth pavement with no tricky corners and great sightlines. See the map of the course here.

The nightly race schedule is as follows:

6pm: Registration & course open
6:15pm: Men's 4/5 (beginners) -- 30 min - field limit 50
6:45pm: Women's 3 (intermediate) - 30 min - field limit 50
6:46pm: Women's 4 (beginners) -- 30 min - field limit 50
7:15pm: Men's 4/5 (beginners) - 30 min - field limit 50

Getting to Calumet Park is not very hard by bike -- it's a nice 12 mile ride from the loop -- but by car, it's better to get better directions as most online mapping resources will have drivers geton the Skyway (and spending money on tolls unnecessarily).

Try this instead:

Exit the Dan Ryan !-94 at 63rd (exit 58B), go east on 63rd, south on
King, and take South Chicago Ave. Then left on 95th which leads into the park.

Expect some awesome swag for prizes, maybe some brews, and of course, awesome racing.

See you there.

Zach Thomas

Cycling Fri Jan 29 2010

Start for the Supercrit

Registration for the March 27 Burnham Racing Supercrit opens up on Monday, February 1. Registration is here. The Supercrit will be head for the third time on the Blackhawk Farms Speedway in South Beloit, IL. It's a flat, curvy course with no real tricky corners if on the bike, though if you're tracking a four-wheeled machine corner one can apparently be real tricky.

The course offers a lot for spectators and racers -- in years past Burnham Racing and Blackhawk Farms has put on a great show with vendors, food, and a smooth and well-run registration setup. It's a Saturday race, too, which allows for the rare Spring brunch with your non-cyclist friends (yeah, cyclists disappear on weekends from March to December). And it's only about 90 minutes from the city.

Also, a reminder that registration for the Hillsboro-Roubaix 'classic' opens on Monday, too.

Better have room on the credit cards.

Zach Thomas

Cycling Thu Jan 28 2010

Women's Racing Clinic

Bicycle racing is on its face a sometimes-enigmatic and confusing sport. Usually, it's not all about a racer going as hard as he or she can to the finish line, because if they try that, they'll likely be beaten to the finish line first by someone who's playing the game much smarter than them.

Cycling's compared so often to a game of chess on wheels -- a racer can assume all the roles on the board -- from pawn to queen. Sometimes your job in a race is to sacrifice yourself for a teammate, other times, everyone gives their all for you just to bring you to the finish line first. The role of the domestique is a celebrated one in the history of the sport, so too the rouleur, the climber. Cycling's full of terms like echelon, breakaway, tempo, all of which mean something important but what exactly do they mean? What does it mean to half-wheel someone? To hold your line?

And this is where things get tricky. Cycling's a sport that has a disproportionately large amount of male racers. If you're a guy and you're interested in racing, you're immediately thrown into the mix and you learn quickly that you never hit the brakes in the corners or that you never jump out of the saddle on a crowded climb because you've got 50-70 other racers next to you to remind you of your mistake. Women's racing is different -- the races are smaller, but often no less intense, but there's certainly a need for novices to the sport to learn more than just being thrown into things and told to have fun and don't crash.

The Half Acre Cycling squad is hosting a women's racing clinic on March 20 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m at the UIC Behavioral Sciences building (1007 West Harrison) to introduce women to competitive bicycle racing in a part classroom setting and then outside on a closed course. Experience women racers will be providing the instruction and will guide attendees on what to expect in bike racing, training techniques, equipment, etiquette, and other nuances of the sport. The cost is $15 for current USAC license holders or $20 for those without. Registration opens on Monday, February 1.

(Disclosure: I race for the Half Acre Cycling team.)

Zach Thomas

Cycling Mon Jan 18 2010

2010 Is Go

"Wait, it's only the middle of January? It's still lousy out and I haven't even tried all the draft beers at Map Room. Shoot, I haven't even washed the kit I wore at Montrose. You're trying to tell me that I should be training?"

The griping of the cyclist in the off-season progressively gets louder through the year, only to shut up with a snap after the state cyclocross championship at Montrose (add a week if the rider's going to Nationals). Cyclists, despite being a bunch that will gladly ride in the pouring rain and cold for hours, also love to whinge and moan about it to anyone that will tolerate it. It's part and parcel of the sport and it's started back up.

Yes, it's time to think about racing in 2010!

The two big road calendars is the Illinois Cycling Association's and Chicago Bike Racing's. The ICA and CBR calendars focus mostly on road and track racing and both generally mirror each other for road. The ICA calendar covers track extensively, something that CBR's does not. However, the CBR site features tips for beginner racers and course previews that the ICA doesn't. The Ed Rudolph Velodrome also maintains a calendar for its race series -- there are multiple events weekly worth checking out.

Mountain biking is a bit different. The Bonebell, a Chicago-centric site devoted to mountain bike racing, culture, and riding is the resource to check out first. So too the Chicago Area Mountain Bike Association's site, which also offers updates of the trail systems near Chicago. To do mountain bike racing, though, one's got to do some traveling -- Wisconsin (WORS) and Indiana (DINO) are the big race series. Both series have great reputations and put on good events and often there are races only 75-150 miles from Chicago.

Coming up, though, are some must-dos:

Registration for Hillsboro-Roubaix opens up on February 1 for the April 10 race. THIS is the event that many racers build their spring season upon. For 2010, the course is tweaked slightly and the Cat. 4's get an extra lap.

The Chicago Active Transportation Alliance, UIC College of Cycling,, and Big Shoulders Realty is hosting a bike swap and sale on February 6. Get rid of the old, accumulate some new -- the swap is being billed as an expo with presentations on riding in the urban environment and through the winter season. $5 is the suggested donation. The location does not seem to be finalized yet, but expect it on the UIC campus. The expo is at Jak's Tap (901 West Jackson Blvd.) on February 6 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

If the 'cross bike still needs a little more mud splashed on it, Team Mack is hosting the Tour de Groundhog on February 21 at New Salem State Park outside Springfield. The 1.3 course on doubletrack should be pretty sloppy by that day and could be a good test of pre-race season fitness.

Zach Thomas / Comments (2)

Cycling Tue Dec 29 2009


Finally, winter's here. It's not a good thing or bad thing, it just is. Chicagoans are a hardy sort, despite the fact we don't seem to resign themselves quietly to four months of frigid hell like residents of Fargo might. (Yes, everyone around you is cold. Yes, it's windy. Yes, it took me 35 minutes to dig my car out of the snow, too.) This time of the year, the icy rime is here and is going to stay until those freak 60 degree days of February come along.

Life on two wheels is a little harder this time of year. Down to 20 degrees, all a cyclist needs is a good pair of tights, "lobster claw" gloves, and neoprene shoe covers. Further down the thermometer, it gets a little tricky, but it's do-able. However, there comes a point that common sense dictates that it's better to ride the trainer inside then venture out bundled head-to-toe into the icy mire, braving cutting crosswinds off the lake. Hitting a patch of black ice and smashing into the ground is a good way of having a bad day.

Dedication and perseverance to riding a bike indoors is how one wins races in the spring. If you even had a hope of contending for the podium in spring road and crit races, you would have been on the trainer two weeks ago doing base mileage on the days that riding outside didn't make much sense. Riding inside is a loner's game and can be a test of will (see paragraph 6), but there are ways of making the hurt just a little more tolerable and that's training and competing with others.

Yes, you can race indoors.

The bigger game around for pure cycling is the Athletes By Design indoor time trials. Using Computrainers (a high-tech trainer that varies resistance electronically), one "races" against other cyclists on a variety of courses. Three of the five races are open, one is an invitational, and the final, the John Fraser Memorial, is outdoors.

Winter is also the time to cross-train. Running is good, same with swimming, but at that point, one is nearly a triathlete, albeit a casual one, so it would make sense to try a tri. The MITCS (Midwest Indoor Tri Classic Series) offers a shorter-than-sprint triathlon workout of a 10 minute swim, 20 minute bike, and 15 minute run on three different dates. Naturally, the shorter the event, the harder you go.

For the antisocial types, though, an iPod loaded with Daft Punk or Discharge and DVDs of the "Classics" is enough to get one through to the spring.

Zach Thomas

Cycling Thu Nov 19 2009

Avenue of Bacon

Things have gotten really crazy in Chicago's cyclocross races. Mad crashes, a few ambulance rides, and of course, the Avenue of Bacon. Whereas in the Tour de France, the course on the climbs winnows down by the crowds to a small thread of pavement, in Chicago, it's the same, albeit enhanced with fried pork product. Yes, bacon. Bacon, and the dispensing of bacon into racers' mouths, has somehow become the defining characteristic of this madcap 2009 'cross season. And it's even now featured on a billboard.

There are only two more races left at which to savor the bacon and mud, this Sunday's blast in Woodstock, and then the Illinois State Championships on December, 6 at Montrose Harbor.

It's a little bittersweet to be running down to the tail end of the all-too-brief Chicago 'cross season. It's such a shame that such fun only lasts for about two months before it says goodbye. Racing mountain, road, and track is good fun, but in the parking lot before and after we're talking about how we can't wait for 'cross. We miss the racing and the challenge of riding all-out for 30-60 minutes, but we love being able to have fun after our race is done. Hanging out at crits and the track is a good time, hanging out at road races, not so much. But 'cross -- you actually can become part of the racing as a spectator. In Spring, when I'm off the back of a hilly road race in Wisconsin or Ohio, I'll be muttering to myself or to anyone nearby, "I'm putting up with this to get ready for 'cross."

On other sad news, Roger Delanghe, local cycling official and founder of the Quad Cities Criterium, has passed.

Zach Thomas

Cycling Thu Nov 12 2009

Indian Lakes 'Cross!

OK, it's a bit late notice, but registration for this Sunday's Indian Lakes ChiCrossCup race closes at midnight tonight. This is a Saturday race, the only one of the season, on the golf course of the Hilton Indian Lakes Resort. Lodging is available at a special rate for racers and the hotel has lifted limits on the number of people to a room -- yes, you can snuggle up to four of your favorite stinky teammates without fear of incurring the wrath of the night porter.

The South Chicago Wheelmen, the organizers of this particular race, have a raffle, included goods autographed by Chicago's most famous cyclist, Christian Vande Velde.

There are only a handful of races left before State Championships at Montrose Harbor. Make 'em count.

Zach Thomas

Cycling Thu Oct 29 2009

St. Charles Registration Closes Tonight

Just a quick reminder that registration for the St. Charles/Campton ChiCrossCup race closes tonight and right now, there are only a few spots available in the Men's 4A and about 20 available in the 4B. The weather promises some rain Friday and Saturday, which means that the course will likely be a tacky slog come Sunday.

If you raced Bartlett you know full well how tough it can be to roll through wet, thick grass. St. Charles promises some terrain and lots of climbing, so it could be another hard course worth coughing up lungchunks for.

Racers dressed in Halloween garb get special priority for call-ups.

On Saturday, IIT is hosting a bike "Swap and Hop." Bring stuff to sell and bring stuff to unload -- table space is still available.

And a quick reminder -- the Half Acre Women Racer's night is fast approaching.

Zach Thomas

Cycling Thu Oct 22 2009

Chicago Women Cyclists' Night; Bartlett 'Cross

Becoming an amateur bike racer in Chicago is easy with the progression from casual rider to racer a natural one. You go on some group rides and learn the ropes on how to ride in a pack at which time you'll experience the emotional and physical crush of being dropped. Then you train harder and start leading the ride. Then someone tells you should consider racing at which point you shave your legs, buy a USAC license, and join a team.

Well, all this is easy if you're a guy. Bike races and competitive group rides in Chicago often experience male/female ratios of 5:1, if not more. It's not that cycling's a sport with an entrenched macho culture; it's that the sport can be very intimidating and obtuse for those those not willing to dive deep into it. It's also not very forgiving. The difference in intensity from fitness riding to competitive racing, even at a low Cat. 4/5 level, is astounding. And for whatever reasons, those included, the numbers of women lining up to race pale in comparison to the men. Take for example the ChiCrossCup races -- the men's 4A and 4B categories fill-up to the brim of 75 racers each with a waitlist of 10-20 more. The women's 4 category is usually at most 30-40 riders.

Aiming to get more women into the sport, Half Acre Cycling is hosting a Chicagoland Women Bike Racers' Night at the Half Acre Brewery facility (4257 N. Lincoln) on Wednesday, November 4, 2009. Gather to talk about racing and training in a social setting, sans-lycra, with representatives from many of the Chicago-area teams with strong women squads. Half Acre is providing copious amounts of their delicious brews and Specialized is bringing some of their women-specific products, such as bikes and saddles, to demonstrate and give away as door prizes. "Podium men" are promised.

The event has a Facebook page, too.

Coming up this weekend is the fifth ChiCrossCup race at Bartlett, hosted by Athletes By Design. As before, register early and register often. Now's the time to start doubling-up if you can. The strategies of racing twice in a day are hard to suss out -- does one attack the first race with everything and use the second as an extra workout? Or does one save a little in the first to give it everything with the second?

Zach Thomas

Cycling Thu Oct 15 2009

Dan Ryan to Carpentersville

The first really chilly day of the season hit last Sunday just in time for the Dan Ryan 'Cross race hosted by Beverly Bike-Vee Pak. The toboggan hill run-up shredded fields apart, but lots of flat power sections allowed riders to glom back together and fight their own small battles inside the now-massive fields. Results are here. Remember: don't eat the BBQ until after you're done with your race.

Elsewhere in the region, a large number of 'crossers went down to Ohio and Northern Kentucky for the OVCX triple-race weekend. Scott McLaughlin of the SRAM Factory Team and Greg Heck of xXx-Athletico made the long drive to race Friday and Saturday, returning to the Windy City to romp the Men's 1/2/3. Ben Popper of HRS/Rock Lobster came and put in a crushin' against the Pros such as Jeremy Powers and Ryan Trebon. A whole passel of Half Acre represented well in Ohio, passing out their namesake beverage to all manner of pros and race fans.

The action heats up this weekend in the northwest suburb of Carpentersville. As in years past, this is a fast going course with lots of furniture to clamber over, including a hill, sandpit, creek, and ditch. Those with the ability to bunny-hop and lift the front wheel off the ground will have a distinct advantage of those who, well, can't. The ability to also ride really hard and fast will prove helpful, too, but that goes without saying.

And can I reiterate the importance of pre-registration? You save money, you ensure a spot on the line, and you make the officials' job easier. It's win-win.

Zach Thomas

Cycling Thu Oct 08 2009

Dan Ryan Woods 'Cross Sunday!

This Sunday, the third race of the ChiCrossCup goes off at Dan Ryan Woods in the southside Ashburn area of town. Besides Jackson Park and Montrose, this looks to be the closest race to the city center.

Registration is still pretty open for most of the categories, but don't be lulled into complacency -- these will be filled-up by tomorrow. Last week a number of folks who drove all the way out to DeKalb for the Hopkins Park race were turned away from registration for the Men's 4 races because there was simply no room. You don't want to be in that club.

Speaking of DeKalb, the dripping wet skies on Saturday promised mud, but Sunday's race course was fast and dry. Every race featured a showdown and heckling action the likes of which only 'cross brings out. Avi Neurohr of the Chicago Cuttin' Crew was crowned the State Unofficial Official Singlespeed Champion, adding another notch to the CCC's palmares this season.

Results from Hopkins Park are here.

And to see what it's like to be a 'cross racer, check out this handlebar video from the first lap of the Men's 1/2/3:

Now you know why so many of us look forward only to Sundays.

Zach Thomas / Comments (1)

Cycling Wed Sep 30 2009

CX @ DeKalb


This Sunday, the second race of the ChiCrossCup happens in DeKalb, Illinois. This race is the furthest one from downtown Chicago, but the course is a killer and worth the drive. Lots of terrain changes, some singletrack, and the peril of possibly riding into the Fox River. It's a real dream of a course.

The DeKalb race will also play host to the Illinois State Unofficial Singlespeed Championships. $10 to enter if you're already registered to race for the day. While the course isn't street fixed-gear friendly, a change in gear ratio will make it so. Or, if one starts bogging down, just get off the bike and run.

The pre-race weather favors showers, rain and chill. It's going to be a total Belgium day.

Registration is here.

Other notes:

Freehub Magazine has a pretty accurate portrayal of cycling in Chicago. Not saying it's entirely a positive piece, but it depicts the pitfalls of Chicago riding well. Best advice? Wear a helmet.

Brian Conant of BSC Coaching lays it all out about training and cyclocross in an interview for the Bonebell.

His best advice? "Love your bike."

Zach Thomas / Comments (1)

Cycling Thu Sep 10 2009


Cyclocross season is about to start and if you're anything like me, your dismount/remount technique is rusty. 'Cross is all about smoothness (and pain). You've got to be smooth on the power around the corners, smooth on the barrier dismount, and most importantly, smooth on the remount. Races are won and lost at the start and at the barriers.

So what's the solution? Practice and lots of it. By now most of the money's in the bank as far as training goes, but there's still time to get good at the technique of 'cross so that your first race isn't a comedy of errors, falls, and crashes. And practice with others is better -- lots of practice sessions are attended by local big guns that are more than happy to show some of the skills.

Here are some of the more official practice sessions throughout Chicagoland.

Pony Shop (Wednesdays, 6 p.m.) at James Park, Evanston

Bicycle Heaven (Tuesdays, 6:15 p.m.) - Starts Sept 15th. at Bicycle Heaven (12 East State St., Geneva)

MOX (Wednesday, 6 p.m.) at MOX Multisport (738 W. Randolph, Chicago)

You didn't hear it from me, but Cricket Hill (Montrose and the Lake Front Path) is home to impromptu 'cross sessions most mornings at 6:30 a.m. and p.m. With Jackson Park only a week away, time's short to get good.

Zach Thomas

Cycling Wed Sep 02 2009

Meltdown Recap

Last Sunday's Palos Meltdown went off exceedingly well with sunny, mild weather that belied the fact that the race was threatened at one point due to the epic rains that poured down only days before. Despite what one might assume, muddy trails and mountain biking do not get along very well, unless one doesn't want any trails to mountain bike upon.

In its third year, the Meltdown is the closest cross-country race to Chicago and a well-run one at that. The volunteers of CAMBR put in hours of sweat equity to get the trails in good shape and do all sorts of legwork to negotiate things with the Forest Preserve District of Cook County. With over 400 riders registered to race the three distinct races, lots of work was needed and the results showed in a fantastically put-together event.

In the Men's Citizen race, one lap of the 8.2 mile course, Jay Corgiat won handily three minutes ahead of the runner-up Stan Zielinski. While Nancy Paulinson came across the line in 53:55 to take first.

Sport with a total ride of 16.4 miles, was the most populated race with nearly 250 racers, had some major battles from the gun -- riders jostling for position in the grassy hills before the singletrack bashed into each other and one rider took a ride in an ambulance (don't worry, he's OK). Mitch Moen came in first with a time of 1:12 and in the Women's race Julia Daher won with a time of 1:34:14.

The Expert race had some major big guns at the line and the racing was evident of that. Ben Popper, the fifth place overall winner in the Men's race said about the winner Kevin Klug, "I look up and he puts three or four hard kicks to the pedals and is GONE up that hill. I crawled up that hill, not really out of defeat, but just plain tired." Kevin Klug's wife Holly, and fellow Killjoy rider won the Women's Expert race with a time of 2:02, 12 minutes faster than second. Stunning.

Take a look at photos of the race here, here and here. And results are here.

Zach Thomas

Cycling Fri Aug 21 2009

Counting Down the Weeks

The fall cyclocross season is only a month away. The discipline that brings together the roadies, dirtheads, and trackstars starts up with the first race in a 10 race schedule with the Jackson Park classic in the southside of Chicago.

Now's the time to get the bike together and tires glued. The cowbells should be on order and embrocation in the mail. Chicago loves its cyclocross as much as it loves its criteriums.

And the schedule as below, subject to change:

All Races are held on Sunday unless otherwise noted

1. 9/20 - Jackson Park (xXx Racing)
2. 10/4 - Dekalb (Half Acre Cycling)
3. 10/11 - TBD
4. 10/18 - Carpentersville (Northbranch Cycling)
5. 10/25 - Barlett (ABD)
6. 11/1 - St. Charles/Campton (Bicycle Heaven)
7. 11/8 - TBD (Garner Northbrook Bike Club and Flatlandia)
8. 11/14 - Indian Lake (South Chicago Wheelmen) -- Note this is a Saturday race!
9. 11/22 - Woodstock (Northwest Healthcare Center)
10. 12/6 - Montrose Harbor - State CX Championship (Turin)

Zach Thomas / Comments (1)

Cycling Tue Jul 28 2009


A month from now Palos Park, part of the Forest Preserve District of Cook County, and home to some pretty great mountain biking, plays host to the Palos Meltdown cross-country mountain bike race on Sunday, August 30th.

If you didn't know, Palos played a part in the Manhattan Project and in the woods, demarcated by signs, are some spots that are well, a little hot. That's where the meltdown in the name of the race comes from, but that day the only things burning up will be the lungs and legs of hundreds of cyclists careening down the hills and through the trees.

The course will be a variation of last year's -- Three Ravines will play a part, along with the Bullfrog Slough loop. I'm not entirely familiar with the park's trail system, having only raced last year and ridden it twice this year, but the terrain will split things up nicely according to fitness, skill level, and bravery.

There are three races: Beginner (one lap at 8 miles); Sport (two 8 mile laps); and Expert (three, of course). Unlike last year, the beginner race is on the same course as the rest of the classes -- and unlike last year, in which one could race a cyclocross bike or even a stout road bike with knobbies, the course now demands an off-road only machine.

The cost to register is $35 and includes a t-shirt and assorted swag.

Zach Thomas

Cycling Fri Jul 24 2009

Chicago Criterium this Weekend

On Sunday, Grant Park and the surrounding streets will be full of riders as the Chicago Criterium returns for its second year. A real crowd-pleaser last year, this race is already a crown jewel in the Chicago road racing scene.

The schedule is as follows:

  • 7am Juniors

  • 7:35am Cat 5 Heat 1

  • 8:10am Cat 5 Heat 2

  • 8:50am Category 4

  • 9:40am Category 3

  • 10:35am Masters 35+ 4/5

  • 11:20am Women Cat 4

  • 12:05pm Masters 35+ 1/2/3

  • 1pm Women 1/2/3

  • 2pm Big Wheel Race

  • 2:15pm Pro 1/2

Professional cyclist Chris Horner of the Astana squad will be racing in the P/1/2 race to shake things up. While he was disappointed to be left off the Tour de France roster this year, let's hope he shakes off his disappointment with a brave effort or two. And what do you know, but you can meet Horner at Turin Cyclery (1027 Davis St., Evanston) on Friday night to shake hands, get an autograph, and ask if he still likes eating a Whopper before a big race.

Zach Thomas

Cycling Thu Jul 23 2009

Bicycle Film Festival Schedule Up

Around again for the ninth time this year, the touring Bicycle Film Festival's coming back to Chicago from Tuesday, August 11 to Sunday, August 16 to celebrate and appreciate the velocipede in a variety of films. Judging from past year's content, the topics range from examinations of the messenger scene, reportage of Critical Mass altercations, and the occasional expose on the life of the professional cyclist. A flavor for all points in the cyclist spectrum. Last year's Road to Roubaix was especially good; hopefully, another race-oriented film is in the quiver this year.

The Chicago schedule, available here, doesn't yet list the films to be shown. However, it seems as if a fair number of ancillary events are planned, featuring music at the Metro and Smart Bar, an art show, Goldsprints, and a massive block party on Sunday, August 16.

For a printable tentative schedule, click here.

Zach Thomas

Swimming Wed Jul 08 2009

Last Chance for Chicago Tri

Space is running out to register for the 27th annual Chicago Triathlon held on Sunday, August 30, 2009. While you probably know by now whether you're in good shape to compete in a triathlon (the training program puts my cycling-specific program to shame), if you're into seeing what you can do with a minimum of time, or if you were fence-sitting, now is the time to register.

The international-distance Chicago Triathlon consists of a 1.5-kilometer (.93 mi.) Lake Michigan swim, a 40-kilometer (24.8 mi.) bike on Lake Shore Drive, and a 10-kilometer (6.2 mi.) run along Chicago's lakefront. For those aforementioned fence-sitters and those interested in a shorter test of endurance and will, a "Sprint Distance" race, approximately half the distance of the international distance is the ideal choice.

Register here.

Zach Thomas

Cycling Wed Jul 08 2009

42 Below Sprints

Something of a late notice, but if you have nothing to do tonight from 6-8 p.m. and have an urge to work up a sweat, Moonshine Bar (1824 W. Division) is hosting a Opensprints tournament to celebrate the arrival of the 42Below crowd. Click here for the flyer.

42 Below's mission states "Through our country-wide 42Ride, along with a partnership with the Bicycle Film Festival, we aim to provide bike enthusiasts (21+) with an experience they will never forget and act as a catalyst for cities around the world to improve their bicycle infrastructures, raise bicycle awareness and just plain get with the program."

With their arrival today of the scrum of cyclists, a little something of a sprints tournament will go down. Go! And get sweaty!

Zach Thomas

Cycling Tue Jun 30 2009

Soldier Field Tomorrow

A quick reminder: the second of six Soldier Field Cycling races is tomorrow. The action starts at 4:00 p.m. with the juniors and continues all the way to 8:00 p.m. with the Men's Pro/1/2. A nice walk from the Loop, the action is intense and if the race is at all anything like the last and a little luck, there will be likely an abundance of Pepsi Max and podium girls.

Last race there was a major shortage of lady racers, but a large Men's 4/5 field. Likely many racers were just scoping out the course and waiting for races 2-6, but SFC's put on a great show and the races deserve packed fields and loud, raucous fans. Everyone's racing with heart out there, give them support.

Zach Thomas

Cycling Tue Jun 16 2009

Slowing Down and Speeding Up

Continuing this year on its successful 2008 program, the Active Transportation Alliance of Chicago is bringing back its Open Streets Sunday boulevard tour on August 1 from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. The event this year combines last year's two days into one long, eight-mile avenue of bicycling, dancing, walking, and other activities. The route spans from Logan Square to Little Village, and passes through Humboldt Park, North Lawndale and Garfield Park. Stations and kiosks throughout the route will feature performances, children's activities, art, and workout demonstrations. Cost of entry is free.

The first race of the Soldier Field Cycling series is tomorrow. The showers predicted tomorrow will likely keep things a little on the mellow side, but as so often inevitably happens, the pace will pick up to full-tilt by the time the bell lap is rung. Juniors race for free! And since this race is so close to the Loop, no reason why one cannot stop by to cheer on racers after suffering all day long in the cubicle. More information on the SFC site, or here.

Saturday, WORS #4 Subaru Cup in Wild Rose, Wisconsin will be raging. The MTB course offers lots of terrain, some serious rock gardens, and fast action with great spectating. Register here, but hurry.

And for this Sunday is the Fox River Grove race. With a solid climb to shatter the field, this "crit" is unlike many of the other races here in Chicagoland -- it has terrain. The lighter fellows will likely have less of a problem here than many of the normal crit specialists. Lots of slots remain open.

The TdF is coming! The New Belgium Brewery's Tour de Fat is looking for volunteers for its July 11 event. Please e-mail Ashlee at West Town Bikes for more information or to sign up. The TdF directly benefits West Town Bikes, which develops cycling programs for Chicago youth. Drink beer, do good deeds. It's win-win, here.

Zach Thomas / Comments (1)

Cycling Fri Jun 05 2009

Can You Dig It?

Oh, boy. Sunday June 7th at 6 pm, Yojimbo's Track Cats is hosting a benefit at Goose Island brewery (1800 N. Clybourn) to help the junior track-cycling program raise funds needed to expand the program and offer assistance to new and current riders.

And how are they planning on raising these funds? By showing the classic film "The Warriors" and giving away lots of awesome prizes. It is highly recommended that one show up in a "Warriors" themed costume. $10 is the suggested donation

Click here for the flyer and for more information.

And the big decision: to go as a Baseball Fury and risk derision dressed as one of the saddest gangs in the film, or go tough as a Turnbull AC?

Zach Thomas

Cycling Thu May 28 2009

Clinics, Races!

The Soldier Field Cycling Series is happening. Reported earlier here, the final six-race series schedule is out:

June 17, 2009
July 1, 2009
July 15, 2009
July 29, 2009
August 12, 2009
August 26, 2009

Juniors race free and for the adults, the total cost to register for the entire series is a bargain $100, or $20 ala carte. For racers in the city, no racing, other than the Chicago Criterium will be closer.

Speaking of Junior riders, The Northbrook Cycle Committee and Yojimbo's Garage on Sunday May 31 are sponsoring a Junior's Track Clinic at Ed Rudolph Velodrome. Registration is day-of and starts at 10 a.m. and the clinics cost $9. Click here for the flier.

Also at Northbrook on June 5th is the first Friday of racing for 2009. Sponsored by Half Acre Cycling, USA Cycling, among others, the Friday night races promise a better and more exciting alternative than those other activities such as going out on the town or partying. Though, believe it or not, partying can include bike racing, too, as the Chicago Cuttin' Crew likes to prove.

Lastly, have a hankering to ride something really fast? Turin Bicycle in Evanston (1027 Davis St.) will host on June 14th a Cervélo Bicycle test-ride day. Registration is required, and includes a breakfast, product samples, and a ride atop some sweet machines to Fort Sheridan. Considering that Cervélos have helped a number of riders much stronger than any of us ever hope of being, this could be one small fleeting chance at some bit of glory, or just bragging rights.

Zach Thomas

Cycling Thu May 21 2009

A Whole Weekend of Racing

And they're all within a few hours of Chicago.


5/23: Snake Alley Criterium, Burlington, IA. Short, sharp, with a field-splitting climb up a brick street. USCF.

5/23-5/25: Memorial Day Master's Criterium, Wood Dale, IL. All weekend long racing for the 30+ rider. ABR.

5/24: Melon City Criterium, Melon City, IL. Some terrain to shred the field in this race 3 hours from Chi-town. USCF.

5/25: Quad Cities Criterium, Rock Island, IL. Flat, fast and apparently one of the "best wheelpits in the world," what ever that means (beer?). USCF.


5/23: 12 Hours of Northern Kettles. Glenbeulah, WI. WEMS endurance racing with lots of camping opportunities.

Zach Thomas

Cycling Thu May 21 2009

The Giro, Half Over

With only nine race days left in the Giro d'Italia, things have sorted themselves out accordingly and somewhat unsurprisingly. With Christian Vande Velde of Garmin out of the race with cracked vertebrae and all sorts of hurt due to a freak and unfortunate crash in the stage 3, the American GC hopes lie with Levi Leipheimer of Astana (or rather Team Fade). Armstrong's just support at this point -- he might have a trick up his spandex, but likely more than anything else, he's there to ferry water bottles and draw crowds. Christian's doing alright, per his Twitter he "swam in the Med Ocean yesterday. Better than any pain killer or anti inflammatory out there, and I hate swimming." CVV teammate Tyler Farrar is killing it in the sprints, coming an eternal 2nd or 3rd place to Mark Cavendish of Columbia or Alessandro Petacchi of LPR.

Today's excellent time trial on a course from Sestri Levante to Riomaggiore over terrain so hilly that time trial bikes were kept on ice in favor of regular road bikes proved to be something of a game changer. Danilo Di Luca of the LPR Brakes squad, in pink for most of the race thus far, lost it to Russian Denis Menchov of Rabobank. But Di Luca's beautiful ride in Stage 10 from Cuneo to Pinerolo was something to tell the grandkids about.

With recaps and live video on the Universal Sports website and on DTV on NBC 5.3, the access for us Yankees to an amazing race is the best I can remember. If at work, the Velonews and CyclingNews live updates are awfully nice at keeping up with what's happening in real-time.

Zach Thomas

Cycling Sat May 09 2009

The Giro and Universal Sports

The first of the triumvirate of annual classic stage races, the Giro d'Italia, started-up today in Venice with a team time-trial won by Columbia High-Road. Columbia's Manxian Mark "Cannonball" Cavendish is in the pink jersey, as he was the first across the line on the winning team. He'll likely keep it 'til the roads head toward the craggy climbs of the Alps, as he's so much more a sprinter than climber. Garmin, headed by local boy Christian Vande Velde came in second, a heartbreakingly-close 6 seconds behind.

In years past, coverage of the Giro here in the states was often available on Versus as a recap or via Internet feed. But with the return of Big Tex, NBC Universal Sports is now showing same-day coverage of the Giro, every day of the tour. If you have your digital converter box all hooked-up, you can catch all the action three times daily on your TV instead of squinting at a grainy feed from someone's TV in the Netherlands. Not only that, but Universal's also showing reruns of the 2008 CX World's from Hoogerheide, in addition to other sports events beyond the Big Four of basketball, baseball, football and hockey.

Zach Thomas

News Thu May 07 2009

Short Hops

  • It's do or (almost) die time tonight for the Blackhawks in their playoff series against the (boo) Vancouver Canucks.
  • Now that he's back in the fold, the White Sox' Scottie Pods wants his old number back. Meanwhile, manager Ozzie Guillen thinks the team has more pressing needs.
  • Speaking of the Sox, they hold their first Volunteer Day this Saturday. It's not too late to sign up for the event, inspired by their No. 1 fan.
  • Derrick Rose? Jay Cutler? Patrick Kane? Who's Chicago's most marketable athlete?
  • Handball fanatics, the place to be this weekend is Elgin. Yes, Elgin.
  • The Bulls' playoff run been berry berry good to Comcast Sports.
  • As if the Chicago Rush didn't have enough problems, what with their entire league collapsing, now they're accused of sticking it to one of their fans.
  • Yet another tribute to venerable Wrigley Field.
  • A website called "Ride The City" needs your help in mapping out Chicago's cycling routes.
  • From Lemont, Illinois to Venice, Italy: cyclist Christian Vande Velde has come a long way.
  • Walk with a purpose. The 10th Annual Breast Cancer Walk comes to the Beverly neighborhood.
  • Look out Robert Morris College: Roosevelt University is getting back into the intercollegiate athletics action.
  • Fresh off their victory over Kansas City, the Chicago Force take their undefeated record to Detroit to take on the Demolition in Women's Tackle Football action.
  • The equally unbeaten Chicago Fire, meanwhile, face the New England Revolution at Toyota Park.

Ken Green

Cycling Sat Apr 25 2009

Soldier Field Cycling (and More!)

Rumor was going around a bit about a complete race series on the Chicago lakefront. This past week, details came out on the Soldier Field Cycling Series. Six days of amateur and pro racing in the shadows of Soldier Field on alternating Wednesdays June through August. See the race flyer here for complete details and the schedule.

Registration opens up on May 1st and at $100 to race the entire series of 6 races, the racing's an absolute bargain. Especially for a race that requires little or no driving for Chicagoland racers. Oh, and juniors race free. It all sounds too good to be true, especially since I bore witness to the logistical nightmare of running a bike race series.

Coming soon too is the Sherman Park Criterium on June 13, hosted by Alderman JoAnn Thompson of the 16th Ward and xXx Racing-Athletico. Sherman Park's so close that it's worth trying to get the feel for crit racing before the heat of summer brings the madness of Superweek.

And next weekend is the third running of the Vernon Hills Grand Prix on Sunday May 3. The Cat. 5 field is filled-up, but room remains in all the others. Pre-registration closes Wednesday April 29, so there are a few days to make that major decision. Which one should, natch.

Continue reading this entry »

Zach Thomas

Cycling Wed Apr 01 2009

Ventura Speaks

Few sports other than cycling allow the fan to come intimately close to those at the top of the sport. We've all seen the videos of inebriated cycling fans running alongside the climbers in the Tour de France. During Superweek, some of the nation's fastest riders congregate here and if you're a Cat. 2, or even 3, you've probably rubbed elbows with some of these stallions.

Cycling also has its own legends and fables. Training protocols involving somehow cabbage leaves, fixed gears, and the mysterious supplesse that all cyclists seek like some kind of grail. Mountains and terrain that have brought glory to the son of a farmhand. Much like when Babe Ruth's called out his home run, cycling has its own romanticized vignettes passed down at that piano moment of a group ride or in the parking lot after a race. Maybe half of it is true? Maybe none of it? It's just as much a part of the sport as is shaving legs and Campagnolo.

So sometimes it's nice to hear the juice from the source.

Robbie Ventura, current coach, ex-pro who used to ride on U.S. Postal, and Chicagolander, will be giving a talk April 16th from 7-9 p.m. at the Trek Store in Highland Park (1925 Skokie Valley). Members of the Active Transportation Alliance get in for free, and non-members can join at the door for $25 which will also include admittance. Click here to RSVP.

Additionally, a VIP training session from 6-7 is available, but spots are limited.

Zach Thomas

Cycling Mon Mar 23 2009

So it starts

Is it already spring? I guess it is -- the wind and chill coming off the lake this morning would suggest otherwise, but the calendar and crocuses say so, so then so it is.

Tonight starts the Half Acre Cycling "Kevin's Crits" race series in Calumet Park. Men,If you were unlucky enough to not register for the entire series, you may be able to snag a spot from any racer who elects to not show up. With weather conditions as they are, that may very well happen, so take a chance.

Then this Saturday is the Spring Super Crit in Beloit, Illinois, just a few short hours away and hosted by Burnham Racing at Blackhawk Farms Raceway. This course is a real pleasure:smooth, bump- and hole-free, and very spectator friendly.

And on April 7, the first Matteson practice criterium of the year takes place at the Ace Hardware plant. $8, and you get much-needed experience for your money.

Zach Thomas

Cycling Mon Mar 02 2009

Calumet Park Race Series

Despite the snow still on the ground, spring road racing is only a few short weeks away. By this point, the "money ought to be in the bank", i.e. that training protocol that you started on back in December is paying dividends with improved lactate threshold numbers and an ability to endure pain. The Burnham Racing Supercrit is the first major regional race, but before then, there's a complete race series within the Chicago city limits for the novice racer that was just announced today.

Every night from Monday March 23, to Friday March 27, Calumet Park in the far southside of the city will be raging with cyclists fighting for bragging rights and the right to upgrade from Category 5 to 4. A 1.25 mile course over smooth, pothole-free pavement, and hosted by Half Acre Cycling, this race series is open to Junior, Women's 4, and Men's 4/5 categories. Oh, and the cost is cheap: $35 to $50 to register for the entire week, $15 to $20 per day if going piecemeal.

If a newer racer, there is hardly an excuse to skip out on these races. They're close enough (Calumet Park is a nice 12 mile ride from the Loop), or cheap enough ($50 for five races in the Men's 4/5 category is a steal). Registration is here.

While bragging rights and upgrade points are the major motivators here, there'll be prizes of some sort for series winners.

And in the interest of objectivity, the race promoters, Half Acre Cycling, is also the team that I race with and manage.

Zach Thomas / Comments (1)

Cycling Thu Feb 26 2009

A Bike Benefit

Tomorrow, Friday February 27, The Bike Winter Carnival closes out its twelfth iteration with a huge party of sorts at the Accidental Gallery (1579 N. Milwaukee, Studio 350 in the Flatiron building) from 7 P.M. to midnight. The party benefits West Town Bikes and the Chicago Women's Health Center. Expect a raffle for some serious goods from Seagull, booze to chuzzle, and bands such as Environmental Encroachment, Schwinntonation, and Al Scorch to blow out eardrums.

Though for added persuasion, the ladies from TyK will be signing their just-released pin-up calendar. A bit hot-blooded and racy, proceeds from the sale of the calendar benefit the Chicago Women's Health Center, and would likely warm anyone up who has suffered exceedingly from the recent cold. I know I have.

Zach Thomas

Cycling Thu Feb 19 2009

...and Action!

Have you a hankering for the klieg lights and sprockets? Have you filmed you and your friend's bike shenanigans, from racing to tricks to cruising? Do you know anything about plot? (The last point is probably the most important.)

If so, the Bicycle Film Festival is looking for submissions for its 2009 film festival which will likely make its way to Chicago sometime in mid-summer. The cost of entry is free, but the deadline is March 7, 2009. There's not much time between now and then to put together a huge extravaganza on wheels, but think of a profile of a local racer or messenger. There hasn't been a dearth of films about alleycats, but what about the guy who delivers your sandwich? What about the Hi Guy?

Zach Thomas

Cycling Wed Feb 18 2009

Cog Magazine Anniversary Party

Cog Magazine celebrates its first year with a party and book launch at AV Aerie (2000 W. Fulton) this Saturday, February 21 from 3-11 PM. Cog Magazine is a slick publication that celebrates all that is simple, beautiful and brilliant about track and fixed-gear bikes. The velodrome's the original home for these machines, but the street lately is now, too. It takes a brave (some may say foolish) soul to ride a brakeless track bike in traffic, and Cog is something of a celebration of the machine and rider.

There'll be giveaways of merchandise and entertainment, most of which will be cycling-specific. The cost is $5, or $3 if you make your living hustling packages on two wheels.

Zach Thomas

Cycling Fri Feb 13 2009

And over on the West Coast

The Amgen Tour of California starts its fourth running on Saturday with a prologue stage in Sacramento that is apparently throwing a pump through the spokes of a meeting of the Californian legislative body. The Tour of California, along with the Tour of Missouri, are the two definitive pro-only stage races in the United States, now that the Tour of Georgia is dead. A shame, too, because the Tour of Georgia was a sporting spectacle that saw some epic riding on the part of Tom Danielson, Floyd Landis and Kanstantin Siutsou (who?)

But back to tomorrow. Yes, the press and public are going gonzo over Big Tex, y'know, Lance, but let's not forget the real riders to watch. Levi Leipheimer, who as Lance Armstrong's teammate on the Astana squad, has won the race the past two years and is reportedly gunning for his third. What about Garmin-Slipstram rider Christian Vande Velde, who as a Chicagoland native, also represents Flatland for the squad in argyle? Brash Manxian Mark Cavendish of Columbia-Highroad is the sprinter to gape at, but Big George Hincapie may find himself at the front of the pack in the twilight of his long, sometimes-starcrossed career.

The race is available to watch on Versus or Cycling.TV.

Zach Thomas / Comments (1)

Cycling Fri Jan 30 2009

Not quite Hoogerheide

Turin Bicycle (1027 Davis St., Evanston) invites all comers to the shop 7 AM on Sunday, February 1, to catch the Men's Cyclocross World Championship on the shop's massive plasma TV. Bagels, coffee and donuts are promised and the muddy, sandy, grueling action on TV will cause most viewers to dream back to their own experiences just a few months ago.

Watch for regional riders such as Wisconsin's own Bjorn Selander on the under-23 squad, and Brian Matter, who is racing Elites.

Zach Thomas

Cycling Thu Jan 22 2009

Frost Fun

If your heart, like mine, still pines for the joys and pains of cyclocross, in Madison, Wisconsin, on February 15 sweet relief comes in the form of "Cyclo Frost," a cyclocross race held on the final day of the Madison Winter Festival. And before one complains about the driving distance to Madison, just consider that you can come home with some New Glarus to make the trip all the worthwhile

Big Shoulders Realty hosts its final bike neighborhood tours with the Tour de Portage Park on January 31, and the Vuelta a Albany Park on Saturday, February 28. The tours start at 1:00 PM on both dates and all that is required is a bike, helmet and warm clothes. Click here for more information, including starting points and updates.

At this point in the winter, bikes regularly out in the snow are likely covered in salt and crud, creaking and grinding with each pedal stroke. This weather is tough on bikes, and maintenance tends to slide when you resign yourself to the indisputable fact that "It's only gonna get dirty again the second I take it outside." And we all know that's the wrong attitude to have, but can you blame us. Repent this Wednesday, January 28 at 7:00 PM at West Town Bikes with the Bike Winter Basics class. E-mail Lauren Sailor or Martin Hazard to RSVP or with questions.

Zach Thomas

Cycling Wed Jan 14 2009

Winter Bike to Work

I don't know who's tougher: the cyclist charging down the cobbles of Paris-Roubaix or the Chicagoan who bundles-up and braves this misery in order to commute to work by bike. One is paid to ride a bike, the other not, but both are dedicated, insane, and a true "hardman" or "hardwoman."

In a celebration of the latter, on January 20, bike commuters will congregate on Daley Plaza from 6:30-9:30 A.M. for Winter Bike to Work Day, with hot chocolate and Eli's cheesecake, and remember the coldest day in Chicago history, when the thermometers at O'Hare registered a brittle negative 27 degrees. The event is sponsored by the Active Transportation Alliance. The event is free.

Zach Thomas / Comments (1)

Cycling Sun Jan 04 2009

Riding into 2009

Luke over at Chicago Bike Racing's put together a list of his favorite road races to think about for the 2009 season. From all accounts, the races listed are all worth taking the trip for, each one serving up its own unique challenges. One wonders if in 2009, the Evanston Grand Prix will retain the "BK Stacker", or if the weather will come into plan during the early April Hillsboro-Roubaix in southwestern Illinois.

Registration opens up for the Horribly Hilly Hundreds near Madison, Wisconsin on January 15. The endurance event over 100K or 200K pits riders against the beautiful, hilly terrain of our neighbor to the north. With over 10,000 feet of climbing for the 125 mile route, this ride is an exceptional challenge for us flatlanders here in Illinois. While not a race, these rides are often treated as such and time completed is as much a bragging right as just finishing.

Miss all your friends from the ChiCrossCup? Want to gloat over some pints while in your Illinois State Champs jersey? The end-of-the-year banquet celebrating a successful season is this upcoming Sunday, January 11, at EJ's Place in Skokie. Check out the details after the jump.

Continue reading this entry »

Zach Thomas

Feature Fri Jan 02 2009

Chicago's Cyclocross Patron Saint

Covered in Mud, Beer and Blood, the Pony Shop tends to Chicagoland's Cyclocross Grass Roots

Pony Shop Evanston CyclocrossThe bastard cycling discipline of cyclocross is a strange subculture of sport. A hybrid of road and mountain biking, with cross-country running tossed in and stirred well, cyclocross is a mutant and is equally fun, humiliating and painful. Short races of a mile or so, usually held in a municipal park, cyclocross racers must ride at full-tilt through mud, grass and short pavement sections, occasionally dismounting to hop over barriers or run up a steep pitch.

The races are short, an hour for those at the top of the sport, less for mere mortals, and the competition is fierce. At the start of a race, cyclists fighting for position through the first winding chicanes push each other out of the way, bump shoulders and, more often than not, come crashing down with those caught behind piling atop. Usually, everyone comes out bruised but back on the bike, teeth bared and clenched as they struggle through lap after agonizing lap.

For northern Europeans, the popularity of cyclocross is similar to how football is here in the States: their Super Bowl, the World Championships, draws tens of thousands to spectate, eat hot, steaming frites, and drink tall steins of beer. Cyclocross there is a religion - a Sunday cult that waits 'til everyone is out of church before starting with the sinning.

In America, though, the sport is underground, legitimized by increasing popularity, but still retains a certain scurrilous ethos. The cost of entry into racing is low - a modified mountain or commuter bike will suffice for racing in the lower categories. Cyclocross is spectator friendly - and it encourages spectator participation. Races everywhere have that corner, where spectators mingle with racers, usually imbibed if their own race for the day is done, and where all scream encouragements at and high-five passing teammates, friends and complete strangers.

Continue reading this entry »

Zach Thomas / Comments (3)

Cycling Mon Dec 15 2008

Icy riding, here and elsewhere

I know it seems unfathomable that it might be pleasurable to spend time out on a bike this month, what with things covered in ice. However, on December 27 at 1:00 PM at the monument at the intersection of Kedzie, Milwaukee and Logan, Big Shoulders Realty hosts an architectural cycling tour of the Logan Square neighborhood. The tours, led by Big Shoulder's Lee Diamond and disassociated from the real estate arm of the company, are rolling celebrations of some of the many architectural marvels, such as historic mansions and shabby dive bars, that exist in the Logan Square area.

The tours are free, helmets are required and it is suggested that one dresses appropriately for the conditions (read: lots of layers and maybe some lobster claws.) In January, Irving Park gets some attention, then Albany Park in February. Keep posted for more details on those rides.

On the faster side of things, a fair number of Chicagoans made the trek to Kansas City for the 2008 National Championships. Devon Haskell, racing for both the University of Chicago and Pony Shop, came in 14th place in the Elite Women's race, but before that she became the Division II National Champion, racing the elite race only one hour after taking the stars and stripes jersey. An unbelievable and fantastic end to a fantastic season that's seen Haskell hold her own against some of the world's fastest bike racers - look for big things next year, for sure.

West-Looper Ben Popper of HRS/Rock Lobster in the Elite Men's race came in 38th, which considering the competition of the nearly 100-something field, is a fine accomplishment. Popper summed up his race and weekend in more brief terms: "Raced hard. Rode well. Ended it on a high note. Nationals rules. Ate Waffle House. Drove home. Midnight. Slept through the alarm this morning."

Then, there's Scott McLaughlin of the SRAM factory team, based here in Chicago, which coming off his win at Montrose last week, managed to bring it in for fourth place in the singlespeed category. One gear, all hardcore.

Zach Thomas / Comments (1)

Cycling Tue Dec 09 2008

Champions of Montrose

The Illinois State Cyclocross Championships went off in the crunchingly-cold bluster of last Sunday at Montrose Harbor, with huge turnouts of both racers and spectators, despite the chill. On the line in every race were bragging rights and the jersey. It's always great to come out, race, and have a good time, but to be state champion? Shoot, that's serious. Official results aren't up just yet, but below is a recap of sorts of some of the various players and their own words:

Photo by Ed White, from Flickr.

Kevin Klug of Team Killjoy in the Men's 1/2/3 race contributed to one of the day's more exciting battles: " Alot of people told me that was the best race they watched all year and if you can think of how a season should end, State Championship and all, this is ideal."

Photo by Velogrrl, from Flickr.

June Upshaw of Verdigris, who came in fourth in the Women's 1/2/3 race, and who won the 2008 points series, had this to say of her race and the pre-race jitters: "It took a while. But once the race started and the nerves disappeared, I started to FLY. I mean FLY. Wen it was open and I could hammer I just let it open up and I felt the speed. I had to run faster to pass some men so as to put them between me and the girls behind me. I just got faster and faster. I felt it."

Photo by Velogrrl, from Flickr.

Henry Loud of Team Pegasus rolled across the line second in the Men's 4B race, but won the State Champ jersey because he was a licensed racer and the winner was not: "Henry borrowed Cale's bike to do his second race of the season. We all know he's a champ, though, and had lofty dreams of a Pegasus victory. He rode very well but was in a solid second place the whole race. Oh well, we thought. Then we heard that Henry had actually won the state jersey because the guy that won had a day-license (instead of a year or season license). We're thinking of changing our motto from "While you were winning, we ate your lunch" to "While you were winning, we were winning on a technicality."

Zach Thomas / Comments (1)

Cycling Tue Dec 02 2008

Drawing To An End

Oh, dang, is it already December? There's snow on the ground, the sidewalks are covered in ice, and we're now huddled in our homes, cursing and muttering under our breath. Thanksgiving was a welcome diversion - we ate like pigs, drank like fish, and likely tried to maintain our current weight and waistline with lots of riding. Or we just gave it all up and drank some more.

But the cyclocross season's not over yet. The Big One is on for this Sunday at Montrose Harbor. This Sunday, the Illinois State Cyclocross Champion will be crowned, jersey and all, in front of crowds of screaming fans, confused bystanders, and the CPD, who will be cursing us all for mucking up the park.

It's going to be cold, it's going to be miserable, but as we all love so much about cyclocross, you know exactly how long the misery is going to last. Thirty, 45 minutes, one hour, whatever; each minute is agony stacked atop awful.

But it's the best of times. Hope to see you all out there.

For a reminder of why we love to do this, check out Holly Klug's slide down the mud hill at this past weekend's Jingle Cross in Iowa City. Here's hoping that Cricket Hill will offer up the same slop.

Zach Thomas

Cycling Wed Nov 19 2008

Woodstock this weekend

This weekend get ready for Woodstock, no, not that Woodstock, rather the Woodstock, IL ChiCrossCup race, the last one before the Illinois State Championships. Instead of hordes of smelly, mud-covered hippies, dancing to CSNY, Canned Heat and Hendrix, expect to see in this variation hordes of smelly, mud-covered cyclocrossers, dripping with sweat and accompanied by the sounds of cowbells clanging (and lots of heckling!)

With last week's cold blast in Lansing reminding all of us that the season's winding down, there are now only two races left with which to accumulate points to be series leader. In many of the categories, only a number of points separate the leaders - a DNF due to a broken bike or a no-show because of illness may contribute to an upset and some of our top dogs could find themselves usurped. Exciting stuff, all.

Mark on your calendars now the ChiCrossCup annual banquet. More information after the jump.

Continue reading this entry »

Zach Thomas

Cycling Tue Nov 18 2008


The Chicagoland Bike Federation has just announced a shift in name to the Active Transportation Alliance, and a change in priorities from mostly bike advocacy to also include an emphasis on advocacy for pedestrians and users of public transit.

Continue reading this entry »

Zach Thomas

Cycling Fri Nov 14 2008

Slowing Down, Getting Cold

Last weekend, we were given a taste of the wet misery of Chicago winters. The temperature didn't get that low, but it was a reminder that conditions are going to trend toward nasty for the next five months. Just as I predicted, the weather gave all the racers at the Northbrook ChiCrossCup race a small spanking. Crashes and bobbles abounded in the slick conditions, which is hardly at all surprising. We've had it too good here in Chicagoland, see, and we're behind the curve in getting our mud-racin' skills down pat. Elsewhere in the country, 'crossers have raced on courses that resemble battlefields, with trenches, gullies, and lots and lots of mud. What's the worse we've had? Some drizzle at DeKalb? Slick corners at Northbrook?

Tomorrow, they're predicting snow, which will maybe sodden-up this Sunday's racecourse in Lansing. There is less topography to bust up the fields, but a long, long sandpit's going to throw the various packs into arrears. This is definitely a course for the power-riders - those cyclists who do better because of their ability to sustain high levels of exertion will likely usurp the bike-handlers. We all know who to watch at this point; let's see if there isn't an upset or two to give the Chicago CX blogosphere something to talk about.

Continue reading this entry »

Zach Thomas / Comments (1)

Cycling Wed Nov 05 2008

Northbrook Sunday

We all know that this spring-like weather's going to turn sour soon. And likely more than not by this weekend, the sky's going to be some shade of ratbelly gray, and the year's last leaves will be piled up in the gutters.

Which is great! Well, if you love cyclocross, that is! With rain and snow showers predicted for Sunday's ChiCrossCup race up in Northbrook, hosted by George Garner Cyclery, it's going to be sloppy. A good thing, too, because with most of this year's races being run in pleasant conditions, a challenging day in the mud will provide good practice for those racers getting ready to take on Nationals in Kansas City, MO. Seems that the sledding hill will provide lots of climbing and some off-camber corners will test riders' ability to stay upright on two wheels.

Lastly, the race at Wood Oaks Green Park (1150 Sanders Rd. Northbrook) is readily accessible via Metra and while it's not officially on the flyer, word is is that those taking Metra to the race can receive a discount on their cost of entry to the race.

Zach Thomas

Cycling Wed Oct 22 2008

Midweek Reminders

Just a reminder of cycling at a slightly different speed - the second and final date of this year's Sunday Parkways is this weekend. The route, mostly on boulevards, starts at Garfield Park, through North Lawndale to Little Village. Stops along the way will feature dance, music and yoga. The free event starts at 9 A.M. and will run 'til 1 P.M.

If you're an active racer without a team, or even just like the camaraderie of being with a bunch of like-minded cyclists, now is the time to start thinking about joining up with a squad. At the amateur level, being a member of a team isn't so much about setting up your designated sprinter for a leadout to the final line. Rather, it's more about getting in with a group of riders with which you train, go to races with, and commiserate with in a coffeeshop after a race that didn't go exactly as planned.

Luke over at Chicago Bike Racing has an excellent list of Chicago-based teams. Some are open to new members, others are invite-only. Nearly all are able to provide support and guidance to new and veteran riders. Check these posts, here and here, for info on some of the squads that are actively recruiting new folks. All teams have different things to offer to different folks. Shop carefully and ask lots of questions.

Zach Thomas

Cycling Mon Oct 20 2008

'Cross in Carpentersville

Photo of Ben Popper leading the Men's 1/2/3 race by Jen Scheutz.

Results are up for yesterday's ChiCrossCup series race in Carpentersville. With a beer tent and several cover bands providing the best kinds of entertainment, the racing risked being relegated to mere distraction. No worries, though, because from all reports, the course was a real kicker and threw up real challenges to both the power riders and tech artists.

Aside from some heavy drama in the Men's 1/2/3 race, most everyone had a good, painful, sweaty time.

Tamara Fraser of xXx Racing-Athletico, who raced in the Women's 4 race, had this to say: "I overcooked a corner before the first barrier and lost about 15 places. I spent the rest of the race catching and passing, catching and passing. Which, I have to say, was extremely gratifying. Especially as I was catching women I know to be very strong."

Joining Tamara in the 1/2/3 race was Holly Klug of Killjoy, who has had an exceptionally strong year. Her race Sunday wasn't her absolute best, but still impressive, earning fourth: "I felt strong and half of the course suited my style of riding. I was happy with riding the sand pit every lap except the last one where a rider was running and I was headed right for them so I hopped off."

Gapers Block higher-up Naz Hamid, of the Half Acre Cycling squad (and my teammate) who is campaigning a strong year in the Men's 4A category with hopes of an upgrade soon to the 3's said that "I have the endurance but not the top end. That's where I'm lacking. 33rd this time," adding "If anything, it was a clean, fast race. Maybe I could have done with less clean and more fast but I'll take what I can get."

Coming this Sunday is Bartlett. I hold no faith in weather reports this far out, but fingers are crossed that the skies open up and a deluge pours down to create treacherous mudpits and slimy corners. Only then will the cyclocross season have really started.

Zach Thomas

Cycling Tue Oct 14 2008

Play Your Part

The Northbrook Cycle Committee hosts on Thursday at 7 PM a meeting at Village Green Park (1344 Shermer Road, Northbrook, IL) to discuss the 2009 track racing season. With so many track cyclists coming up from Chicago proper to the northern suburb of Northbrook to race on the velodrome located in Meadowhill Park, it would serve them well to attend this meeting, not only to express opinions regarding race and clinic programming, but also to become involved as a volunteer or support staff.

With issues having been raised this year and last regarding the scheduling for Thursday and Friday night's races, any track cyclist that races those nights might be well-served to attend the meeting to not only hear what changes are planned for 2009, but also to bring suggestions to the conversation.

Also, this meeting is a run-up to the election of officers for 2009. Just like the U.S. presidential election, the Northbrook Cycle Committee adheres to the democratic process. But, just as one has to register to cast his or her vote for president, one has to attend this meeting to have a say in who administers the track programs at the Ed Rudolph Velodrome.

Zach Thomas

Cycling Mon Oct 06 2008

ChiCrossCup #2: DeKalb

After I posted-up information last week about yesterday's cyclocross race in DeKalb, I started thinking about the weather and how it would shape up for race day. In cyclocross, the weather is the great variable, with torrential rain, wind, or snow usually guaranteeing miserable conditions for both racers and spectators alike. And that's a good thing. The sport of cyclocross feeds off this misery, with the racer best able to tolerate it being the one most likely to come out ahead and at number one.

Continue reading this entry »

Zach Thomas

Cycling Tue Sep 30 2008

Waffles! Nutella!

DeKalb Race Flyer
Check out the original flyer here.

This Sunday is race number two of the Chicago Cyclocross Cup series. Held in Hopkins Park out in DeKalb, the course promises to be a real kicker with technical switchbacks, off-camber corners, and lots of run-ups. If that's not enough, a bake sale and waffles served Belgian style will keep the carb levels high, both pre- and post-race.

I must disclose that the above race is organized in part by my team, the Half Acre Cycling squad. Journalistic ethics and protocols aside, if you make it out, stop by and say hi and buy a waffle. Or three!

Zach Thomas

Cycling Tue Sep 23 2008

Ridin' Dirty

So, the first ChiCrossCup race went off rather well. Yes, the results are a bit buggered, but since you all had your chance to protest, well, then you get what you get. Scoring 'cross is hard work just because it often doesn't take much longer than half the race for the leaders to make their way around and start lapping the competition. Unfortunately for the officials, when that happens, it often makes for a confusing mess. The word on the street that chip timing would fix things, and it likely would. In my experience, chipped races are nearly protest-proof, easy to run for officials, organizers, and racers alike. However, the cost alone, at a couple of thousand dollars for a decent system, is deterrent enough. But with the ChiCrossCup as popular as it likely will be this year, judging from participation at Jackson Park on Sunday, a concerted effort amongst the organizers and the local governing bodies to purchase a chip system could spare some headaches down the road.

But besides all that, Sunday's race in the Southside was a complete blast. All the fields were well represented, with over 100 riders in the men's combined category 4. The racing started off strong with the Men's Master's combined race - Kevin Klug of Killjoy in the 30+ went off on a flyer and kept the wolves at bay to take the win. In the Men's 3 Elite race, Jason Knauff of Vitaminwater-Trek won handily ahead of Brad Zoller and Brian Parker of xXx-AthletiCo.

The Elite Women category was run at the same time as the Men's 3s, with June Upshaw of Verdigris Custom Homes taking the win ahead of Rebecca Much of xXx and Holly Klug of Killjoy. In the Women's 4s, Leah Sanda of Flatlandia came in at the top of the podium, followed by Angie Koch of Vision Quest and Eileen Neville of xXx-AthletiCo.

Scattered through the results in the mens' races were riders from the Pony Shop squad based out of Evanston. PS rider Brian Conant, tagteaming along with teammate Luca Lenzi shut down the 1/2/3 race in an impressive effort that left spectators voices sore from overzealous cheering.

At the end of the day, the 4A and 4B mens' races were left to go, and with huge fields of varying experience, ability and strength, the action was brutal. Crashes abounded at the barriers scattered about the course, and in the "Whirlpool of Death" a mean little hairpin set after a big left hand sweeper, pileups were commonplace. In the 4A race, xXx-AthletiCo took three of the five top spots, led by Mike Seguin and Ed Amstutz. In the 4B race Brian Hague, Ken Dawson and Garrison Riegel pulled-in for the 1, 2, 3 to bring home a huge sense of accomplishment, if not prizes of "merchandise" (likely hemp and chocolate flavored ClifBars).

Zach Thomas

Cycling Fri Sep 19 2008

High Octane 'Cross

Fueling and resting up for a bike race is something of a black art. Back in the Golden Age of Cycling, cyclists before a big race would eat a bowlful of plain, cold pasta, abstain from climbing any flights of stairs, and would sleep under a signed, faded poster of Anquetil. The science of training since then has come a long way - powermeters, heart rate monitors, and periodization have all made bike riders faster and better. However, what you stuff into your maw still matters so much.

If you're interested in knowing what to eat and what not to eat before a race, consider attending the "High Octane Fuel for Cyclocross" nutrition session on October, 7th, hosted by Monica Ryan, a nutritionist with a regular VeloNews column. I've followed her tips in my own training, and while I'm easily led astray by icecream, pizza, and New Glarus, I've found that if I stay on track with a solid diet, I get faster.

Oh, and a reminder. This Sunday is the first race of the ChiCrossCup in Jackson Park. Not until the Montrose Harbor race is there a cyclocross event within the city limit proper, and that race is in December. The weather this weekend looks promising - no excuse not to come out with the cowbells and scream encouragements to racers.

Zach Thomas

Feature Thu Sep 18 2008

Short Hops

  • If Chicago is the stress capital of the U.S., the New York Times has one reason why.
  • Meanwhile, The Trib's Steve Rosebloom sticks by his Cubs/White Sox World Series prediction. Um, has he looked at BOTH teams' bullpen?
  • Ozzie being Ozzie, part 37.
  • The good news: Carlos Quinten's cast has been removed. The bad news: They're not rushing him back.
  • Ok, so Kosuke Fukudome didn't exactly set the Chicago baseball world on fire. There could be another Japanese baseball star trying to make his mark at Wrigley Field next season.
  • They haven't had their first match yet, but the Chicago Red Stars already look like the team to beat, thanks to three new additions to their roster.
  • A survey says nearly every kid plays video games. Will the Jumbotrons of today be the playing fields of tomorrow?
  • Apparently he wasn't punched enough the first time. A local boxing promoter is returning to action IN the ring.
  • In case you missed it, the Chicago Open crowned a squash champion recently.
  • The Chicago Storm joined the four-team Xtreme Soccer League. You know it's wild because they spell it "Xtreme".
  • Check it out: U.S. Women's Soccer vs. Ireland at Toyota Park. The Chicago Cyclocross Cup at Jackson Park. The Blackhawks Training Camp Festival. The AIDS Run/Walk at Grant Park. Tuesday Night Pub Quiz at The Globe.

Ken Green

Cycling Tue Sep 16 2008

Wrapping-up the Road and Track

This upcoming weekend is the ABR Masters' National Road Race Championship in West Lake Village, just a bit past Rockford. Racing age categories for men and women start at 30 and work upwards in 5 and 10 year increments, all the way to 80+. This course is the same as the Fall Fling a week later, so this race is worth considering not just for the winner's jersey, but also as a way to recon for the next week's races.

Continue reading this entry »

Zach Thomas

Cycling Wed Sep 10 2008

Molten Down

The tattered remnants of Hurricane Gustav couldn't prevent last weekend's Palos Meltdown from going off, and going off well in Willow Springs. By Sunday, the trails were mostly dry, fast and in excellent repair. The hat must come off to those CAMBR volunteers who work so hard to make sure that such good racing goes off without a hitch. Yeah, they can't do much about the weather, but Sunday's sunny skies and mild temperatures just served to highlight their efforts.

Continue reading this entry »

Zach Thomas

Cycling Wed Sep 03 2008

Meltdown and NACCCs

Online registration is closed for this Sunday's Palos Meltdown. Seems that it may be possible to register in person for $40, so if you have the day free, consider a trip down with your off-road machine because there isn't much mountain bike racing closer. Last year, local shops and bike manufacturers such as SRAM and Specialized were on hand demoing products and loaning out $6,000 bikes, so if you're in the market for something new, you could try out a race bike and watch cyclists race. Nifty.

This past weekend saw all sorts of working messengers, non-messengers and those that aspire to be messengers descend upon Chicago for the North American Cycle Courier Championships. Check out the Flickr photo group here for some choice shots of the action. And here are the results. First Chicago messenger in fourth place overall was Andrew "Candles" Nordyke of the Chicago Cuttin' Crew. Local boy Simon Lach won the skid contest, crushing the competition. Oh, and speaking of crushing, seems livers everywhere were knocked out of commission in after-hours partying.

Zach Thomas

Cycling Thu Aug 28 2008

Register Now for Cyclocross Clinic

Register now for the Chicago 'Cross Cup's cyclocross skills clinic, on Saturday September 13, hosted by Ben Turner of Cycle-Smart, a CX racer who has raced in Europe, doing well in a racing environment that many Americans seem to not do so well in. The race flyer with more information on it is here.

And if you pre-register for the clinic, you get in line to receive a free copy of Cycle-Smart's "Solutions for Cyclo-Cross" DVD and other schwag. Everyone likes free stuff and when you couple free stuff with coaching and advice from a real expert, well, the deal's made even better.

Last night and this morning, I was out practicing my CX skills in anticipation for a busy autumn of racing and the point that technique and skill matters just as much as a set of strong legs and lungs was really hammered home. Yeah, you can pedal hard on the flats and up the hills, but if you can't dismount and remount without coming to a complete stop or crashing, well, you're gonna need some help. And judging from my bruised shoulder and posterior earned after tripping over the barriers and flying over my handlebars, it might not be a bad idea for me to register for this clinic, too.

Zach Thomas

Bicycling Mon Aug 25 2008

One Championship Down, One to Go

The Illinois State Road Race Championships, aka The Tour of Oak Brook, was held this past Saturday. Official results aren't yet up, and here they are. The grapevine's come around with news of the race, and while numerous crashes and registration issues marred the good times a bit, by and large, the race went off well.

Chris Padfield's already made a big name for himself in the 3's, earning big props for a huge solo effort that while didn't earn him the win, at least let him earn a bit of an reputation.

Check out this link to CBR for additional race reports.

And as a reminder, coming up this weekend is the North American Cycle Courier Championships. A messenger prom, bike polo, and gratuitous and impressive displays of package handling will be the main attractions. Oh, and BBQ. It ain't a party unless someone's grilling something, and if bike action's not enough to get you out of your house, maybe the vague promise of grilled eats will. And yes, all events are open to "civvies."

Zach Thomas

Cycling Mon Aug 18 2008

Downers Grove to Oak Brook

While summer's heat still rages, the regional criterium racing is starting to wind down. Superweek was a blast, same with Elk Grove, and the Chicago Criterium, and now cyclists are setting-up their cyclocross bikes, ordering their cowbells, and practicing their dismounts for the upcoming Chicago 'Cross Cup. However, 'cross season's not here yet - there's still plenty of road and crit racing to be had.

This past weekend saw a whole lot of race action in Downers Grove, in which Rahsaan Bahati of Rock Racing earned the stars and bars and became the National Criterium Champ, by coming in ahead of Alex Candelario of Kelly Benefit Strategies and Mark Hekman of Toshiba Santo.

In the men's 3/4 race, Ryan Freund, a member of the IIT/Cycle Smithy squad, took first, leaving second and third place to Julian Baumgartner of Burnham Racing and Ricardo Otero of Team Mack, respectively. Local cycling talent in the Women's 1/2/3 race was shut out from the top places, but in the 3/4 race Catherine Burnham of Bartlett came in third place.

Looking ahead, the Tour of Oak Brook on August 23, which also serves as the Illinois road race state championship seems to be the biggest highlight. The course, a winding 3.2 miler (nearly the minimum distance for a road race, and not much longer than a crit) should break up the field with two hills, or whatever passes for hills in Chicagoland.

Registration's filling-up fast, so if you want to earn the right to sport the Illinois Champ's jersey for next year, better head on over.

Zach Thomas

News Thu Aug 14 2008

Short Hops

  • It may not make it to the side of a milk carton, but the Chicago Fire fan club Section 8 is missing their banner.
  • Some people might have an opinion about who they are, but a new book of photos entitled "We Are Cubs Fans" seeks to define the loyalists visually. The obligatory Ronnie Woo Woo photo is included.
  • Speaking of the Cubs, Sports Illustrated joins the rest of the country in being amazed that they AND the White Sox are both in first place and may make the playoffs in the same season for the first time since 1906.
  • And speaking of the Sox, Fox Sports calls the acquisition of Carlos Quinten the steal of the century. OK, they call it the steal of the season. It just LOOKS like the steal of the century.
  • The Bears are set to unveil a major advertising blitz. Too bad they can advertise for a quarterback.
  • Tickets for the National Pro Fastpitch softball championships go on sale this Saturday at Judson Sports Complex in Elgin, home of the Chicago Bandits. The Bandits are one of the four teams who will be participating.
  • Now that the Blackhawks are enjoying a resurgence in popularity, new fans might want to read about one of the team's legends featured in a story from the Sports Illustrated vaults.
  • Mark them on your calendar: The Human Race, the cycling National Championships in Downers Grove, Chicago Gems women's baseball, Windy City Rollers action and gay rodeo.

Ken Green

Cycling Wed Aug 13 2008


Elsewhere on GB, Chris Brunn's described the new initiative by the Chicagoland Bike Federation, the Logan Square Neighborhood Association, Garfield Park Conservatory Alliance, and others to close 10 miles of Chicago streets on the Northwest and West sides to car traffic October 5th and 26th so that local residents can bike, run or walk without worry of cars.

Continue reading this entry »

Zach Thomas / Comments (1)

News Thu Aug 07 2008

Short Hops

  • Rex, Kyle...or even Chad Pennington. What difference does it make without an O line?
  • ..but at least we have a first-rate stadium.
  • He was much more than the guy who had the ball go between his legs in the 1984 NL Championship Series. The Indianapolis Star catches up with Cubs legend Leon Durham.
  • If you've been reading Tailgate's own Zach Thomas, you know that bike racing is booming in the Chicago area. The Chicago Tribune plays catch-up.
  • A South Side group is getting kids as young as eight into the challenging sport of triathlons...
  • ...while elsewhere on the South Side, another group is bringing the sport of rowing to a new, younger crowd.
  • The Urbanathalon is coming! Yes, it sounds like some B-movie monster, but actually it's a moderately strenuous 10-mile race, obstacle course thingy. Not too late to enter
  • Bring the pain: The UFC is coming to the Allstate Arena October 25. Top bout on the card is Anderson "The Spider" Silva vs. Patrick "The Predator" Cote. Anyone in UFC nicknamed "The Fluffy Bunny"?
  • Start saving your betting bucks now. The Arlington Million is this Saturday.
  • Twenty-five years ago, they installed lights in Wrigley Field. Purists howled. The world survived.

Ken Green

Cycling Mon Aug 04 2008

Elk Grove to Glencoe

This weekend saw some big names in professional cycling come through and lay waste to suburban Elk Grove and Schaumburg in the Tour of Elk Grove, and lest we forget, amateurs from Cat. 5 to 1 did their fair share, too.

Friday night belonged to those guys who get paid to ride their bikes, with a 4.5 mile time-trial, with a $15,000 purse. Tom Zirbel of the Bissell Pro Cycling Team came in with a time of 8:36.37 minutes, and local pro Reid Mumford of Kelly Benefits Strategies/Medifast came in 6th with a time of 8:49.07.

Continue reading this entry »

Zach Thomas

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.

Continue reading this entry »

Zach Thomas

News Thu Jul 24 2008

Short Hops

  • In case you’ve forgotten, the Chicago Force are going for the IWFL title this Saturday at North Park University’s Holmgren Athletic Complex. Cheer them on.
  • The White Sox’ Juan Uribe to the Red Sox? It might make a lot of people happy.
  • Cook County Commissioner Mike Quinn got a lot of Detroit Red Wings fans ticked off when he managed to skewer the team in his resolution celebrating the outdoor game against the Blackhawks at Wrigley Field...
  • ...But here’s guessing he’ll have an easier time getting tickets to the game than you do.
  • A half-game lead (as of Thursday afternoon)? Are the Cubs done for? One writer seems to think so (though he admits he’s a Sox fan but insists that has nothing to do with it… right.)...
  • ...But never fear Cubs fans, there are enough pro-Cubby blogs to ease the pain. In fact, there’s a whole army.
  • The need for (man-powered) speed: The Chicago Criterium is this weekend.
  • A Chicago hospital offers a free women’s sports injury prevention pamphlet
  • ...Which you might need if you attend tryouts for the Grand All Star League (GALS, get it?) women’s basketball tryouts for females 50 and over.

Ken Green

Cycling Tue Jul 22 2008

Big News in Bikes

The lycra-clad hordes descend this Sunday upon Grant Park for the first ever Chicago Criterium. Look for national pros from Rock Racing and Jittery Joe's, but remember that racing in the amateur categories can often be just as, if not more so, exciting. The racing's more disorganized and chaotic, but the faces are familiar. Everyone loves to root for the hometown effort, anyway.

Speaking of hometown crushers, Christian Vande Velde of Team Garmin-Chipotle has a fighting chance to podium in this year's Tour de France. Looks like his training regimen of cranking into Chicago's killer headwinds has helped out more than some of us thought. Wind's never scared me off from a training ride, but maybe now I'll relish the experience rather than curse it as is my custom.

Oh, the BK Stacker took more than its fair share of souls and skin at last Sunday's Evanston Northwestern Healthcare Grand Prix of Cycling criterium I got up to Evanston just in time to catch the start of the Pro/1/2 race and within 10 laps, a large portion of the field had laid their bikes and bodies down. That time everyone got back up, but later on, a rider was taken away by ambulance to the hospital with injuries, temporarily neutralizing the race. Seems most other races throughout the day experienced large amounts of crashes, too. Maybe next year a course revision could be in order.

And if you're more interested in rolling around in the dirt, the Alterra Coffee Bean Classic mountain bike race is happening this Sunday, July 27, in Franklin, Wisconsin. According to the WORS website, "Alterra Coffee Roasters will once again have its coffee bar open to pour the free, locally roasted coffee, whether your preference is hot or cold. Also, our other sponsor, Lakefront Brewery, will have ice-cold beers on tap."

Sounds good enough for me.

Zach Thomas

Cycling Tue Jul 15 2008

The Bicycle Film Festival is Coming

Mark your calendars, as the annual touring Bicycle Film Festival is coming through Chicago, from August 6th to the 10th. The annual party is a celebration of all aspect of cycling, from commuters making the lonely trek through the morning fog on their way to work, to racers training for hours in the sometimes-futile pursuit of glory

Continue reading this entry »

Zach Thomas

Cycling Thu Jul 10 2008

Palos Meltdown Registration Open

It's hard being a mountain biker in the city. If you're unwilling to risk the wrath of the Chicago Park District by training on the sly in the parks, you've got to either train on the road or make the drive to Palos Forest Preserve in Willow Springs in the southwestern side of Chicagoland in order to get in quality time in the dirt. Racing's another matter entirely – most races are a considerable drive away, with our neighbor to the north, Wisconsin, home to regional competitions.

Continue reading this entry »

Zach Thomas

Cycling Tue Jul 01 2008

Chicagoans Sweep State Crit Champs

This past Sunday, downtown Peoria was the site of the Illinois State Criterium Championships, and accordingly, Chicagoland was well-represented on the podiums, with a whole gaggle of local cyclists taking home the champion's jersey. Some familiar names top the results, including Devon Haskell of Team Get a Grip Cycles, who won the Pro 1-2 Female category, and Chris Padfield of Team Pegasus who steamrolled for a solo win in the Cat. 4 Men. Chicago Bike Racing has an excellent wrap-up of the day, check it out here.

Zach Thomas

Cycling Fri Jun 27 2008

Super Week

About two weeks from now, the Point Premium Root Beer – Super Week – International Cycling Classic, or just Super Week to those in the know, is due to start with a bang, down here in Chicago. July 11th, the neighborhood of Beverly Hills, down in the South Side, will find its streets aswarm with cyclists, neck to neck at speed, fighting for the finish in the Beverly Hills Cycling Classic presented by Vee Pak/Beverly Bike & Ski. July 12th is the St. Francis Hospital Blue Island ProAm.

Continue reading this entry »

Zach Thomas

Cycling Thu Jun 19 2008

Faster, Higher, Stronger (or Just Faster)

Today's New York Times Style section has on its front page, an article on competitive cycling, featuring Christian Vande Velde, a Chicagoland professional cyclist with Team Garmin-Chipotle Presented by H30, who I mentioned in a post several weeks ago. It's interesting to see cycling mentioned in a paper such as the Times, beyond the small sporadically-appearing box score on the last page of the sports section. I'm not sure if coverage such as this will serve to help professional cycling earn a spot on the front pages again in the Post-Lance era, but it certainly can't hurt.

Continue reading this entry »

Zach Thomas

Cycling Wed Jun 18 2008

Cycling Round-Up

Lots of stuff has happened this past week in the Chicago cycling scene, some good, some bad.

First off, think about heading over to a site set-up by the family of KC Haywood. KC, a mechanic at Rapid Transit bike shop in Wicker Park, fell four stories from a building over the weekend. He's in a coma, but word is that he's responding to stimuli. While he does have insurance, consider donating a few bucks toward his (likely expensive) medical treatment if you're able with the handy PayPal button.

Continue reading this entry »

Zach Thomas

Cycling Wed Jun 11 2008

Sherman Park Criterium

The Sherman Park Criterium, organized by xXx Racing-Athletico, is this Saturday, and while it's a bit too late to register for the Cat. 5 men's division, there are still plenty of slots open in the other races. Few bike races are held within the city limits and with gas prices the way they are, it can be awfully nice to race within riding distance of one's home.

Continue reading this entry »

Zach Thomas

Cycling Thu Jun 05 2008

In Pink

Now just a couple days after the finish of the Giro d'Italia, it's clear that general classification winner Albert Contador, who reportedly was on the beach sunning himself prior to entry as opposed to training, was the biggest surprise. His team, Astana, a sort of amalgamation of the disbanded Discovery and the controversial Astana of '07, is banned from this year's Tour de France for the sins of last year.

But besides all that (which has been fodder for all manner of armchair cyclists on the Internet), there was another success story: Christian Vande Velde, of the Slipstream/Chipotle H30 team, and originally of Lemont, Illinois, was the first American to wear the pink Maglia Rosa since Andy Hampsten won with it in the 1988 iteration of the Giro.

Continue reading this entry »

Zach Thomas

Cycling Sat May 31 2008

Volunteers Needed for Subaru Cup

If you're free the weekend of June 14 and 15, and you like elite mountain bike racing, feel free to head up north to the land of cheese curds, and volunteer to help run the WORS 2008 Subaru Cup. Help's needed to time the individual events, set-up and take down the course markers, assist the kid's race, and so on. You'll get fed and get clothed in a limited-edition race t-shirt, but the big reward is being up close to some pretty awesome racing.

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Zach Thomas

Cycling Fri May 23 2008

Memorial Day Masters' Racing

For all you bike racers with a few wrinkles around the eyes, Athletes by Design is sponsoring a three-day weekend of masters' 30+ criterium racing in the village of Wood Dale on Saturday and Sunday, and in Batavia on Monday. Click here for the flyer. Akin to an 'adult swim' for bike racers, this is a chance for the veterans to get out and hammer hard, without being upstaged by an 18 year-old phenom in his first year of cycling.

Continue reading this entry »

Zach Thomas

Cycling Fri May 23 2008

Ghost Bikes

The Chicago Tribune yesterday published a piece on ghost bikes, those roadside memorials to cyclists who've died while riding. Sad specters they may be, those ghost bikes are a reminder to all of us, both driver and cyclist alike, that riding a bike has its own risks. The past year has been especially rough for the Chicago cyclist community, with four riders killed in accidents with cars, and likely dozens of others hurt by being doored, bumped, or hit while riding across an intersection.

Continue reading this entry »

Zach Thomas

Cycling Mon May 19 2008

Register Now for Chicago Criterium and Bike the Drive

Tired of driving out to the far reaches of Chicagoland in order to get your bike racing fix in? Well, register to race in the Chicago Criterium on July 37, 2008 and you won't have to go farther than Grant Park in downtown Chicago. With the start and finish line on Columbus Drive by Buckingham Fountain, the flat and fast 1.1 mile race course looks to offer enough challenges in the form of sharp corners and straightaways long enough to let the peloton get a fair amount of steam. Register now, because the fields are filling up fast, and only a handful of slots in the Men's Category 5, with two heats of 50 racers apiece, remain.

Continue reading this entry »

Zach Thomas

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