Photo: Amy Weik
Photo: Amy Weik

Bilbo Dirtbaggins / Masters 30+

Afterglow is always a good time.  Low key vibe, well run, and a guaranteed fun course.  This year was no different.  The whole crew responsible for the race did an excellent job making it fun for everyone.

Snow and mud were on tap after a week of up and down temps and precipitation.  I toed the line in the 30+ field, and being the first race of the day meant we would be breaking in the course, and setting the lines for the later races.  Conditions would drastically change throughout the race as the snow and grass got torn up. Whistle blows and we are off.  I got my usual start, which I often compare to a 1970’s Mercedes Diesel accelerating from 0 to 60.  I get swamped by other riders and find my self midpack hitting the first few turns.  With the slick conditions the pace slows. I jump off the bike and start running, passing several riders, and end up running a good 200 meters to the first set of barriers before remounting.  Back on the bike, and continue trying to make up time.  I burned way too many matches on the first lap and a half, but that’s what a bad start requires if you want to make up places.  Eventually I settle into 6th place.  Battle out with a few guys for a bit, finding spots to makes passes, making my way up to 4th.  At this point gaps had opened to the riders in front and behind me.  Now it was all about keeping the bike upright, limiting mistakes, and hoping one of the leaders would start to fade.  Riding in these conditions is always fun, and it was great test of bike handling skills through all of the off-camber sections and sand pits.  The mud got slicker and deeper, and as the laps ticked by everything became harder.  Small bobbles here and there, but no big mistakes.  I was able to hold onto 4th and my best result of the season.  Another fun day spent in the cold and mud of the Chicago cyclocross scene.

Now that the cross season is over, I am not sure how I thought I could resist racing this year. Cyclocross is way too much fun to sit on the sidelines and watch.  Looking forward to some gravel grinding at Southern Cross and Barry Roubaix in a couple months, and cyclocross 2014.  How long until Jackson Park?

Photo: Brandon Murphy

A-Dub / W123

As the last race of the year with nothing on the line except who can have the most fun and raise the most money for charity, Afterglow is always a blast!  And one of my favorite parts about Afterglow is that I can ride to the race!

After a decent start, I ended up in the back of the pack as usual. However, I was surprised to be in front of Christine Tejada, aka recently upgraded 2013 Illinois State W4 Champ, so I did my best to keep that placing.  But lady luck wasn’t on my side and as I went to remount following the hill barrier and run-up, I tripped on a loose root and performed a spectacular endo. As I laid alongside the course where I landed thoughts quickly whizzed through my mind: Is my knee broken? Should I get up? Will I increase my injury if I do?  After the mini-shock wore off and I reassured the passing racers that I was in fact OK, I got up and attempted to continue but could feel the body’s reaction to an injury building. Even if I continued my game was off and the chance of catching back up was not likely, so I decided to drop out. Should I have pushed through it? Maybe, but it was the right decision at the time and it just allowed me to get back to the cyclocross camaradarie that we all know and love.

Yep, I’ve got some lovely bruising on both legs but it was worth it and I had a great time!  Thanks Cuttin Crew and Robots <3 for an amazing day, and for your efforts promoting donations to keep the West Town Bikes and Blackstone Bicycle Works youth programs running!

Photo: Amy Dykema

A-Dub / W123

When I first heard that Robots <3, The Pony Shop, and Beverly Bike-VeePak were putting on the Midwest Regional Cyclocross Championships, it was a no-brainer that I was going to race so I signed up soon after registration opened. Unfortunately I hadn't been on a bike all week prior to race day but still came out to battle with the fastest ladies anyway.

The freshly laid blanket of snow really made for a fun race! I had a great start considering my back row position and the singletrack allowed me to ride with several gals who are normally faster than I. All was great on lap one until I lost traction on a patch of frozen terrain in a corner - down I went and off came my chain. As I fumbled to replace the chain while wearing my lobster gloves (did I mention that it was FRIGID?) I was passed by every single gal who was behind me. That was a real bummer and a bit of a confidence buster. The run-ups were super challenging too - by the time our race came around, the right side and former race line of the New Balance Run-Up of Doom was iced over and I nearly lost my footing and fell backwards down the hill so I chose to run up the left in the deeper snow, which may have been even more difficult for someone with short legs as myself. The downhill descents had also become iced over for our race so I utilized a significant amount of self-talk and prayer in able to ride it. Whew!

Later I ended up falling in the woods after some loyeur (a lurker-voyeur, Bonebell ™) decided to come out of hiding alongside the course and it totally caught me off guard, as if the abominable snowman decided to make himself known. My chain came off again and I lost more time. Even though I was only running around 22 front and 24 rear on my clinchers, I think my tire pressure was still too high for these conditions, possibly causing the instability. Maybe finally making the switch to tubulars is what I need to run super low tire pressure.

Although conditions resembled Hoth and I desperately could have used a tauntaun to hide inside, I am always surprised how quickly I forget my body temp issues after the whistle blows and I'm focusing on my race line. While some folks were plagued by Ol' Man Winter I successfully kept the cold at bay by employing multiple warmers in my shoes, and sticking one toe warmer in the roof of each of my gloves was an effective strategy.

Now that my freeze-thaw cycle is complete and I reflect upon the race, I am struck by the totally pro-level event that Nikki, Chris, Lou and crews executed with racer perks and course features of epic proportions that will not soon be forgotten. Never mind that my legs look like they received the Nancy Kerrigan treatment from the icy falls - that's part of the fun. Now I just need to figure out something clever to do with my fancy fabric race number. Any ideas?

Photo: Amy Dykema

Ol’ Dirty Blickster / W123

The day before the Midwest Regional Championships, Chicago got about five inches of snow. With the women’s race in the afternoon I figured the course would be relatively packed down for our start, but smaller fields meant only one thin line had been carved out. A wheel turned an inch in the wrong direction meant losing all momentum. There was almost no opportunity to pass, aside from waiting for someone to make a mistake.

Which meant the start was hugely important. I got the last spot on the second row, thankfully an end spot but unfortunately not behind a wheel I could trust. The gun went and I was caught behind someone who missed a pedal, only making up enough ground to be 7th wheel entering the course. I just kept pushing, just kept focusing on the wheels in front of me. I knew I was a better bike handler in these conditions than most of the train of riders I was leading, but I lacked the power. One mistake and they would be able to ride away for good.

It wasn’t until the 4th lap that the mistakes and mishaps came. An imperfect corner here and there, not being able to clip in quickly before the descent, course tape in the wheel, frozen shifting on the pavement. With all that, I slid back to 13th with 11th and 12th in sight, but we were finished a lap early. Only the top 10 (half the field, the half getting payouts) finished all five laps. It was a disappointing end to the race, but I’ll save my cloth #1 MWRCXC bib number forever.

Bilbo Dirtbaggins / Masters 35+

Greg wanted to type this report but couldn’t because his fingers are still frozen. The End.
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