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After reading through the social tsunami of sub-140 character texts on Twitter and endless parade of ‘OMG!’ posts on Facebook it is still sinking in that February 2nd weekend in Louisville, Kentucky will go down as one of the greatest experiences to be had by dirtbags from all over the world. At least a hundred references were made in homage to Dave Stoler’s modified proclamation: “THE BELGIANS ARE COMING! THE BELGIANS ARE COMING!” The few who have been fortunate to have traveled to World Cup events in Europe have come back with legendary stories of beer- infused spectating, bearing witness to the grace of the elite professional racers in the middle of some small town deep in a dreary forest. This was now our first opportunity as a nation of persevering cyclocross martyrs to proclaim our weekend in the bleak of winter, by a fast-rising river on mud-filled banks, to witness world class speed.

The Bonebell Crew was graciously hosted by our own “DaDoubleG” at his family’s homestead, who themselves are Louisville natives that have repeatedly supported our efforts in the USGP Louisville races for the last several years. The metro area downtown has long been a favorite for delicious food and even greater drinks by way of the deviled brown water that has made the area famous. We set off from Chicago on Friday evening to a great start by meeting up with Chicago friends and closing the evening down late past the midnight hour among a bevy of cyclocross hooligans preparing for a day of feverish heckling. And then the morning came. The last minute schedule change of the races to one full day due to the threat of the river flooding the course made for the possibility of epic going nuclear. Our job was to arrive in time to watch all four races, and remain standing for over six hours, and then host our party for our Chicago friends, and perhaps party some more. We at The Bonebell do nothing short of epic.

The first race went off with Chicago’s own David Lombardo (Team Verdigris) heading off into the racing stratosphere of awesomeness against the world’s elite juniors while proudly donning the stars and stripes of the USA kit. Yes, we saw the courageous battle off the front, and yes, we cheered madly for Logan Owen, a strong hopeful from Team USA for a podium spot. But we were there for David. We couldn’t have arrived more proud of his efforts and his achievement as Chicago’s first world class racer in our era. He valiantly fought every inch of the course and made his mark in front of thousands.

David Lombardo gets a bit argy-bargy
Photo: Luke Seemann

The U23 race amped up the crowd further, with favorite Zach McDonald trading vicious corners at harrowing speeds to gain every inch of ground in the efforts of damaging the European-stacked pack. His effort was rewarded with an 11th place, following the Belgians and the Dutch by close margins.

The women’s race was as breathtaking as the form they showed through their mastery of every section. Katie Compton did not disappoint, regardless of a silver medal outcome, as performing the feat she did required an inner strength and calm that only a world class athlete could deliver. Her Dutch opponent, Marianne Vos, truly reigned the race by virtue of having started cleanly and at the front only to pedal flawlessly into a path that was all her own – a testament that confidence, speed, and luck provide astounding results.

The men’s race was stupendous. I have watched these men race weekend after weekend through grainy views of a compressed video stream from the internet. Watching unrecognizable faces in same colored kits while a Flemish voice calmly calls out a pedal by pedal commentary on the effortless action being televised had been my experience before this date. Seeing the sky blue kits with Belgian stripes following each other like a train of calculated perfection is one of the most prolific things I am fortunate to have experienced. Every detail of their effort was not only impressive, but outright obscene in how well played every tactic was coordinated. Our American heroes fought with a might that I hadn’t seen all season long. Not because they don’t give that kind of effort in races I’ve seen them in all season long, but because for the first time, ever, I saw the looks on their faces grimacing with pain and despair. I overheard someone at the race say “I’ve never seen that look of exhaustion on their face like that”. Hyperbole didn’t do them justice – they were spent, the lot of the US squad, on thrashing every emotion into energy through the mud. They left their face with the fans to detail the love they put into their season. I may have seen and enjoyed my hero Sven Nys cross the line in such commanding state, but I’ll cherish how hard our American squad fought til the bitter end – especially Tim Johnson. He held his Red Bull helmet down with a teeth clenched grin for the entirety of 60 minutes leaving nothing but his soul strewn about the course. That is why we all went to cheer – for our American squad laying it all out.

So how did The Bonebell end a day of such epic proportions of world class racing? We threw a party! We planned an evening with over 60 of our close Chicago friends to join us in food and libation at Against the Grain Brewery where SRAM donated their presence and gifts for an impromptu raffle to raise money for the newly-formed Chicago Cross Cup Juniors CX Fund.

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The evening was filled with great conversation over all the joys witnessed that day, how much we love racing our bikes, and how great the Chicago community is for coming together in Louisville. Our servers, Adrienne and Bonnie, catered to and tolerated the Chicago hooligans for the entirety of the evening with excellent service and camaraderie. They even put up with us late past the midnight hours impressed with the enthusiasm we had for cyclocross. They shared tales of what they experienced through a week of Masters World Championship racing and how their scene had been littered with wannabe race champions carousing through the downtown area into what seemed like an endless stream of silly cyclists.

I stood back at some point in the evening for a quiet moment, absorbing the great emotion in the brewery. Talks of foam party shenanigans, which pro cyclist friends had run into, talks of how to drink bourbon correctly – all melted into an evening of celebration. What more could I have asked for but friendships and cycling. We had a great time, little sleep, and more straight bourbons than I surely remembered to count. Everything was a dazzling success.

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We give special thanks to SRAM for the products donated for the raffle and their insistence in being there to support The Bonebell – we look forward to future collaborations! And a shout out to the staff at Against The Grain Brewery who helped us – especially the management, Sam and Andrew, who not only made the event possible but were so inviting to all of our friends both before and after the party. AtG is definitely on our list to visit again on our return to Louisville!

And the mandatory epic music slow motion recap.



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