The bunny has a dollar for you

by Avi First things first. After our whirlwind, round-the-clock reporting on worlds in Tokyo, we dropped the ball on Elite Track Nationals. Al was out there, along with a couple other Northbrook locals, and while you could catch the action on live web video, we missed the boat in regards to timely reports.

Al had a great time, raced three events, and almost made the finals in his specialty, the points race. A brief recap:

11th in points. The dude sitting on my wheel when we were halfway to the break attacked me for the points and then bridged solo and hung me out to dry. Those dudes were all crazy fast. I worked my ass off to get 2 points. It was really good to be in a race like that. Even if there's a bunch of dudes faster than me at Kenosha or Northbrook, there's also a bunch of dudes slower than me. Not at nats. Everyone had to qualify.

5:09 pursuit. 10 seconds faster than last year, but I was hoping for 15. I went out too hard and should have used a 98" gear.

Dude going fast in my heat was Bobby Lea. He won the finals.

Best race was the points final. Phinney vs. Creed. Both had 2 laps and the points were 54 to 55, Creed up with the last sprint coming up. Phinney jumps out of turn 2, Creed on his wheel. Creed can't come around and takes 1 point to Phinney's 2, and loses the finishing order tiebreaker.

Giddeon Massey is my new favorite bike racer. Beat Phinney in the kilo for first (1:02 to 1:04! Phinney took silver at 08 worlds.), won the keirin with a huge gap, and lost the match sprint finals 2 to 1 on a relegation that could have gone either way.

Thanks to Marcus for the gear, Val for looking after the details, and of course, propers to Josh Ryan and David Moyer for their strong showings. With that said...consider the track season done. On to cyclocross, the devil's fancy!

Somewhere between road racing and mountain biking, between summer and winter, between a Sunday in the park and the rollers in the basement...there you find cyclocross. Whether by necessity or choice, some of us go the extra mile and single speed it. Maybe you don't need the other 19 anyway, or you have fewer parts to gum up and destroy, or you just run what you brung.


Sometimes there's this notion that we're just jokers showing up with knives at a gunfight, but I like to think of it as a Samurai in a may not be the last man standing, but anything can happen. Out in Portland they have hundreds of single speeders at every race, enough to subcategorize them in the various A's, B's, Masters' races...but here at the Chicrosscup, the SS division has long since vanished. Enough of our swooning over the Northwest's 'cross, we have the "Officially Unofficial Illinois State Cyclocross Single Speed Championship (OUISCSSC) presented by Yojimbo's Garage." Quite a mouthful! Big thanks to Half Acre for manning the clipboards and making it happen!

If we had any illusions of grandeur about the status of our "championship," they were dashed at the line, when the officials lined us up behind the cat 4 women AND the juniors. Ouch. 22 of us toed the line - not a huge field, but nobody could really be written off. OK, Tripps was donning an aero helmet and a hockey jersey, but still, he's got mad offroad skills, so you never know.

There were a couple of hoopties, but lots of tricked out carbon, titanium, some handmade steel, and plenty of tubies to go around. A few messengers, trackies, a couple of high-catted roadies, hardcore 'crossers, a couple of Killjoy guys that absolutely schooled me back in 2005, winning 1st and 2nd in every single SS race, and a few mountain bikers running discs...this last group scared me most of all. If there's one way a mountain bike can edge out a cross bike, it's this: the smaller wheels and tighter geometry could cut a bit tighter and get inside you on a corner. The officials asked our road categories all around to get an idea of lap times: 3s, 4s, 5s, with an Expert mountain biker on the front row. Eek.

We're off and after a couple of elbows, we settle in. One thing that can really ruin a cross race early is getting stuck in single file while gaps open up at the front. Fortunately, the brilliant course put up by NCC and Half Acre left plenty of wide open lanes after the first few corners. A group of four is off by a bit, with a couple of familiar faces from the bus laying down the pace. I bridge and latch on. Nice and easy through the four switchbacks on the hill, and I pick up a spot climbing out. Fourth wheel.

I can't tell what the plan is...are they pacing it out, waiting for someone to slip up, or is this really as hard as they can manage? I can't contain myself and attack between corners; I'm out front. Big dig, hold it steady, look back: mountain biker on my wheel. I don't know if the other three are still there, but it doesn't matter. Keep it up but don't slip up: no mistakes.

Two more laps of this and nothing changes. Should I go all out or pace myself and save a kick for the end? Is this guy waiting for the right corner to catch me napping? I shut the door on every corner and he never makes a move. Lapping ten-year-olds and women, it gets tricky, but we try to keep it honorable.

There are so many ways to lose: a single mistake, especially in the closing minutes, and kiss the win goodbye. I had mine: a mis-planted foot off the last barrier in the woods and I lost my spot. I tried to fight the panic and look for my opportunity. We turned onto the pavement, a slight fast climb. Straight and wide, maybe my last real chance to pass, but I see that he's pushing a steep gear. I thought I was done: all he had to do was stand and mash for a dozen strokes and I'd be spinning out on the pavement and never have a chance. But I noticed something else: the thirty-minutes-of-just-a-tad-too-steep-of-a-gear cadence (been there). He can't attack! I spin up, grab my spot back, and keep the last few corners covered up airtight.

Coming into the penultimate turn, a 180 left, I was really afraid he'd use his bike to get the tighter line and chop me, but we both tiptoe through and he's stuck outside for the last sweeper! I bury it, get a couple lengths and think about posting up? No! He's got that big gear turning over now, and he's making up ground fast. I hold him off by a length but throw for good measure. I finally get to throw the sweet scissors high! For the win, and the title!

Photo courtesy of Luke

So forgive the lack of brevity and excessive use of exclamation points, but it's not everyday I get to write a winning race report...thirty races this season, first win ever. As much as I love to double up, I was pre-pinned for the 1/2/3s race, but I opted to celebrate on the couch instead.

The rest of the crew had a strong showing, improving on Jackson Park's results across the boards. Mike finished 6th in the 4a's; if he'd gotten the fourth lap he was expecting, it would have been a few spots higher. Max shook off the mechanicals that plagued his second day at UCI MadCross to crack the top 20 21.

The ladies of the crew were also doing it in the dirt. Molly was a little tied up in Tokyo for the kickoff weekend of cross, so she got her first taste of the season, finishing strong in 13th, just behind Jamie in 11th. Not to undermine her ass-kicking on the bike, but check out Jamie's new ride if you get a chance: custom frame, 650c wheels, sparkly purple paint job. Like a glove.

Heffy was driving the bus, manning the grill, and of course, finding a new way to keep the 4s entertained, this time with a large stuffed bunny offering a dollar prime on the climb. Lots of strong showings from friends and couch surfers, and if not, at least a dog and a beer as a consolation prize. If only all racing were this fun.