We made our way westward to Bartlett this past weekend. The nostalgic among us remember four years ago when the Gearheads arrived for their first race as a team. 2009 saw a sparse field and few spectators.
This year we found a strikingly similar course, only in reverse, with a scene beyond what anyone could expect. The biggest contrast to what we saw four years ago was the sheer number of people in attendance this year: field sizes of 100 racers, dozens of tents and hundreds of spectators cheering and heckling.
Sunrise Park is never the most protected venue and, on this fall day, wind was a very real factor. The course design created large power stretches and no racer had the benefit of a group draft. You simply had to take that wind head on, and own it.
The wood chips in the wooded sections were hard to navigate with autumn shadows and dark dirt playing tricks on the eyes.
In years past, the challenge of Heckle Hill was in the climbing. This year, the awkward uphill was only followed by a greater challenge of the downhill. Racers slammed their brakes just to make it out alive.
The Higher Gear tent location was premium, as usual. We were hidden from the winds by Heckle Hill and could watch the racers passing within inches of our tent. We could see the bulk of the course and catch all the action.
For this feast on the western plains, master chef Brendan served up High Plains Bison burgers and cowboy potato salad. What else would you expect this far to the west? Our racers are always looked after. After one of the races, a Gearhead said, “This cooler looks like a convenience store.” Take your pick.
One of the best parts of the Chicago Cyclocross Cup races this year is to see how the sport has matured. This was especially evident at this four-year anniversary race for the Gearheads. As always, it is still fun to cheer on the Cat 4 and 5 racers. Those are the future of the sport. They are the people who seek a new challenge and a test of physical skill. They could take their racing seriously. Cyclocross always reminds you not to take yourself quite so seriously.
Beyond this group of Cat 4 and 5 racers are the more experienced classes of riders. The experience of spectating the Cat 3’s and the 1/2/3 racers is equally as enjoyable as well as educational for new riders. The battles between Ryan Ramirez and Max Hall in Cat 3 are fierce. Each week they switch places like a heavy weight prize fight, fought over three months.
The 1/2/3 attraction is to see Lou Kuhn of the Pony Shop show off a delicate balance of power and technical skills as he works to counter the pure power of guys like Mike Heagney.
Then there are Batman and Robin. What a great duo to cheer for. These two Heritage riders command their Specialized bikes around the course. Challengers from Vertigris and Pony Shop show up, yet no one has developed the formula to defeat them. They are getting stronger each week and there is going to be one incredible finish to the season in Montrose come December.
It was a day for doubling up for many of the Gearheads. Joe “Pepe” Sullivan placed 13th in Juniors 15-18 and 56th in Cat 4/5. Omar “He’s Everywhere!” Patalinghug placed 24th in Masters 40+ and 52nd in Masters 30+. Andre “Bison Up and Down” Odendaal placed 29th in Cat 1/2/3 and 36th in Cat 3. Michael “Back to Back” Rassmussen placed 27th in Cat 4/5 and 49th in Cat 4.
After Pepe, Mike Slade took the only other top 20 spot of the day, finishing 18th in Masters 50+. Rounding out the rest of the team were Catherine “New Gloves” Watkins, placing 29th in Cat 1/2/3 Women, Russ “Faster Than My Kid” Hoeffer, 63rd in Cat 4/5, and Jimmy “5 Miles Over Lunch” Hoeffer, 76th in Cat 4/5.
With nearly 100 registered riders and the van ready for prime time, we turn our attention as a team to the Rhythm and Blues Revue Cyclocross Race coming November 9. One night only. Closer than Lake Wazzapamani. Tell your friends.
Many teams are more skilled. Some teams are faster. Others are well-trained. No team – and I mean no team – has more fun than the Gearheads.
For the season, Joe Sullivan is ranked 12th for Juniors 15-18. Omar is 21st among Masters 40+ and 39th in Masters 30+. Andre is ranked 25th in Cat 3 and 59th in Cat 1/2/3. Bill Barnes is 39th in the Single Speed category. Catherine is 57th in the Women 1/2/3. Michael Rassmussen is 46th in Cat 4. Chip Sterrett and Michael Rassmussen are both ranked among Cat 4/5’s, 68th and 73rd respectively.
While our team points are still divided, once combined we are in the top 30% of ranked teams. Not bad for the team who has the most fun out there!
There were some great professional shots captured of the Gearheads in action in Bartlett, in addition to this one on the left of Joe “Pepe” Sullivan, by Creative Minds Photography.
Check out the images Snowy Mountain Photography caught of:
For more about cyclocross, the Chicago Cyclocross Cup and Gearhead Racing, see Gearhead Cyclocross. You’ll find the list of dates and races where Higher Gear will offer light mechanical support, moral support and sustenance there and on our Events Calendar.
If you haven’t picked up a Gearhead ‘cross kit, they’re in stock at both Higher Gear locations now. The thermal lined version is perfect for rides on chilly days.