It’s late in the season and the cyclocross racing is really heating up for the Higher Gear Gearhead racing team. This past weekend was the eleventh of the dozen races in the Chi Cross Cup series. For the Gearhead team, it was the fifth of six supported races and the team came out in full force for the new venue.
In past years, this race was hosted in Northbrook and Volo. This year, we made our way to Melas Park in Mount Prospect. Those of us on the north side of Chicagoland were relieved to race at a venue that was more Chicago than Iowa. Gearheads were commenting on how it was nice to only have a 30 minute drive, compared with up to two hours for some of the earlier races in the series.
The course design was interesting to say the least. It proved that with an open space, a little creativity and lots of yellow Do Not Cross tape, you can set up a cross race just about anywhere. Chip Sterret called it early on, noting from the online course map that this was going to be “a thigh burner.” It was surely that. And a short course meant many laps around the course and little reprieve for those burning thighs.
The course began with a quick start and then a stretch down into the retention pond. After some off-camber turns and descents, there was the monster hill out of the pond. The retention pond and the ensuing hill were key features and the course designers did an exceptional job maximizing these. The course up the hill was shaded by willow trees. As the course got more worn throughout the day and the shade hit the grass, the ascent lost traction. By the end of the day – and certainly in time for the 4B’s – that ascent was so slippery, it was nearly impossible to climb. The only remaining option was to run it – quite a stretch to run on cyclists’ legs!
Once out of the retention pond, there were some flat stretches that favored the roadie racers. After a steep climb more than half-way through the course, the racers had to navigate some single track and then prepare for the steep descent. The culmination of the course was a pass through the sand pit. The sand was cold enough to be ride-able in the first races of the day. As the day progressed, the sand got softer and more rutted. It became tougher to ride through. By the 4B race, it was pure entertainment!
The smiles on the faces of the racers gathering around the Higher Gear van and tent demonstrated why this is such a great sport. We were happy to be joined by Chicago Chiropractic who partnered with us for this event. Dr. Jon was working hard to remove the kinks after such an aggressive course. One of the racers commented, “I don’t need a Chiropractor after a race like this. I need a Psychiatrist.”
Higher Gear was pleased to have 16 racers across six different race categories compete in Mount Prospect. From the Womens 1/2/3, to the Masters Races into the Juniors and 4Bs, all of the racers gave it their all. The highlight of the day was surely the 4B race – as is commonly the case with the heckles, hand-ups and pure entertainment value. Higher Gear represented there with eight Gearhead riders – including our fearless leader and master chef in his cx debut as well as two guest riders courtesy of Danny Grant.
As the memory of Sunday fades, the evidence of our shared fun is not merely in bruises. We’re enjoying the pictures popping up on Facebook and across the internet. Even those who couldn’t be with us Sunday are entertained by watching the scenes from such a great race unfold in photographs.
Our Gearheads are calculating what they need to do in the final race of the series to secure their position. We’re pulling hard for our teammates who have all had terrific seasons with the Gearheads. To highlight a few and their current standings:
- Nancy – 11th in Women 3
- Thomas – 6th in Juniors 15-18
- Andre – 16th in Cat3
- Mike Slade – 5th in 4B
As a team, the Gearheads can be proud of their ChiCrossCup standing. We are solidly in the top 20 out of nearly 150 teams and look likely to pick up a couple spots in the final race at Montrose Harbor. We’ve said it before and this season is no exception, we’re a pretty solid team for a team that sets out to have as much fun as we do.
If you haven’t already penciled in the Montrose race, we highly encourage you to join us. Heed Nancy‘s advice to “jump in” to cyclocross racing before it’s too late for this year! Bring your bike and race with us. Come to our Higher Gear tent to enjoy some food and drink and to get your adjustment from Chicago Chiropractic. Then make your way to the edge of the tape for some hilarious heckling. What would you rather be doing on a snowy Saturday in December? See you at Montrose!
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