For Cyclocross, time has come today.
We’re not the first ones to declare it: Cyclocross (cx) racing has gone mainstream. The sport once only found in pockets of fields in Belgium is now everywhere. Its popularity has never been greater.
Cyclocross is a sport that can’t – and shouldn’t – be missed.
Chicago Cyclocross Cup racing begins at 8:45am. The day includes twelve divisions of racers. As few as four years ago, spectators might not have shown up for a day of CCC racing until noon to catch fields of 20-30 riders. The early races included some of the best racers, however the fields were tiny. This past Sunday in Jackson Park, nearly every race was maxed out at the 100-racer limit. This is just one sign of the momentum of this great sport.
Spectators had to arrive early or else risk missing some seriously great racing. And arrive they did. The more telling sign of the popularity of cyclocross were the sheer numbers of people coming out, not to race, but to spectate. The course was filled with average Chicagoans, wearing street clothes and wanting a glimpse of the most fun you can have on wheels.
The hecklers gave the newcomers a demonstration of cyclocross energy in every corner of the course. One of the Gearheads said very accurately: “Those hecklers are brutal. You really can’t give them a reason or you’re dead from the hazing.”
With the passing storms Saturday night, the weather seemed to change into fall overnight. Sunday morning feeling cool and crisp, like a fall day, befitting the first cyclocross race of the season.
The clear sky and sunshine – and the hard effort that cyclocross demands – kept racers plenty warm. The Gearheads were grateful for the new team jerseys in lightweight wicking material. (There’s plenty of time for the fleece-lined jerseys later in the season!)
The Chicago Cyclocross Season started off with a bang – and a lot of twists! xXx made use of what little space they were granted in the park by creating a very winding course. Overall, the course had something like 82 turns in its two-miles. (We heard the map likened to bizarre hieroglyphics or sheep entrails.)
The way the course twisted around and around made for great spectating, but took its toll on the racers. Had it rained as much as expected Saturday night, it could have meant for a free-for-all. As it was, the rain we did receive made the course nice and tacky. Jackson Park dirt can be very dry and loose, but it was not a problem Sunday. In fact, you might say it was ideal track for all those turns.
Due to the huge number of turns, the course was pretty slow. Passing was very difficult. Placement at the starting line was critical. After the start, steady patient riding definitely was the name of the game.
Andre made the mistake twice in his first lap of being too aggressive with overtaking, and paid the price by having his front wheel taken out and, later, losing his bike – right in front of the HG tent.
If you were going to go down Sunday, you could do it in a worse spot than in front of the Higher Gear tent. At least you could have comforted yourself with southside eats from Harold’s Chicken Shack, courtesy of Master of the Ceremonies Brendan Sullivan, while you were down.
The location of the Higher Gear tent was perfect. We set up camp with a view to nearly the entire course. We were so close to the action, you could just about catch Andre or other racers who went down in front of us. Those who they passed inches from where we stood were invited to join us inside the tent. The food was a classic southside: Harold’s fried chicken from Hyde Park, of course!
We had a good showing of Gearheads for the first CCC race of the season. Our racers competed fantastically with some brave and proud performances on a very windy course. Andre Odendaal placed 14th in Cat 3 Open and 39th when he raced 1/2/3 (where he was 8th out of the Cat 3’s). Omar Patalinghug placed 15th in Masters 40+ and 16th in Masters 30+. Andre and Omar, wanting to get as much time on the course as possible, raced two and three races respectively. Joe Sullivan, Pepe, had a 13th place finish in the Juniors (15-18).
Chad “the new guy” Giese had a solid performance representing Cat 3’s in his first cx race. Will “one race” Frame represented in Masters 30+. Chip Sterrett, Russ Hoefer and James Hoefer all held their own racing Cat 4 in Cat 4/5. Bill Barnes earned points racing Single Speed.
As always, the Gearheads turn a difficult day of racing into party. Here are hints to the fun that was had in the Higher Gear tent Sunday:
- Will “There is a certain course that favors my racing and this is not it” Frame
- Jimmy “100% Cotton” Hoefer
- Chip “Stay upright and I’m in the top 20” Sterrett
- Bill “So there is a fixed gear class after all” Barnes
- Joe “Racing is nicer when your arm isn’t nearly severed in the spokes of another guys wheel” Sullivan
One of the most fun activities of the day was to witness Peter Frame eating his body weight in Harold’s fried chicken. They don’t make chicken like that in Scotland!
It was a tough course and the Gearheads performed well. They capped off their day with fried chicken and libations. Not a bad showing for the first CCC race of the season. And certainly not a bad way to spend a Sunday.
Special thanks to the great efforts of the racers and to the Higher Gear customers who put on their kits and rode down the lakefront to join us in the tent for the races.
We invite you to join us next at Dan Ryan Woods.
CX is the most fun on wheels and, clearly, its time has come today.
Chicago Cyclocross Cup racing returns next Sunday in Hopkins Park. The following week, Gearheads will be there in full force at Dan Ryan Woods. (Gearheads, don’t forget to route around the city that day, as it’s also the date of the Chicago Marathon.)
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.