We had made plans back in the spring to revisit the Jackson Park Chicago Cyclocross race this year. I had done the race twice, about 5 or 6 years ago, when the series was small, and courses were just marked with orange flags, and some tape stretched between trees. Of course the news is that the series has now just exploded, so I wanted to see what the party was all about - and if I still sucked as much against those Chicago bastards as I did years ago.
80% chance of awesome looks like this, apparently.
Rain was forecast for race day. The Chicago Cross Cup Site put it this way: Temperatures forecast in the high 60's with an 80% chance of awesome. But the rain, awesome as it may have been, never came and the weather hung around the high 60's and low 70's with spots of sunshine. It was beautiful weather, and just cool enough so that you didn't feel like you were going to heat-stroke during the race.
Cross bike on the beach. The feathers on the ground were from the bird I just ran over.
Die skyrat, die!
The first thing you notice at a Chicago race is that people make themselves at home all over the course. There was a midway, and then this jumble of junk and old furniture that the Chicago Cutting Crew hauled in, way at the back of the course - right at a spot where carnage was certain. There was even a disco set up a little father out. Nice music. Weird, but nice.
Have a seat. And a twinky or two. Some bacon. Beer. And shots, yeah shots.
In addition to all the fun off the course, there was a race too. A big race. With lots of racers. Here's two of them. One, on the right, is Cupcake. She drove all the way over from Detroit after racing the day before in Waterford.
Cupcake and a lurker, just before the Women 1-2-3, and the 50+ race starts.
There were so many racers that you really needed a call-up (which I didn't get) to crack the top ten, or even a sniff the top five or a podium step. I rode the first mile of the race (the course was almost 2 miles long) shoulder to shoulder, wheel-to-wheel before the race opened up and you could step on it.
Once in the open, you could cover ground and fast. Flat, fast, but with big technical chunks just to keep it funky.
But enough with the racing. The scene was just a big party - everywhere you looked or walked. The midway near the parking lots, registration, and staging area was loaded with stuff to see, eat, drink, and gawk at.
A man and his monkey. He carried this thing around from the first race to the last.
There are a bunch of characters that make it to every Chi-Cup race, I'm told. The Spider Monkey Man is one, but the more celebrated of the characters are Sister Sprocket and Super Girl. They are there mainly for the famous 4B race at the end of the day, but bring their "thing" to most of the other races during the day.
The Sister's CycloCROSS and the Flying Pig: He's the prize for the most aggressive, err, something riding in the 4Bs.
If you aren't up on the news yet, the 4Bs is the last race of the day and is just for beginners. And I mean beginners. There's even a 4A race preceding it for beginners that aren't as novice as the 4Bs, but in truth both races looked pretty fast. Both the 4A and 4B were closed almost a week before the race with a total of 150 racers. People arrived at 7:30 in the morning to get on a waiting list hoping a spot would open up 20 minutes before the race stated at around 4 oclock.
Another part of the race that was enjoyable was the non-stop heckling. Hell I even got heckled. "Hey BISSELL why don't you SUCK ... it up and catch somebody!" "BISSELL it's time to CLEAN IT UP BITCH! And so on.
"Do it in the dirt! Do it in the dirt! Free upgrades for the winner of the next lap you buncha' sandbaggers!"
What do 75 beginners look like charging of the start line? I'd back away from the tape if I were you.
Heavy action at this section. The Cutting Crew bus with White tiger in the widow is ready to go.
While there were something around 550 racers, it looked like everybody brought two or three bikes. While there was an odd Mountain Bike or two, almost everybody was mounted on a decent cross bike. Full carbon, tubulars, top of the line stuff, even for beginners - people that were pinning their numbers on their bellies.
In all those bikes I found something that I just fell in love with. Unfortunately there's only one like it, and production of this super-bike isn't planned for sometime. It's made out of bamboo, with what looks like a lot of epoxy - or something - for lugs. Anyway, it was actually pretty cool. Calfee better his bamboo-bike-making ass watch out!
Well after a fun day of racing, it was on to celebrate the day of racing in Chicago. I wanted to see some real landmarks and make it a truly memorable day.
You can't visit Chicago without stopping at the World Famous Billy Goat Tavern, can you? It still smells like old Tribune Writers' urine.
The best place for Race-Recovery Oysters.
If you get a chance to try a Chicago Cyclocross Cup Race sometime, go for it. They are a lot of fun, and the Chicago people really know how to put on a party. There are lots of racers, and the competition is stiff, so pick your category carefully. Or not. Just go and have fun.