Hump day links
How many races this year came down to Kristen Meshberg (Flatlandia) and Devon Haskell (Team Get a Grip Cycles)? I count five: Meshberg was first to Haskell’s second at Grayslake, Sheboygan and at both days of Winfield. The order was reversed at the Proctor Criterium, our state championship. At numerous other races they finished in the top 5 together.
We learned about Haskell last December. For my latest interview with the stars of 2008, I caught up with Meshberg, 38, a stay-at-home mother of two who had a dynamite year, earning state championships for both road race and criterium in addition to excelling on the track. She also took her show on the road, hitting National Racing Calendar events in California and the prestigious Nature Valley Grand Prix in Minnesota.
For five years she’s been teaching Pedaling with a Purpose, a winter training class in Chicago and Westmont, and for two years she’s raced for Flatlandia. In 2009, however, a big change is in the works, one that could alter the complexion of women’s racing the Midwest
You did some early-season racing in California this year. How is the scene there different from Chicago? The scene out in California is that everyone is pro! `The best part of being on a club is that you don’t feel any pressure to get results. You can do what’s right for you to develop as a rider rather than worry about team results.’There’s better weather, and some really good topography out there. But we really do have a great cycling scene here in Chicago. Chicago is the place to be if you’re a crit rider!
Do you plan to go back in 2009? I am planning to race the 2009 Tour of California Women’s crit. It was supposed to be expanded to a three-day stage race, but we just got word that it’s back down to a one-day crit, which is a bummer. But I’m planning on staying a week and turning it into a training week. Going out there in February and coming off the trainers, it’s just good for training and fun to combine it with our NRC season opener.
What other goals do you have next year? I’m super excited about my new team for next year, “Team BH USA.” We’ve got some really great sponsors, including “The Bike Shop” in Glen Ellyn.
New team? Devon Haskell, two other just as fabulous women from Wisconsin, Anne Meyer (Mercy-Specialized) and Madeleine Puissant (IS Corp), and myself have created a four-person women’s team for next year.
Wow! It’s like your own personal all-star team. You and Haskell should be particularly formidable together. What are your goals with the squad? We plan to do most of the bigger races that are within driving distance of Chicago, but we hope do a handful of bigger races that we will travel to. Fitchburg in Massachusestts, Nature Valley in Minnesota and the Tour of California to name a few. “The Bike Shop” in Glen Ellyn is really supportive of women’s racing, as is BH Bikes and our other sponsors. They are committed to helping women get started in bike racing. This is also one of my personal missions. This year we needed to keep the team small since it’s our first year. Long-term we’d like to keep having a kick-ass elite team, but ultimately we’ll expand to include a developmental women’s squad fostering a fun environment where women can be supported and become better bike racers.
You were a messenger for awhile. What was it like back then? I loved it. It was probably one of the best times of my life. It was the first time I learned how independent and free the bicycle can make you. `[Messengering] was the first time I learned how independent and free the bicycle can make you.’I also learned how to ride hard. I did it for a year and a half so in messenger terms “one winter.” It was pre-Sept. 11, 2001, so compared to now I imagine there was probably a lot less security.
Who got into racing first: you or your husband? Jason got into racing first, in 1999. He kept trying to get me to race and I found out later it was mainly because he wanted me to come watch him. It took me about a year, but when I finally did start I was hooked immediately. Now he’s sorry.
Does the fact that both of you race make it easier or harder to juggle family and racing? It’s definitely harder to juggle two people racing when you have kids. But it helps that we both understand what it takes to bike race, and we try to help each other. The way we work it out is that I get the focus for the road season and Jason gets the focus for cross season.
Are your kids itching to race yet, or do they roll their eyes when they get dragged to yet another criterium? They do pretend to race when they are riding their bikes at home. On the way to the park from our house there’s a part where the sidewalk ends and you have to go on grass for a while. They call it “doing cyclocross” when they have to pick up their bikes. When she was 2, my daughter used to call her tricycle her “track bike.” I was so proud! They love to help clean the bikes and they are both pretty good with learning the tools. Right now they love going to the races, especially the velodrome. They love cheering, but mostly they love running around with the other kids on the infield. At the other races we do consider the environment as to whether or not we take the kids. Cross races are the best for the kids. As long as there’s a park they’re happy. St. Charles got an A+ for taking kids with the course being right by the playground. The industrial-park crit, not so ideal. I think as they get older their enthusiasm may wane, which is why I’m trying to pack it in now.
How did Flatlandia come about? The three founding fathers of Flatlandia
What are the tradeoffs of a being a “club” vs. being a “team”? The best part of being on a club is that you don’t feel any pressure to get results. You can do what’s right for you to develop as a rider rather than worry about team results. If you end up doing well, everyone’s just really happy for you. It’s a really supportive environment.
One tradeoff in my mind is that although you can’t offer sponsors space on your jerseys, you get to enjoy very clean, sponsor-free kits. I’ve always`There are so many strong women out there that would be fantastic bike racers but are afraid or don’t know how to start.’ been a fan of the Flatlandia look. Who designed it? I think you can credit Jason Wagner for the design and coming up with the name. We got a lot of compliments on it. But we did get some sponsors for last year: BH bikes and Hinsdale Orthopaedic Associates. BH bikes have been around in Europe but are fairly new to the U.S. They are awesome! And Hinsdale Orthopaedic is an incredible group of doctors (two of whom are crit-racing teammates) that unfortunately we bike racers need to see every so often.
What’s your favorite motivation or distraction while you’re putting in the winter base miles? Music? Movies? CBR archives? CBR archives of course! But I also watch race footage, listen to music, and honestly the people that come to Pedaling with a Purpose motivate me quite a bit. I couldn’t get through all those hours on the trainer without them, and that’s why I run the program.
Are there any races
What skills or strengths to you emphasize in your classes? I emphasize the importance of base miles and working within your zones. The most common mistake people make is thinking that they have to kill themselves 100 percent of the time on the bike. I also emphasize consistent training and positive thinking.
If a woman tells you she’s thinking about taking up bike racing, what’s your pitch? I say YES!!! I try to be very encouraging because I love racing and we need more women out there. It can be an intimidating sport to get into. I never would have started if my husband hadn’t been so encouraging. There are so many strong women out there that would be fantastic bike racers but are afraid or don’t know how to start. Also, people and women especially need to know that it usually takes a while to get good. So don’t give up just because you aren’t awesome right away.
Devon Haskell (Pony Shop) earned her latest stars-and-stripes jersey Sunday by winning the Div. II cyclocross race in Kansas City. Riding on behalf of the University of Chicago, this is her second national championship after winning on the road in May. Later in the day Haskell placed 14th in the elite women’s race.
Other riders who hit the top 10 this weekend: Wayne Simon (Verdigris) posted a 4th in the 50-54 race, Debbie Pielet (Alberto’s) placed 3rd in the women’s 50-54, Scott McLaughlin (SRAM) placed 4th in single-speed, Mike Sherer (Pony Shop) placed 5th in men’s Div. I, and Leah Sanda (Flatlandia) placed 7th in the women’s 40-44.
Racing in the Chicago Cuttin’ Crew’s first national championship, Adam Clark placed 21st in single-speed and 32nd in the 30-34, not far behind Mike hemme (Killjoy) in 25th. In the 35-39, state champion McLaughlin placed 11th. And finally in the 40-44, Brian Conant (Pony Shop) and Tim Boundy (Verdigris) were your top local finishers in 23rd and 28th, respectively, impressive given the enormous size of some of those fields: 115 in the 40-44 alone!
Update: Simon writes to note some other local results: David Lombardo (Verdigris) finished 18th in the 13-14 while Chris Lombardo (Verdigris) overcame a starting position of 95th to finish 15th in the 45-49. In that same race, Scott Arrigoni (Verdigris) finished 29th.
He adds: “Devon rocks. She will win this thing in the elites some year.
Update to the update: I should also tip the hat to Aspen Gorrey (Pony Shop), who also represented the University of Chicago to finish 14th in Div. II men after placing 19th in the U29 B race. And in the 17-18, Brandon Feehery (South Chicago Wheelmen) placed 29th.
Final udpate: How could I neglect our biggest cross enthusiast, Ben Popper (HRS/Rock Lobster)? He was Chicago’s top representative in the men’s elite race, finishing 38th. I’ll be looking forward to a race report at his blog. (Pony Shop’s Sherer was in the same race but crashed and hit his head ... or at least he thinks he did.)
Chicago is blessed with a thriving masters scene, good news for those of us who are late arrivals to the sport. Whether it’s former pro Robbie Ventura jumping into a race with his Vision Quest charges or Mark Swartzendruber (Lucas Oil) battling his rivals on Team Mack, the masters races are often the most exciting of any given day
One of the pillars of this scene has been Wayne Simon (Verdigris). The 50-year-old father of three daughters (“Three of my greatest teachers,” he says) owns his own industrial surge-suppressor company and has been racing since 1984. Twenty-five years later, Simon’s 2008 campaign was nothing short of astounding.
In July he won the masters national championship in the road race (50-54) and came in 2nd in the time trial. He had a defining year with the state championships, too. Simon won the state 50-54 time trial, posting the third-fastest time overall, and yesterday he won the 50+ cyclocross championship. In August he finished 2nd in the 50+ road race, narrowly missing out on a triple crown.
This week I caught up with Simon to learn more about his history with Chicago racing and to find out what it’s like to post up at a national championship.
How has racing in Illinois changed since you started?
I recall my first race being Bull Valley Road Race in the fall of 1984. Back then state championships doubled as national qualifiers. The top six to eight guys could go to the elite national road race. Same for the time trial. This was the only way to go to nationals, if you were not a national A or B team member.
The time trial was held on Saturday, followed by the road race Sunday. The road race was a minimum of 85 miles, and one year I seem to remember it being 107 miles. All categories
raced together for these qualifiers! Category 5 and masters did not exist. There was no ABR and only a small number of local races. Today you can race 60 races in a season without getting on a plane or driving across the country.
Verdigris has always been a bit of a mystery to me. All I know is that starting with last year’s cross season, guys in green (and a few gals) suddenly started toeing the start line
and almost without exception `The PYOC philosophy was simple: Always ride and train like pros though we were amateurs.’ finished at or near the front. What can you tell us about the team and how it came together?
Tim Boundy started Verdigris last year as a cyclocross-specific team. Most of the members live close to Barrington and train together during the week. Tim’s many years of cross and mountain-bike racing make him a great team leader. He had been working on me over the past few years to give cross a try, so last season I raced a few times on my MTB and really liked the discipline. I bought a cross bike and am now hooked. Thanks, Tim.
Previously you raced with PYOC, and PYOC is still part of your e-mail address. What does the “paddle your own canoe” ethos mean to you as far as cycling?
RRB/Carousel Linens was formed by Doug Close and the core racers from the RRB/VCR club about 1986. RRB owner Ron Boi was behind us 100 percent. The core members of this group evolved into PYOC. The philosophy was simple: Always ride and train like pros though we were amateurs, to focus on the details of correct pace lines and echelons, team time trial, pedal strokes, correct positions on the bike, and always racing as a team, not as individuals.
Doug was the training scientist coming up with concepts that always seemed to be cutting edge and well ahead of most training books. If you ride with myself, Mike Heagney (PYOC), Nels Hackl (PYOC), Tom Kalstrup (PYOC) or any of Doug’s lab rats, you can see the similarities in our riding styles today.
The training and racing I did on the bike over these few years formed the foundation of my cycling knowledge. I would not have the results today without the experience and generosity of these individuals, so a special thanks to the core PYOCian’s.
Do you consider yourself a roadie who races cross to wind down, or are you a CX guy who races road to warm up?
I am a roadie all the way! I just like to play in the dirt, though I believe cross has helped my time trial.
I don’t think I ever saw a report from your national championship in Kentucky. How did the finish play out? At what point did you realize you’d be putting on the Stars and Stripes?
With five miles remaining and one rider 40 seconds off the front, there were about 30 guys left and three short climbs to the finish, which was on the top of the third hill. I felt calm sitting in, waiting for the first most difficult hill in the circuit to launch my attack.
I spun quite a large gear for about 45 seconds, maybe 700w, and to my surprise a 10-second gap at the top `I stand up to keep the momentum, shift up a few teeth and at the 200-meter sign I make the catch still going fast!’ leaving me no choice but to continue full gas to the second climb. Now I can see Rob Anderson (Team Specialized Racing) going as hard as I can and at the top of the hill I was close, about 7 seconds, but the engine room was saying shut it down. I thought, “No way can I catch him.”
Looking back down the hill, there was no pack in sight. Now I have second for sure. Totally cool, but on the downhill I seemed to find that quick recovery and stomped the largest gear on the Trek, 54x11, to the base of the hill with the speedometer displaying 36 mph. OK, this is good.
As the 500-meter sign flies by I stand up to keep the momentum, shift up a few teeth and at the 200-meter sign I make the catch still going fast! Making sure I could not be caught at 40 meters, I let off the gas, sat up, putting my arms in the air and think: “You’re going to win the national road race. How did that happen?” I cannot believe it. This does not seem real. This day is truly a gift.
What are your expectations for this weekend’s cyclocross national championships in Kansas City?
I have no expectations. I have learned that is not realistic. Anything can happen, and I do not have control of most of those things.
I am prepared to battle as hard as I can, with a front-row starting position because of my 8th place finish from last year’s race. That gives me the opportunity to be close to 2007 winner Ned Overend (Specialized), at least on the starting line. There is a chance I could make the podium if all goes well. We will see. [UPDATE: Simon would go on to finish 4th in Kansas City.]
Once cross is over, what kind of break will you take before `My main goal is to enjoy every start. You never know how long a body will hold up.’getting ready for 2009?
Three weeks off the bike, let the body gain a pound or two, drink some wine, then hit the weight room hard after New Year’s.
What are your goals for 2009?
I have a few. Maybe do the Tour de Gila, and I will definitely return to Louisville for masters national championships. I look forward to the road race. The Louisville course suits me well, and I would like to ride a better time trial.
My main goal is to enjoy every start. You never know how long a body will hold up.
It’s 25 degrees and windy and you need to get in a three-hour ride: Do you go outside, or are you on the trainer?
Trainer every time. Got to love that Velodyne!
The Midwest Cycling Series, an 11-day, 10-race evolution of the formerly two-day Wisconsin Cycling Series, this morning announced four of the Wisconsin venues for its June 10-28 event: Fond du Lac, Sheboygan, Manitowoc and the fabled Downer Avenue course in Milwaukee. All four have been locations for Superweek races, and many consider Downer Avenue to be Superweek’s crown jewel.
The MCS also announced that Jack Hirt (Velo Trocadero) will be executive director.
The implications are unclear. Does this preclude the sites from being Superweek races, too? And will the Midwest Cycling Series expand to Illinois?
What’s not unclear is whether this is a shot across Superweek’s bow. Not only is it a shot across the bow, but it’s a grappling hook over the rail and a smart rap on the captain’s quarters. Indeed, take a look at the five bullet points the MCS promises riders: 1. Full range of fields; 2. Large purses; 3. Affordable entries; 4. On-time races; 5. Full support of the Wisconsin Cycling Association and USAC. Whether MCS can follow through on these promises remains to be seen, but these points seem crafted to address complaints riders have had with Superweek.
Twice in the past hour people have e-mailed me to tell me they’d heard that Superweek was no more. This is the first I’ve heard that rumor and my inclination is to discount it. Superweek certainly faced some difficulties in 2008, but in August, Breakaway Event Productions had already announced 2009 dates that included one extra day of racing.
I’ve solicited more information from both series. I’ll update this post as there is more information to report.
UPDATE: Breakaway Event Productions’ Andy Garrison writes to confirm that Superweek is still on for 2009, and that Downer Avenue is still scheduled for Saturday, July 25. He points out that the other Wisconsin sites named today haven’t been part of Superweek for several years. He says Superweek has focused on sites closer to Milwaukee and Chicago that he says draw more riders and spectators.
“We will continue to provide the highest quality racing as in the past,” Garrison says. “We will continue to improve things and make them better. We wish the Midwest races the best, and feel that if they do well it will enhance cycling for all of us.”