Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Volunteering at Monsters

Just in case you still don't know, the club is putting on its annual race, the Monsters of the Midway, on Saturday May 17. As always, we will need a ton of volunteers to run the event.

I have set up a schedule so that people can sign up for a volunteering slot. I sent an e-mail to the club's list a while ago, inviting you to sign up. You just have to click on the link in that e-mail, and that will take you to a Google Docs document that you can edit.

I believe that you need a Google account to edit it. If you don't have one and don't want to open one, send me an e-mail and tell me what times you're available. I'll sign you up.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Dope Socks

So with all the seriousness floating around, I figured now would be a good time to remind everyone why we ride bikes - to look hot. Check these:

Yeah, I know, this doesn't have anything to do with anything and the only doping ever undertaken by UCVC members has been of the decidedly non-performance-enhancing variety, but these socks are so awesome I just had to share them with the world.

Meeting place and other stuff

One of the ideas that somebody proposed the other day is that we should meet at Ratner for our rides. There are reasons for meeting there, and there are also reasons for meeting at Istria or somewhere closer to the lake. I won't get in that discussion now.

I just want to give that idea a fair chance. So for the next few days I'll be calling rides that will start at Ratner. I'll be speaking with people, collecting their opinions about the issue, and gathering a sense of what people, or at least the ones who actually come to the rides, think. I'll get back to you when I've done that.

We did this today for the first time and we had a group of three, including myself. Admittedly, it was very cold.

Next ride: tomorrow (Wednesday April 30), at 6.30am

Of course everyone is free to do whatever they want. All I'm asking is some collaboration from you for the next ten days or so and that you make an effort to meet me at Ratner instead of Istria.

(I'll be totally accommodating at those rides: I'll never leave anyone behind, and if everyone who shows up is strong, I'll go as fast as they wanna go.)

Another idea that someone pitched was calling rides through a club calendar. Ben created a calendar months ago, and nobody seems to be using it. Again, to give the idea a fair chance, I've put the calendar on the club's website (last option in the menu). Everyone can see it. And you can post a ride if you know the user name and password. (I'll send them by e-mail.) For the next couple of days I'll post the ride on the calendar and will announce it by e-mail. After that, only on the calendar. After ten days or so we'll see what we think.

By the way, I gave a little botox to the club's website--just the main page. It looks neater. We will have a brand new website by the end of the summer. We can't neglect this, it's the face of the club in the world.

Today's article in the Maroon

And here's our article in the Maroon:

Newly competitive velo club qualifies for D-II Nationals
By Sheridan Lardner

In what has proven to be a breakout year, the University of Chicago Velo Club has raced out of obscurity, ahead of the competition, and into the top tiers of the nation.

Comprised of members from across the University community, the “Velo,” or cycling, club enjoyed its first big year in the spotlight. Taking first place in the 2008 Division II Midwest Conference, the team ended years of dominance by its archrival DePauw University. With the gold fresh in hand, the club has now set its sights higher, sending three of its top racers to the D-II National Championships May 9 to 11. In only a few weeks, these elite athletes will head out to Colorado to continue the group’s push for glory.

Broken down into two parts, the club’s season sees cyclists training for both road and off-road events. Before classes even begin, the group hits the trails from August to October. Taking a short break for the winter, cycling then picks up its competition schedule in February. During both seasons, the club takes on the Midwest Collegiate Cycling Conference (MWCCC), a collection of colleges vastly different from the normal UAA fare. With races held everywhre from the University of Wisconsin to the University of Missouri, the team faces a number of Big Ten schools including Michigan and Ohio State.

Leading off the competition is DePauw University, a fast club with an impressive record on the roads. Last year, DePauw took first in the 2006–2007 MWCCC Championships, beating out Chicago yet again to keep up a five-year running tradition. The team went on to take third place in the nation, with cyclists placing in the top ten across the board.

Despite its past dominance, DePauw was seeing different colors during this year’s finals, facing a decisive defeat that gave Chicago the title. This upset was mostly due to the performances by three Chicago racers, economics graduate students Devon Haskell and Aspen Gorry and anthropology student Carly Schuster. All three of these racers were integral to the victory over DePauw and will be representing the school at Nationals.

“I think the most important factor in beating DePauw were the improvements in Devon’s racing, who won every race she took part in,” club president Francisco Torralba said. “A teammate of mine once described her performance at one particular race as ‘like something out of a cartoon.’”

Always a strong racer, Haskell has leapt ahead of the pack this season. Back in 2005, former graduate student Todd Yezefski won the criterium race at Nationals, the first University cyclist to attain such an honor. Graduating at the end of that year, Yezefski went on to become a professional cyclist, leaving Chicago without any top notch athletes of its own to replicate his achievements. This was not to last. Beginning in 2007, Haskell filled in Yezefski’s spot. In one year, she went from being a simple competitor in the B category to dominating her opponents in the A. With her performances this year exceeding even those of last, it would be no surprise for her to grow out of Yezefksi’s shoes.

“This year Devon has been a racing machine. The races where she participated became boring, because there was no contest. It is likely that she makes the top three at Nationals. It would not be surprising at all if she wins,” Torralba said.

Joining Haskell at Nationals will be teammates Gorry and Schuster. These racers too have blasted out of their old categories, taking their races from the B to the A level in one short year. No matter how they do at Nationals, all three athletes will have another full year at Chicago to improve even more.

Team development has been a main theme this year, with the club growing substantially larger than in previous seasons. One of the team-building strategies has been its training program, a grueling 15-mile route from 57th Street down to 72nd. Practicing through the frigid Chicago winter has definitely helped the group improve, and its performance against DePauw showed this.

“We recruited a lot of new members in the fall, and we stuck together through the cold. Many of the guys are relatively new to cycling, but we hope they’ll stick around and grow as racers,” Torralba said.

Once Nationals are in the bag, Velo will be right back in the races at the Monsters of the Midway Criterium. Organized by the club since the early 1990s, the race sends cyclists on a 1.25-mile circuit around the Midway. Depending on the event and bracket, the competitors will race for anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes, with the first person across the finish line winning it all. The race attracts in excess of 400 participants of all levels from the Chicago area. In the past, the club has not placed well in its own event, although given the new heights Velo has reached, perhaps this will be its year.

No matter how Velo performs at Nationals or in the Monsters Criterium, this will certainly be a landmark year for cycling. With records set and expectations broken, the Velo Club has raised the bar for years to come. Given the group’s current path, no one will be surprised if it’s raised even more.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Article in the Maroon

I got us an article in the Chicago Maroon tomorrow.

I had a loooong e-mail "interview" with the writer (a questionnaire, actually). I told the writer about the "internal debate" we're having and gave him a copy of our "club conversation," complete with names. I thought it would make the article a lot more interesting. (Just kiddin', people, just kiddin'...)

They promised us another article in a couple of weeks, when Devon wins Nationals. I'm not sure if they'll write about Monsters this week or after Nationals.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Moving Up

I have neglected writing race reports at the end of the season so I thought I would post a recap. To race in the road race at nationals, the rules require racing in the A race for the regionals weekend and at one other road race during the season. I was able to move up just in time to race in the A field at the Purdue road race. As Carly detailed in her report the weather was perfect for race day. When I moved from category C to B last year, I proceeded to get dropped in each of my B races for the rest of the year. I was nervous about making the jump as the gap between the B field and A field is even more significant. Going into the race my big goal was to just finish with the field. With this strategy I found a spot in the middle of the field and hung on for the first 3 times up the hill as the pace was fast. After the first few laps a large break went off the front with nearly all of the strongest riders. After this the pace settled down and we just rode out the rest of the race with no big changes of pace. Once the break went, the race was almost boring and I found that I wished to be in the move working harder. The biggest difference in the A race was that the moves off the front went fast. I learned that to be a factor in the race I would have to be near the front when the move went off. In this field I was no longer strong enough to make up for bad position.

With a few lessons learned, my goal for the 80 mile regionals road race was to see if I could position myself to make it into a break. Since I was the only person on the team, I planned to try to mark the moves of the few riders who had been most successful during the early season road races that I had seen. During the first few laps I kept at the front of the pack and watched as the attacks went. Unfortunately, nothing that I went with stuck and a group of 4 went off the front during the first lap. I thought that it would eventually come back so I tried to stay near the front and hoped that my legs would be ready for a counter move if they were reeled in. They never came back. The pace for the race was much faster than I expected and I was again happy to make it to the finish with the field after only 3 hours and 22 minutes in the saddle. Major props to those in the break who were able to stay away with such a high pace.

Sunday was another story. The hard winter took a large toll on the roads in downtown Madison and the seams in the middle of the road were deep pits. As the criterium started at a torrid clip, I found myself in bad position near the back and heard the loud bangs of tires popping as racers couldn't avoid the potholes in the turns. I quickly lost the mental discipline to move up through the pack and was shed from the race. Overall, the weekend gave me a good insight into how much I have progressed as a racer and showed me the things that I still need to work on. Racing in the faster races showed that I have the strength to keep up during the long races, but still have a ways to go in my jumps out of corners and technical skills in fast cornering situations in the pack. I am excited to develop these skills during the summer racing season.

The final race of the collegiate season will be Collegiate Road Nationals in Fort Collins, CO in two weeks. During the summer, Devon and I will be racing for Team Get A Grip Cycles. Rumor also has it that many of the the collegiate riders will be racing for the new team in the neighborhood. Look for Orange on the path in the near future!

Conference Champions!!

Conference championships are determined from points scored by doing well at the collegiate races throughout the season.  While we had a lot of point scorers this year, many others contributed to the UCVCs successful season.  From our enthusiastic "newbies" to our wise veterans, the club's supportive "old guys" (sorry :)), the new shop in town, and all our sponsors.  Congrats to all!!

A conversation about the club

lalalalala... we are such a happy club... lalalalalala... we all like our club... lalalalalalala...

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Monsters is out there

For future reference, these are the links that provide the most visits to our Monsters 2008 webpage:

1. Chicago Bike Racing

2.True Sport

3. ABR

I also got us listed on Velo News, Chicago Athlete
and Time Out Chicago (this last one I don't know for sure).

We're working on having a piece written about us on the Chicago Maroon and the Hyde Park Herald.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Regionals Recap #1

Its hard living in Chicago when you really love riding your bike over hills.  This weekend, Carly and I escaped the flatness and headed to WI for some hilly fun with the UCVC crew.  

The women's A road race was 5 loops around a hilly 10-mile circuit with a steep uphill finish.  The pack stayed together for the first loop and despite this being Carly's 2nd A's race, she showed her racing smarts by positioning herself right near the front of the pack (but not in the wind!).  On the second lap, we approached a series of hills on the backstretch and Carly and I were leading the pack.  I was eager to hammer on the hills and pushed hard up them.  I managed to get a gap on the field and a Michigan rider bridged with and IU rider close behind.  We quickly started to work together and continued to open our gap, while Carly remained strong in the main pack.  Soon the IU rider slowed her pace and the Michigan rider and I were left to finish 3 more laps on our own.  We worked well together for most of the three laps, pushing hard up the hills and keeping a good pace on the flats.  With a couple miles to go, we eased up a bit and rode side by side knowing that the race would come down to an uphill sprint.  Michigan rider turned to me and said "you are going to take the sprint"... I wasn't sure if she was really feeling tired or if this was some sort of secret psychological tactic :)  Either way, I was ready for an all-out uphill sprint.  The finish came and it was clear that my cheering section was vastly superior to the Michigan crew - this gave me enough of a burst to get a UCVC win - thanks guys!  

Shortly after, Carly "Seahorse" Schuster arrived with a shredded main pack.  She didn't have the turbo boost that she hoped for on the last uphill.  But she finished her 2nd A's race and longest race ever in the top half of the field!  

The next day our crew headed out early for a team time trial on some more hills (yay!).  Carly and I were the last of the UCVC to set out on the 10 mile out and back (and out and back) course.  We set a good pace and worked together really well.  It was fun to see our guys D-team and women's B-team crushing it on the course as we crossed paths with them.  Carly and I managed to pass the 2-person team ahead of us, but just got caught by the strong 4-woman IU crew right before the finish line and couldn't quite beat the time of our guys (next time!!).

The crit was later in the day on a course that circled the capital building in downtown Madison.  It would have been a super fun course if we didn't have a maze of potholes to navigate around.  Our race started off pretty fast and furious.  Unfortunately a cramp took Carly out early (better than getting taken out by a pothole!!).  But she wasn't out of the race - she joined the superior UCVC cheering section on the backside of the course.  I worked a lot at the front of the race and was pretty successful on the prime laps - ended up taking 3rd in the sprint.  All in all, a good day. 

We had a lot of memorable performances this weekend: from Paige carrying on Carly's tradition of setting her own course at the regionals road race, Zac's styling argyle socks, Araba becoming a Crit-racing machine, Aspen's epic road race, Jesse crushing the prime sprint (and Bernard crushing the laps right before the primes), Ari's spectacular finish... and much much more... hopefully their stories are to come!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

UCVC jersey circa 1990

Craig Gartland bought this jersey from Ed DesJardins (then the UCVC president) in 1990. He had just arrived to Chicago from UC Santa Barbara where he had taken up cycling after failing as a rower. At that time, collegiate cycling was just starting in the Western states and may not have even spread to the Midwest.

When asked by Ed what category he was, Craig replied:
"I am a 2."
"You raced in California?"
"Then you are a REAL 2."

Craig ended up winning the Monsters of the Midway making him one of only two UCVCers known to me to have won our home race (photo #2).

Craig also won the huge Chicago International Cycling Challenge on 9/25/1993 (now defunct, sort of revived this year) after a late solo attack in the rain (photo 3).

"I was racing Cat. 3 in the early '90s for UCVC and this was a big win for me (I think I took home over $300). It was right downtown around Buckingham Fountain. Like the Monsters of the Midway Race of '91, I soloed, this time with 2 laps to go. In the rain. Lots of crashes that day."

The pros race later in the day featured Laurent Fignon and Gianni Bugno, whose Gatorade team must have been paid huge appearance fees.

"In the "team" photo (next) with me are: Scott Anderson (left) and Paul Sklena. Scott was from Vancouver and had raced track and road up there since he was a kid. A strong rider. Paul is now a pediatrician in Ohio. Paul's claim to fame on the UCVC was as a track sprinter. In '93 (I believe) he qualified for and competed in the USCF National Track Championships (Minn., MN). Note the next evolution of the UCVC kit on the middle guy (and note the early incarnation of the UCVC logo). That is your '93 jersey. Also note the down tube shifters."

"This is important stuff! I have great memories of it all. I have even found a couple of Maroon articles about the MoM race from '91 and '93. In the '91 article they said my victory "saved the day" for the UCVC. Too much."

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Jerseys of the UCVC: A Retrospective and Critique

In a previous post Devon provided a picture of a UCVC jersey from the late 1980s and early 1990s. I thought that I would give a retrospective of the years that followed.

The UCVC Rises Again (c. 1995-1999).

In the mid-1990s, Greg Munson (formerly a student in Assyriology, but who eventually graduated from the College of Medicine) and two other students discovered that the University of Chicago used to have a cycling club (the University of Chicago Velo Club=UCVC). They decided to reactivate the club and gather up former members (Craig Gartland, Tim Belton) of the defunct UCVC of previous years. Munson also reintroduces the Monsters of the Midway Criterium on the University of Chicago's Midway Plaisance. A long and solid partnership is established when American Bicycle Racing provides a generous grant to get the race off the ground. During this period, Monster's draws some of the biggest names in Midwestern cycling, including the Trek women's regional team, and members of the US Postal Service, and features as the Illinois State Championship.

Munson and company were fans of Laurent Jalabert and had Voler create a jersey based on the ONCE team uniforms. They incorporate ONCE's yellow and black color scheme, and create a UCVC logo to imitate the ONCE logo. The jersey includes the University's of Chicago's phoenix and crest, but the choice of yellow instead of maroon starts a debate for years to come.

Most riders are new to the sport and poor. Their base layers consist of cotton waffle-knit long johns. Emory Creel rides in the liner of a hockey helmet.

Team leaders: Greg Munson, some Asian dude, Emory Creel.

The Biemme Debacle (2000-2004).

With the increased team membership and Craig Gartland's interest in getting a skinsuit, the team switches jersey manufacturers from Voler to Biemme. The decision to use Biemme as a manufacturer was a mistake that the team management regrets for several years. Biemme misses production and shipping deadlines by several months and cannot maintain basic quality. They promise to color match the jerseys from previous years, but cannot even come close. Some jerseys have strange red spots in them.

Towards the end of this period, Biemme ships an order that is beyond horrible. The color from previous years is of a completely different shade of yellow, the logos have been shrunk by 50%, and the design elements do not reflect the final approved proofs. The fabric also has a strange metallic sheen. Some jerseys arrive without finished pockets (i.e., instead of three separate rear pockets there is just one enormous pocket). Biemme claims that they "mixed their colors wrong" and will give the UCVC a discount on their next order, but eventually stops answering calls and e-mails.

The Monsters of the Midway race experiences two years of tough weather that impacts its financial well being. During one particular year riders face 30-40 mph wind gusts and rain that push riders into the ditch and blow race barriers all over the course. Despite the difficult times, the UCVC leadership manages to squirrel away funds for a rainy day. Team racers are still required to pay their own expenses.

Racing highlights:
1. The team enters into its first MWCCC race
2. Gold medal state time trial championship
3. Victory in Superweek's Lakefront road race.
4. The team finally has enough members to order shorts.
5. The first female racers start riding for the team: Jen Robinson (alumnus) and Debbie MacDougall (grad-anthropology) from Erie, PA.
6. 9th place Collegiate Ironman National Championships.
7. Riders are finally capable of achieving 25 mph on the lakefront path.

Team leaders: Greg Munson, Eric Norstrom, Jon Tenney, Kent, Jean-Jacques Cabou, Sam Yount, Craig Gartland.

Stay away from Biemme. Any company that takes full payment for a product, sight unseen, produces a beyond inferior product, and then refuses to remedy the problem is extremely unethical and should not be allowed to conduct business. They are a bad, bad, bad manufacturer. Several riders complained that you could see people's butts through the back panel of the shorts when they sweat. My response would be that everyone has a butt and that butts sweat when you exercise, regardless of the color of lycra used to cover them. Newbies liked the big, cushy pad in the shorts, but they cause mad saddle sores after 33 miles.

On a positive note, Biemme was one of the only companies at the time that would make some of the more exotic clothing items (like tights), and their ATEX winter coat was beyond warm. I also really liked their European sizing, which fits thinner and taller people better.

A NCCA National Championship Victory (2004-05).

The UCVC returns to Voler to manufacture their jerseys, beginning nearly five years of ordering bliss. Voler never misses a single deadline, has consistent colors and never, ever makes a mistake.

The team also acquires its first product sponsorships, Orbea, Reynolds, Look, Rudy Project, and Sidi.

The University tightens its control over club funds and makes it nearly impossible to pay for vendors and services for the team and the Monsters of the Midway. In the first year after this policy change, Patrick Meyers is forced to put the entire up-front cost of the race on his credit card. On a positive note, Student Government increases Sports Club funds and the team leadership is allocated a few hundred dollars to cover race expenses.

Monsters has a few years of nice weather. ABR is rewarded for its safety record and is able to reduce the per rider insurance costs for its promoters. Monsters is able to stay on stable financial ground. USCF continues to increase its fees.

A small core of racers circulate e-mails amongst themselves to keep slower riders and one poisonous ex-girlfriend from showing up on their rides.

Team Leaders: Todd Yezefski, Jon Tenney, Eric Nortstrom, Joel Roth, Tim Belton, Craid Gartland, Megan Myrick, Andrew Nicholson, Patrick Meyers.

Racing highlights:
1. NCCA National Criterium Championship Victory
2. 2nd place National Collegiate Ironman Triathlon Championships

The design is still yellow and black, done mostly to appease members who already owned clothing from the previous year. It is not a terribly inventive design, and is basically the same as that used in 1997. Riders still complain about the back panel of the shorts.

The Last Yellow Jersey (2006).

2006 was the last gasp of the yellow jersey. Essentially a continuation of previous years with more prominent display of some sponsors, including Get A Grip Cycles and Orbea.

2006 marked a significant split in the activities of the team. The club splits among 2 parties: the collegiate racing team and recreational riders (mostly U of C staff and faculty who ride sweet bikes) who start their own 60-mile ride to northern Indiana. Faculty and staff generally take over the running of Monsters (Joel Roth, Tim Belton, Patrick Meyers), while the collegiate team just sucks up funds and races on Monsters weekend. Things come full circle when the recreational riders start their own e-mail list to keep the racers from disrupting their ride.

The team finally reveals its rainy day fund to the Sports Club Office.

Team leaders: Jon Tenney, Todd Yezefski, Megan Myrick, Franciso Torralba, Joel Roth, Tim Belton, Kevin Covey.

1. 2nd place NCCA National Championship Road Race
2. The start of the Schererville ride.
3. Joel Roth starts racing cyclocross.
4. Monsters features the largest Category 4 field ever seen.
5. The team no longer has any triathlete members, marking the UCVC as a true road racing team,

It is still yellow. The design at this point is beyond boring.

A Good Team Kit is Like A Good Essay (2007).

After years of battling with the powers of conservatism, the UCVC management manages to change the basic color scheme of the jersey. Significant changes bring the jersey more in line with the themes and mentality of the University of Chicago, including replacing the UCVC logo of the 1990s with the Maroon "C", and lettering that reflects the University's own design.

Notable is the back panel of the jersey, prominently displaying the team's association with the biological science division.

The color change is made in relative secret by just a few student members from the collegiate racing team. A portion of the club feels hoodwinked and betrayed.

New leadership spends all of the money saved by the previous membership in a single year. The riders who were involved in saving the money (Norstrom, Roth, Munson, etc...) never get to enjoy it.

1. First MWCCC victory in women's field
2. Schererville ride grows in popularity.

Team leaders: Francisco Torralba, Joel Roth, etc.

This kit reflects the high standards of quality that the University tries to instill in its students. It also argues that the same qualities that go into a good essay are the same as should be used to design a cycling uniform. These qualities are: 1) all of the components must form a comprehensive unit; 2) simpler is always better; 3) fonts should be consistent; 4) contrast, contrast, contrast; and 5) proofread. Drafts, as my mentor told me long ago, should be proof read by crusty old men with high standards who examine things with a hard nose and a jaundiced eye. Commentary such as "I like it, "its good," "wow," make a person feel good but ultimately reinforce the mediocrity of early drafts.

This design also managed to use simple colors in a manner that made for a very striking image. Most notably is the very simple rendition of the university phoenix in white (on the shorts and long sleeves, not really shown here). It was pretty dope. Plus, the entire kit was distinct in both the regional (MWCCC) and National Championships, which is something that the previous design failed to achieve. Nobody ever complemented our jerseys until we came out with this one, but it happened a lot last year. For example, during the NCCA National Championship Criterium, an entire family picked me out from the 100+ racers and adopted me strictly for my team kit and silver shorts, screams of "Go, Chicago!" encouraging me lap after lap (I guess they could read the font). In fact, the son asked me to sign and give him my race numbers after the race was over. It didn't matter to him that I only lasted for 50 minutes of the race, and that it was still going on while I was signing the numbers.

Notable negatives include the fact that the maroon color is really red (everyone thought that we were getting maroon based on the proofs, but this could have easily been altered in the next batch), some of the black type does not standout on the gray background, and that the silver lycra of the shorts shows sweat (once again the butt obsession comes to the fore). However, cycling is cool because you get to wear the super hero outfits that you never could sport in the office. Nothing screams superhero (or prostitute) like silver pants.

Finally Maroon (2008).

In 2008, club leadership decided to change manufacturers to Champ-sys because it is slightly cheaper than its competitors. It is a relative newcomer to the cycling clothing field, has a very limited in-house design team, and its production is done in China.

A real cycling shop enters the Hyde Park neighborhood. Tati brings a much needed influx of Keirin/Retro/Portland style to the UCVC.

More victories in the MWCCC than we can count.

Team leaders: Francisco Torralba, Devon Haskell, Carly Schuster, Dan Houle, Aspen Gorry.


Champ-Sys used a very heavy lycra and a double layer of fabric on the back panel of its shorts, which hopefully will eliminate the decade-long butt sweat debate. They also incorporate a nice cell phone/i-pod pocket into the shoulder straps of its bib shorts. The pad is acceptable, but some complained of saddle sores. In terms of construction, it is a good value, but they screwed up the arm warmers and failed to make some items.

The triumph of this jersey is that it finally includes maroon (but not as the primary color). From a design standpoint, however, it has problems. It has an inconsistent design between the jersey and the shorts, the weird use of red and yellow next to maroon, way too many logos (including two different bike shops), and a manufacturer that can't provide the crisp lines as its competitors. The image of the white phoenix doesn't work , the font colors on the side of the jersey do not match the same lettering as on the shorts (black vs. white), the logos on the shoulder panel are odd, and the rear pockets are just a solid block of black which looks really bad on jackets and vests without pockets. It is not up to the standards of the University of Chicago, and I feel like I am wearing bad grammar when I ride in it. The biggest negative, however, is that the entire package is invisible in the MWCCC peloton.

A better move would have been to stick with the compositionally excellent Voler design from the previous year and just swap out the accidental red color with a true maroon and turn some of the U of C font from black to white (since the official U of C colors are maroon and white).

What are the themes of the second incarnation of the UCVC? The first is that constitutionally, the students hold the reigns of power and have consumed more and more resources as their racing has grown in strength and success. The non-racing component shoulders the greatest burden of the team, the Monsters of the Midway, but they have little voice in the direction of the entire club. These two components have different reasons for riding their bikes, and they started to grow further apart sometime after the Biemme years. The saving grace seems to be the cyclocross season wherein elements of both sides can come together. Other themes include the battle between the team and the Sports Club bureaucracy, the difficulty in introducing and maintaining the club's female membership, that there is a weird obsession with fannies, and that designing a good cycling jersey is a difficult task. Lastly, the great nemesis is really the Chicago weather.

Saturday, April 12, 2008


Monsters are coming to the Midway... on May 17!!! Save the date!

UCVC will need tons of people to set up the race, tear it down, and keep it running. Based on previous years, we need a minimum of 15 people for setup, and 10-12 people at any point in time during the race to keep it running smoothly. The club will reward all volunteers with lunch and a UCVC T-shirt.

I have created a public schedule so that people can sign up as volunteers for Monsters. Anyone in the UCVC e-mail list can sign up for a task in the available time slots. Signing up is important because the race organizers need to make sure that we have enough people at any point in time during the race. If you are racing and helping with the race, don't forget to allocate enough time for warm-up, cool-down, etc.

Old School

Here is what our jersey looked like back in the early '90's (92 or 93 perhaps). Notice the Monsters of the Midway Logo on the left - pretty neat! Anybody else out there have pics of jerseys from back in the day??

Monday, April 7, 2008

Jesse's Minor Repair

Marian crit/Purdue road race--Women's race report

Sunshine!!! Spring!!! We were all pretty excited at the prospect of taking advantage of the warm weather, riding outdoors, and getting to work on those lovely bike-short tan lines that have nearly faded from last year.

The Marian criterium was held on the campus of Marian college--a very cycling-centric school (they have their own Honda Element team car...swanky!), which promised much enthusiasm and a big crowd for the race. We decided to drive down to Indianapolis the morning of the race rather than stay in the area (an 11am start time made this seem like a good plan at the time)...but we were all a bit sleepy as we piled bikes and gear into cars at 5:15am. The super-technical crit course was enough to shake the sleep out of us, though--the course wound downhill through a series of pathways on campus towards two sharp right-hand turns, ending with two windy slightly-uphill straightaways on the way to the start/finish. For the women's team, Araba was up first. The Women's B field almost immediately was strung out through the turns as riders grouped together in small clumps of 2-5. Araba found a Marian rider to work with through the race, and they finished midway in a big and competitive field.

I was up next for the Women's A race (saying goodbye to teammates Paige and Araba in Women's B is hard!), and I was a bit nervous about the quicker and more experienced field of riders. The group at the start line was HUGE--and dominated by 8 Indiana University riders, 5 Marian riders, and at least another 5 Wisconsin riders. Having these big teams in the field meant that they would almost certainly determine just about every aspect of the race, so I was hoping to just sit in and see how things shook out. But no dice! The field soon split into a front group of about 10 riders and a larger chase pack behind. The front group sure didn't want to let me just sit in the pack, so I found myself at the back and sprinting hard out of each turn in order to catch back on. One gap too many and I dropped back about 10 ft and found myself with a few other solo riders in no-mans-land between the front group and the chase. It's so hard to see that wheel a mere 5ft in front of you...but...just...can't...get...there...ouweeee! I decided that I would try to catch back on with the front pack--I was making up ground through the corners so, pedaling hard, I thought that pushing it through the technical downhill would give me a chance to bridge the gap and catch the leaders. seemed to be a good idea at the time--until I started pedaling through the sharpest turn too early, caught my pedal and my bike slid out from under me. A DNF (did not finish), some good road rash and a bent dérailleur hanger to show for my foolish heroics.

Both Araba and I were looking forward to the Purdue road race, though Araba was a bit nervous about a steep climb that race coordinators affectionately dubbed "the wall." The course began with a sharp descent that turned into a gentle rolling climb. Crossing a bridge, the road suddenly appears to go straight up...Up...UP in front of you (and all you can think is "mayday!!! downshift!!!"). After struggling up the wall, the road continues for another mile or two of flat country roads bisected by murderous cross-winds, and finally back towards the descent, with the finish line being at the top of the wall. Despite her nerves, Araba did a fantastic job! Spectators reported that nearly half of the Women's B field dismounted their bikes and pushed them up the hill, but Araba said that her pride wouldn't stand for it and spun up the grade on each of the 4 laps. She found a Milwaukee rider to work with and they finished the race tired but still firmly in the saddle (no cleats harmed trudging up the hill!).

My race started off at a comfortable pace but I was having a really hard time finding a good place in the large group. Riders continually moved around in the pack, trying to move towards the front, find teammates, and position themselves well for when the attacks would inevitably come. I kept thinking to myself that I should move up, but easier said than done as riders jostle their way up the sides and elbow in to the pack. Sure enough, on the second lap up the wall some riders went in an all out sprint. I was way too far back in the group to catch them and ended up again in between the smaller breakaway group and ahead of the chase pack (groan!). Luckily, another rider was right behind me and we worked together well in the flat sections. Unfortunately, the larger chase group (not climbers, but strong in the pummeling cross-winds) caught our little breakaway each time on the descent. After the third trip up the hill (and caught on the backside), we decided that we shouldn't try to stay away and save our energy for the 6th and final hill sprint--or maybe we were happy to have some help pulling into the wind! This was the right move since I finished strong in the chase group in the final grueling effort up the wall--I definitely don't have the physique of a sprinter...unless the sprint is up a 20% grade!

It was great to have such a large crew at the race--it made pulling the corgis apart when they got into tug-o-war fights over their bungee leashes much easier! We of course missed Devon (who was leading UCVC to national fame and glory in a stage race at Redlands CA). Again, I'll let the boys narrate the story of their own triumphs, but congratulations especially to our newer racers for their outstanding results!