[DeMong Report] My USGP Experience: tips from the pros, man stamps and mud


This is a chronicle or more a smattering of my USGP Cyclocross weekend. I haven't raced any Cross outside Chicago and really wanted to tackle some tough national caliber races this year, especially with Nationals and Master's Worlds being well within a drive this year. I loaded up the car last week and headed North to Madison for the USGP Cyclocross races. My goal was to race a tough course and figuratively get my butt kicked to become a better rider. Little did I know that figuratively would turn into literally in the first lap of my first race but I'll save that for later.

Friday Pre-Ride:

Friday started with a pre-ride of the course, which helped calm the nerves a bit, knowing what to expect on game day. The cool part about cross was that this pre-ride was everyone, so at the same time this middling cat 3 was battling his technical inabilities, the pros were also riding. I think that is one of the coolest things about bike racing, especially cross: you compete on the same course as the pros do and there are quite a few opportunities to interact with them. I have really struggled in the past with bike handling, one of the things that I try to do when pre-riding is try to follow folks that know what they are doing. On Friday, this took the form of Pro woman Kathy Sherwin from the Stan's No-Tubes team. I rode behind her for a few laps (I did let her know I was stalking her because I am a terrible bike handler), she laughed and welcomed me as her shadow. She was really helpful and gave this extreme amateur quite a few tips including some tire pressure tips that I would employ on Sunday.

Race 1 Saturday:

The conditions for Saturday's 2/3 race were dry and a little tacky from the morning dew. The course itself had some really long tempo sections on the flat upper section with a few technical pieces. The lower section had more off camber and a run up that was steep and unforgiving. I started about 6 rows back as I didn't register as early as I wanted to. As with most cross races, the start was a scrum and quite sketchy as it was on pavement in a pack of folks not necessarily in the right speed order. I wasn't aggressive enough from the gun and moved back a few places (my moving back in the pack would become a theme of the day). Once I found some clear air I was able to move up a little and I tried to break last in the corners to move past the slower folks. The race still was pretty packed together and as we entered a technical section, some Yahoo (read: D-Bag) plowed through apex of the corner knocking people everywhere. I took the worst of it and went down, really hard. At the time I didn't realize it but I was run over with the riding driving leaving a nice 7 inch tire mark on my tramp stamp area (no offense to those who have that tattoo, I'm sure it looks awesome). Mine however, hurts. I lost about 10 places and jumped right back on. The following lap was hard as I whacked my knee pretty good in the crash and it was starting to swell. I regained my rhythm at the start of lap 2 and was riding well, I was able to follow wheels and move up. Around one of the turns the guy I was following went down and I in turn, went down on top of him. The funny part was I couldn't liberate my Cronus (read: awesome new trek bike) from the carnage and each time I tried to pull it away I ended up further on top of the man. So after 2-3 humps of some very gentle kind middle aged man, I was finally back riding again. This didn't become humorous until later as the second crash really took the wind out of my sail for the day. The next lap was pain and annoyance but I did manage to ride it out cleanly. At that point, I just concentrated on riding technically sound, I wasn't going to win anything but needed something to focus on to get me through. It was like the feeling when the pack rides away from you and you just don't have the legs.

By the time I got back to the car, the sketch ball move by the other guy had been deemed as such by the peanut gallery of other riders and I discovered my new man stamp. Key Learnings: 1. you have to start harder and really get aggressive bc others are and if you don't match it, you're moving backwards. 2. Bandaging a man stamp alone is hard, taking a picture of it to text to family is harder.

Race 2 Sunday:

It rained all of Sunday morning. During warm-ups, I ended up under a tent courtesy of some guys from Iowa and then stood underneath a shelter as it rained really hard just before the start. I wasn't thrilled about the rain but I had had a full day contemplate Saturday's disappointment and really was hell bent on battling anything on Sunday. The course would be the main opponent. It was soaked and muddy. I utilized the tips from Kathy Sherwin on pressure and ran around 25-28 PSI for the soggy conditions. This really paid of as I was able to handle the bike better than every despite the ice rink I felt like I was riding on. I hadn't ever run anything that low but it worked for me. The start was a mess, as the guy in front of me didn't really want to pedal but I took a deep breath and chugged on. My goal was to have good clean laps and try to not rush, just stay up right and keep the bike in motion. I had an incident free first 2 laps and my spirits went up as I new I was having success riding that day. Randomly on lap 3 I did go down but I still have not idea how, all of the sudden I was sliding head first across the wet grass with the bike in the air. It was amusing, nothing hurt and I was back on my way only losing 2 positions. I went down a few other times, once on the sore knee, but it was only when I rushed did I have trouble, when I was patient and didn't try to do too much with the bike I was fine. I felt a lot better crossing the line on Sunday than Saturday as I rode the race more on my terms because I made better choices and was more resilient.

A few things I used that I hadn't in a while for the sloppy conditions that might help you in nasty conditions are: I got off the bike early and ran the technical sections that might knock folks down, it helped a ton to keep moving as other slowed down considerably with their indecisiveness. I also used the one leg out while cornering on some of the slippery sections, it helped a ton to stay on the back and not have to come to a complete stop. Last, I used not only my breaks (which didn't work that well) but the rougher less slick outside portions of the grass/course to help scrub speed before corners.

Keep in mind, I'm no expert, which is evidence by my mid pack results, but hopefully you were semi amused and if you're new to cross maybe some of the tips were helpful. The weekend was a blast on the whole and I can't wait for my next cross trip. I got to watch my first Pro cross race, with a world class field, and they put on a show. Those guys ride so hard, it's insane. The cleanup from Sunday is still going as it took 3 days to clear mud from every crevice, on my bike that is. I'm still pretty bandaged up and I can't wait for just the Powerbar logo to be the only thing adorning my man stamp area. I'm looking forward to getting back in the saddle in DeKalb on Sunday.

Big thanks to Rob at PPC for helping me get the rig in solid working order again. The support that PPC provides is awesome.

Tip your mechanic,



Fall Fling Finalé This Weekend - the Final Road Events of the Season!

The 2011 Chicagoland road season wraps up this weekend with a pair of circuit races at the Fall Fling! Saturday's race features the longest races of the series and at Sunday's finalé in Wood Dale we'll be serving up brats and mostaciolli for all the riders in celebration of a season well-raced! 

You can still register online at Active.com or just show up and register on-site. Full details and current standings are available at ABDcycling.com. After two races it's the Bicycle Heaven club with an 11 point lead for the $2,000 overall team prize!

Thanks to all of the riders who came out to kick off the Fling this past weekend. Despite the threat of rain all week we lucked out and stayed dry for the first two stages and riders put that fitness they've been building all year to good use! We hear the Category 1/2/3/40+ race averaged over 28 mph on Saturday and ABD's own Bryce Mead blitzed Sunday's TT 9.4 mile TT course in 19 minutes and 55 seconds to post the fastest time of the day. Leigh Thompson of VisionQuest posted a 22:59 for the fastest women's time of the day.

Although the road season will soon be over the cross season is just heating up! ABD's cross race at Sunrise Park will be held on Sunday, October 3rd and registration is now open.

And last but not least for those interested in getting a jump on their 2012 season- the ABD Boot Camps are back for their 7th season. After selling out every year we've *finally* opened up the camp to up to 16 riders per session, but spots are filling fast! Find out more and reserve your spot now at PrairiePathCycles.com


DeMong Jackson Park Report

Sunday's Jackson Park race was the first time for me to get a full (non-tag team cross effort) under my belt for the year.  It was a little nerve racking as this year I have put almost all my racing eggs in the `Cross basket and without any cross races in the middle of training to check form, I didn't really know what would be there for the first race.  With the help this year of an ABD Coach, Ebert, I was really happy with the racing legs on Sunday finishing 13th in my first 3s race.  My fitness seems solid so it should be a good season.

As for the race itself, it was wet and with enough technical parts to really bottle neck the field in some parts.  In the 2 warm up laps that I took I noted that with the wet course, big field and pinch about 6 turns in, the start would be really important.  So important that instead of warming up, I opted for a little extra warm embrocation and getting in line at the start shoot almost an hour before start time.  In looking at the course it was more technical first, before the tempo sections late in the first lap, that I figured with a stretch in the start shoot, I would be able to "warm up" a bit on the first lap.  I just didn't want to start at the back of a 100 person field.  The gamble paid off as I didn't pull anything and I never left the top 20 after starting in the 2 or 3rd row.  

For the ABD Cross newbies: One of the reasons I think the gamble paid off was because it was calculated.  I had scouted the first few turns thinking of how the start would go.  My notes were: lumpy long stretch off the line (stay relaxed in the elbows), a big wide right hand turn (keep the gas on as long as possible before the turn, there is plenty of room and others will break early), another wide-ish turn next, this time left (stay on gas and try to take middle line through first turn to set this one up).  After the left turn there was a singe barrier and then a few turns and then the big pinch: a hard right hand turn down a slippery hill.  In my mind I thought: I might not be able to win the race if I got to this point fast but I could certainly lose it if I didn't.  As it played out, I got off the line fast and so did Bryan.  I made it to the turn in the top 20 and never looked back.  I'm not saying that you should never warm up because that certainly isn't the case at all; that course and conditions lead me to believe that the most valuable part of the race was the race to the big pinching right hand down slippery hiller.  My advice would be: Do your research on what you think will be the deciding factor that day, figure out your plan and go hard after it. 

Once the initial chaos was over, I was able to settle in and ride an almost complete race.  I felt really comfortable setting up turns and tried to really open it up on the sections where you could really ride.  I felt my fitness was strong enough to max effort accelerate in the long straight-aways to make up for the fact that I'm not the best bike handler yet.  I went down once in a random slippery section and it lost me 2 positions, other than that, it was a solid ride for me.  I'm really looking forward to this season of the Chi Cross Cup and also a few other regional events. Flying the ABD colors in Cross was awesome, as we have a few more faces than normal out there racing and would welcome many more.  

A quick very BIG thank you to Farrell, Mary Lee, Jungels and the Prairie Path Cycles Family.  I am riding a really lite (so light I went with lite) Trek Cronus this year, on Zipp 303 wheels with Challenge tires.  All of these were procured through Prairie Path Cycles with my ABD Club discounts.  I do clean my bike meticulously but I'm not an expert mechanic, Rob has helped keep things shifting and braking well for all of my riding career (loose definition of "career").  There are very few other teams out there, if any, that have this much support from a local shop and club.  I really appreciate the products, the service and the folks that have helped me get racing this year. 

I will be tackling my first regional event next weekend in Madison at the USGP, so we'll see how that goes.  I will try to get more reports out this year. I promise. 

Patronize your local bike shop (PPC), 


Konrad's Carnage Photos from Jackson Park

Well, they say a picture is worth 1,000 words, so here are a couple of Konrad from yesterday. (You will notice that he's still smiling in the second picture....)

Konrad s Scraped Knee
Konrad After 2nd Cross Race

Fall Fling Pre-Reg Deal Ends Tonight + $2,000 Team Prize! Sunrise Park Cross & Boot Camp

- The Fall Fling Kicks Off This Weekend: Pre-Registration Deal Ends Tonight- save $25!
- One Team will take the $2,000 Overall Fling Prize!
- The Chicago Cross Cup is here! Registration for ABD's Sunrise Park race is open
- ABD Boot Camps at PPC Batavia kick off November 8th

Close Out Your Road Season with a 4-Stage Race in the Western Suburbs-
Pre-Register for all four Fall Fling races by tonight at midnight for just $95!

The "4-pack" registration deal for the entire Fling ends tonight so be sure to sign up if you want to save yourself $25 over the day-of fees. Starting tomorrow fees go up to $30 per day for this weekend's races. (You have until Sunday night to pre-reg for the 10/1 & 10/2 circuit races for $25 each). Day-of-race registration will also be available.

Full Fling Details at http://www.ABDcycling.com

Updated Fall Fling Prize Lists & One Team will take the Big Enchilada!

We've increased the daily prize lists at the Fling and removed the individual overall prize lists in favor of giving one club the opportunity to finish off their 2011 road campaign with a $2,000 overall prize!

The top club at the 2011 Fall Fling will take home $2,000 to order some new kits, support a junior program, host a training camp or just throw one heck of a year-end party!

The way that the overall prize will work is that we will calculate the maximum points received by each club's top 8 finishers on each stage in the following categories:
  • Men 1/2 combined
  • Men 3
  • Men 4
  • Cat 4/5 40+
  • Category 5 Beginner Men
  • Women 1/2/3 combined
  • Women 4
  • Women 40/50/60/70 combined
  • Masters 40+
  • Masters 50/55 combined
  • Masters 60/65/70/75/80 combined
The club with most points at the end of the final stage wins the overall. Ties will be broken by the highest number of 1st places, then the highest number of 2nd places, etc.

-Fields with 20 or more riders will be scored 20 deep (20,19,18,17, etc.)
-Fields with less than 20 riders will be scored 10 deep (10,9,8,7, etc.)

More details available at the Fling event page.

ABD Sunrise Park Cyclocross Race!

Congrats to everyone at the big Chicago Cross Cup opener in Jackson Park! We're excited to be hosting our own round of the cup on October 23rd in Bartlett! 

ABD Indoor Training Boot Camp's at Prairie Path Cycles Start November 8th!

The ABD Winter Boot Camps are now in our 7th season and after selling out the past few years we're please to announce we're upgrading to 16 stations at our Batavia location! 

Camp will run from November 8th to February 13th with a two-week break for the holidays. Riders will complete two custom-designed workouts per week and have the option for 2 to 4 hour endurance workouts on the weekend!

Full details and sign up information will be available at www.PrairiePathCycles.com later this week.

Nowak Cross Report: Jackson Park

And so it begins...

Yesterday was the first race in the ChiCrossCup series with a total of 12 races this year.

This was actually my 3rd 'cross race of the year as Ben Demong and I teamed up for the 2-Person Relay race and then I went down to Rantoul to do the Patriot CX last weekend.  Still working on my fitness level but its getting better each week.  For me personally it will be a long season of 'cross as I am looking to do Nationals and then Master Worlds in January (yep January!) so I'm working on getting fitter as the season goes on.

xXx Racing always hosts the kickoff race each year and in the 6 years of racing there I don't thing the course has ever been the same.  There are some similarities each year but they always throw in some different twists and turns.  This year they decided to explore the far west end of the park and I have got to say that the course they laid out in that section was very fun.  Lots of tight, fast turns with explosive sprinting out of them.  If you were willing to take chances you could catch and pass people in those areas.  In addition, the weather added a bit of drama as it was an off/on drizzle.  There would be sections where the grass was wet and then other where it was bone dry making it a challenge at times to figure out a line.  By the end of my second race though it was becoming a more uniform track with everything getting greasy slick.

I raced twice, the 40+ race which was the first of the day and then right after in the 30+.  Overall pretty happy with that race as I ended up 11th just missing a call up for the next race.  In the 30+ I got to the start line late and ended up starting in the very back.  It ended up being a good training race as I worked on passing people and racing in traffic.  Felt good for the first 4 laps and then the lights went out.  12 laps total done at race pace over the two races.

Overall ABD had a nice day.  Brian McVey on his HOT new tubies ended up 7th in the Cat 3, Ben Demong was 13th.  Walt Stoops in the new 60+ category was 6th, and Konrad Witt racing in only his 2nd cross race ever ended up taking 5th in the Jrs.  I talked to his Mom last night and she said he only fell 4 times on the FIRST lap!  Also saw Andy Walker, Jerry Meister and Waylon in the results.  Many more ABD'ers than in the past but I know there are many more of you out there!!!

Next race is in two weeks, Oct 2nd at Hopkins Park in DeKalb.  For us Western 'burbs, this is an easy drive down Rt. 38.

For those of you heading up to Madison next weekend for USGP, Good Luck!!

I'm not going to Madison next weekend.  Not sure if there will be any Bandit CX next weekend, but I'll pass anything along if/when I find out.  Worse case is that there will be a practice on Saturday.



Jeannie Report: Tour de Gaslight

While this race report is well overdue, accounts of our US visit just wouldn’t be complete without a report on our last race, Tour de Gaslight. We’re back in New Zealand now, back to work—the main reason for the long delay in writing this report!—and nearly adjusted to the chilly spring temps (in contrast to the sultry heat of a Midwest summer). The venue for Tour de Gaslight was East Grand Rapids...


Meshberg Gateway Cup Report

Kristin Meshberg has poster her report from the Gateway Cup series over Labor Day…missing teeth and all.

Mark Lemke Sub 5 Century Report

Thought I'd share my Ride/Race report Sub 5 Century (for Parkinson Disease Research) Sunday Sept 11th.

Fellow ABDer's you missed a great event, and what a great idea to race a 100 miles with a team. Thanks to our own Jerry (team leader) Meister for putting together this team of 17 riders, which included myself and ABD's own Chris (no ABD man left behind) Tepas volunteer Steve (great job) Greene.

Ride was in the farmlands of Hampshire IL,  a 33.3 mile loop, we did this three times to make the Century. Our goal time was 4:50, we had timing chips on our bikes and had number of practice rides on the course in the prior weeks. About 10 teams gather at 7:30 am, each team was started 5 mins apart, (Christain Vander Belt Father started the teams off) based on estimate finish time. We all had to sign the race board just like the pro's need to do, our team left at 7:55, all 17 of us, with our personal Sag car following behind us for the full 100 miles.

Double pace line for the first lap, I think we dropped off  just 2 riders, only one road kill we had to go around, it didn't smell to bad..(more on this later). We pulled in to the feed zone, where the (Pit crew service began!) volunteers filled our water bottles brought us sandwich, power bars, banana's you name it. Our stop was just 4 min's long or should I say short,  it felt allot like an Indy car pit stop, with all these volunteers running around servicing us, one guy asked to clean my sunglasses and check my tire pressure.  Off for lap 2. Uneventful, I think we lost just one rider off the back. Everyone's taking turns pulling, no sitting in. Road kill is starting to smell as we past it.

Pulled in to the feed zone again, last time! Noticed the team a head of us were rushing to get going out of the feed zone. I over herd them say "lets hurry up we don't want to be caught". Once again, Indy Car like pit stop, water topped off, food deliveries to your bike, even people to hold your bike up while you used the flushing port o potties. Sub 5 Century organizers spare's no expenses for us riders.

Lap 3 last lap, stronger head wind this time from the northwest and we were headed yep Northwest. Jerry called out single pace line and with 13 riders, turns at the front were every  5 mins apart. 30 seconds max (keep in mind the target pace was 22 mph) . This worked well  and so well, at about mile 80 we caught the team ahead of us, of course we had to go by them double pace line about 3 miles per hour faster and talking like it was a social outing."they commented "wow you guys are fast!"  Bad news was we dropped 7 riders off the back shortly afterwards, I think they all jumped ship at the same time? . "So then there were six!. " I told Jerry, four 45 year  plus guys and two 30 something guys. One whom just got his belt buckle at Leadville Co. last month . Worst news is that road kill was now no longer in the shade  but in the sun, smelled really bad by now.. One guy started to fall off the back, and one guy started to let a gap go off the front. But in true ABD colors (no ABDer's left behind) we had each others back, brought the guy up and brought us back to the front.and then (Chris) took a monster long pull and let the 6 of us recover some.

The six of us finished as one 4:43:31. Jerry says we beat last years team time!. What an awesome event, most organized I've attend (well beside an ABD events)  and fun idea, one guy from Chicago said he's never seen so many corn fields, I said what corn fields, I just saw the guys wheel in front of me, or my gps, slowing counting up the miles.

Hats off to the Sub 5 century folks, and ABD teammates please consider this event in 2012 as a team effort. Got a challenge from Bicycle Heaven as they clocked in at 4:13 for a time best time of the day.

Great way to spend a Sunday and Sept 11th  in this great nation!

Mark (sub 5 finisher) Lemke