Photo by Active Trans / Squatch Media
Race Report by Lisa Luttenger
The whole concept behind the Kickstand Classic, driven by Active Transportation Alliance's Ron Burke, was to make bicycle racing more accessible and less intimidating--especially for people who may not have raced bikes before. They were successful in the execution; the race had a very inclusive "5k" vibe, and with a push from my co-ambassador Anna, I found myself signed up for my first standalone bike race...in the draft-legal, co-ed "Speed Demon" wave. Ok, I typically ride with my triathlon teammates and am coming off an Ironman season where you’re penalized for being within 6 bike lengths of another rider, but I'd been on one such ride before (thanks to the gentlemen of Tower Racing)--maybe I’ll make it through this! The listed requirement, however, was 15-17+ mph. That was a head-scratcher, because without knowing anyone else who was signing up, it was hard to gauge what kind of rider this wave would attract (I don't know a ton about draft-legal racing but I know 15-17 mph is not it). Oh well, a DFL is better than a DNS.
A bit of my fear was alleviated when I learned we could keep clip-on aerobars on our bars, as long as they were plugged—just no TT bar-end shifters. No problem--Batman, my Cervelo S2, made the cut. Draft-legal, not draft-mandatory, after all.
A 4am alarm got me out the door at 4:30...this race was an hour away in suburban Bartlett. Logistically, everything was pretty locked in from the second we arrived: ample parking (free), quick check-in (though in the dark), easy shirt pickup (and parking was so close, we could easily make a trip back to the car). It took a while to locate the bathrooms, but once we did, there were plenty and no lines.
The sun was only beginning to rise as we lined up for the 6:30am start. The course would be 4 laps of about 4.8 miles each (~19 miles total with a nominal ~200 ft elevation diff). Your official time started as soon as you crossed the start (chip time), rather than the entire wave being assigned the same wave start time (later making for a somewhat mysterious finish order).
Right out the gate, I knew I'd made the mistake of being too timid and lost the wheel of what became the front pack. What I do know about draft-legal racing is that you don’t want to work alone...yet here I was on a date with my aerobars before we'd clocked a mile. I played a little bit of leapfrog with a couple of guys, but had to make a decision to sacrifice speed/save energy (as I watched the front pack disappear into the distance), or fang it full throttle alone. I decided to work--19 miles is slightly more than a sprint triathlon and I figured I could hold the better pace in aero. But at the same time I also thought, this is going to be a long race.
Photo by Chainlink Ambassador Babs Owca
Then out of nowhere, an angelic chase pack appeared. I grabbed my drops and hopped on. Managed to hang on for the rest of the ride, and quickly the ride went. Most people had the etiquette you hoped for--signaling with hands, passing on the left, communicating, and not riding like jerks.
Coming up on the finish, most of us were expecting a final turn, but realized the finish was straight ahead, almost too close. As a result, the final sprint was a little bit short--but still a great taste of that balance of teamwork and strategy and what road racing is all about.
49:32 (23mph--that's what drafting can do!) and an age group win. Super happy to have rolled across the line behind my Chainlink pal (and overall top female) Anna, too!
Photo by Active Trans
The festival after was a whole bunch of fun: beers from Fat Tire, games, good vibes. Thanks to Active Trans for this event!
Race Report by Anna Affias
Being a huge believer in bikes having the ability to change the world, seeing a bike race created for people of all skill levels riding any kind of bike made me overwhelmingly intrigued and excited. It’s something I’d never seen before and really wanted to be a part of. The race itself, hosted and ran by Active Transportation Alliance, consisted of 3 groups of riders based on experience – Speed Demons, Middle of the Road and Sunday Funday, as well as 3 ride distances for participants to choose from – 10, 14.5 or 19 miles. My fellow Chainlink ambassador Lisa and I opted for the Speed Demon wave and the 19 mile course, and it was AWESOME.
The day started off bright and early with a 4:30am roll-out time from Chicago. Waking up early for races and practices has become routine this summer, so the early morning wake-up call was not only welcomed, but also celebrated with coffee and quality morning car chats. The drive was fast and easy and we pulled into Bartlett with plenty of time to spare making parking, checking-in and warming up a piece of cake.
Photo by Active Trans / Squatch Media
Unsure of who our biggest competitors would be, Lisa and I positioned ourselves front and center at the start of the race. Within minutes of lining up, we were off! I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly the field started, and was eager to be racing co-ed! The Speed Demon wave was the only race that allowed drafting, so naturally, I took full advantage of going out fast and grabbing the strongest wheels. I knew I wouldn’t be able to sustain pace lining at over 30 MPH for the entirety of the race, but that didn’t stop me from trying! To my surprise, I managed to hang with the lead group for the first loop and remained in a small chase group not far behind for the rest of the course. I felt strong and focused throughout the race, and about half way through, I realized I might have a shot at being the fastest lady on the course. This made me extremely thrilled and motivated and pushed me to keep working hard. The race ended as expected, racers pushed and shoved their way to the front of the line, but because I had raced smart, I was able to stay up front and position myself nicely for the final sprint.
After I had crossed the finish line and caught my breath, I turned around and saw Lisa, my fellow Chainlink ambassador, right behind me. I couldn’t tell if I was more excited about finally winning a race or that Lisa has competed in her first bike race and managed to finish right behind me! Either way, endorphins were high, hearts were full and friends were made.
We concluded our trip to Bartlett by grabbing grub at a local French coffee shop, drinking a couple of New Belgium beers, playing bags to win sweet bike t-shirts, and finally, by snapping a few photos of us up on the podium. All in all, it was a solid day with lots of firsts. First ever Kickstand classic, Lisa’s first bike race, and two first place finishes for two Chainlink ambassadors!
Special thanks to Active Transportation Alliance for putting on a great race and to all the volunteers who helped along the way. I will for sure be supporting this race next year and bringing more friends to join!
Lisa Luttenegger is a Chainlink ambassador and all-distance triathlete with Chicago Endurance Sports--most notably the Ironman and Divvy SuperSprint. She learned how to ride a bike on a dirt mound in the back yard and hopes to someday return to these cyclocross roots and remedy her bike-race envy. Lisa shares a condo with her tuxedo Maine Coon, Joe Meower.
Anna Affias is a creative and strategic problem solver who works as a Senior Art Director at Chicago-based design agency, The Bond Group. Anna began commuting by bike in 2010, but quickly found her passion for group riding in 2015 while triathlon training. In April of 2016, Anna competed in her first criterium race and was hooked. Shortly after finding her love for racing bikes, she joined the Spidermonkey Cycling team and started racing bikes almost every weekend. While her love for crit and road racing is strong, she recently bought a cross bike and is looking forward to getting her feet wet (and dirty) this season. Aside from racing bikes, Anna enjoys the camaraderie of the Chicago cycling community and is a strong advocate for encouraging women to bike (and race). Where there's a bike, there's a way.