Bringing a New York City State of Mind to the Windy City for Ten Days of Racing
Chapter I: Our Favorite Moments at Intelligentsia Cup
STEVE rousseau, TO BE DETERMINED
"Here’s the thing about racing 10 days in the middle of the Chicago summer: It’s really hard."
Our friend Mark has this bumper sticker on his car. “Honk If You Love Dying And Being Dead,” it reads. It’s the kind of thing you either find deeply funny or not at all.
Here’s the thing about racing 10 days in the middle of the Chicago summer: It’s really hard. But not because it draws some of the better amateur racers in the country. (It does.) Not because most of the races are set on some of the most technical and challenging courses in the country. (They are.) Not because you have to race people who are good at racing bikes in oppressively hot and humid weather. (You do.)
What makes it so hard is to wake up, make breakfast, eat, take a dump, get your race bag ready, put the bikes on the car, figure out where the course is, drive to the course, take the bikes off the car, find a place to set up camp for the day, get changed, take a dump, hydrate, warm up, pee, hydrate some more, figure out how your race will play out by watching the other fields race, try to eat something, take another dump, roll over to staging, fight to stage somewhere near the front, fail to stage somewhere near the front, spend most of the race fighting to stay in contact, spend the final third of the race trying to justify whatever place you’re about to settle for, spend the next 20 minutes post race staring off into space trying to ingest as much liquid as possible, spend the next hour cramming as much food into your gut as possible, get changed, watch your friends race, pack up your stuff, throw away garbage, put the bikes back on the car, figure out what you’re going to do for dinner, get home, do laundry, try to unwind and go to sleep.
We did this day after day. Some, like our friends Michelle and Cesar, handled it better than others, like Torpey, Burati, Mark and myself. Throughout the week and a half, “honk honk,” became a common refrain. Sometimes it was a rallying cry. Sometimes it was a knowing cry for help. It was a fun way to complain without driving anyone up a dang wall.
It might sound like I’m complaining right now. That I think racing Intelligentsia was a bad idea. It was not. It was the best idea I think anyone could ever have about racing bikes. Sure, not the most relaxing vacation I think I’ve ever taken. (Three anxiety dumps per day for 10 days has got to be some sort of record.) But it was a fun time where a bunch of new and old friends could pretend to be bike racers for a week.
This is partly because you need to be slightly delusional to enjoy bike racing. But it also helps to have people who are willing to entertain your delusions. To that I’d like to send a million thank yous to Mark’s parents, Bob and Diane, who opened their home to half-dozen grown adults, offered nothing but kindness and hospitality of biblical proportions and most importantly humored us as we all collectively suffered for our hobby.
If you want a good idea of what it’s like to race Intellgentsia, well, just picture a living room full of people with their legs up, thumbing through their phones, muttering “Honk, honk” every five minutes or so.
We all love racing bikes. Honk, honk, baby.
Mark Steffen, King Kog Racing
"The people are great. Isn't that half the reason we race, anyway?"
Matt Vandivort asked me to jot something down about The Intelligentsia Cup. I can't think of one thing. Sorry.
Intelligentsia Cup is a great time. I'm originally from just outside of Chicago, but didn't get into bike racing until after I'd moved away. There's something really fulfilling about hanging out in your childhood home with parents that you finally get along with, as well as all your friends from the East coast, and shelling yourself every day. It's even better because you can finish your day by ramming deep dish pizza and the most fattening custard you've ever tasted down your throat.
Last year, we started a tradition of making our way down to the beach after the Lake Bluff crit concluded. That year was the first time I hung out with a few of the folks you regularly see on this blog outside of lining up for a race.
The beach in Lake Bluff isn't what we have out on the coasts. It's rocky as hell, for one. For another, it's at the bottom of a 100 foot drop from one of the most affluent communities in Chicagoland, ensuring that it's in pristine condition. If you've seen a John Hughes movie (Home Alone, The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink), you know what this town looks like. It's gorgeous and it just plain feels like home. This year, like last, we finished destroying ourselves in one of the more technical criteriums of the week (number 6 of 7 for me, 9 of 10 for others), chugged a few beers, and made our way down to the water, a crew of people that only know each other through bike racing.
Watching people who have become your friends over time, who you never would have met in any other capacity, dive into the freshwater that you grew up diving into–to watch them eat at your childhood dinner table with the folks who raised you, watch them figure out why maybe they get along with you, too–to get all your rage out in a race and then enjoy each other's company, that's my favorite part of The Intelligentsia Cup.
The people are great. Isn't that half the reason we race, anyway?
See you next year, folks. Honk honk.
Lisa Vandivort, CityMD Women's Racing
"A funny thing happens though when you pour your energy into such a demanding sport, you kind of bond quickly with those you are suffering alongside."
Intelligentsia Cup for me was a last hurrah of sorts. It fell at the end of a 5 month unemployment stint so it was both a final getaway before starting a new job and likely the last chance to cash in on my ‘funemployment’ fitness - meaning long leisure miles, weekday race escapades and excess rest would soon become a thing of the past and my fitness would fall into ‘chill cx zone’. I was excited for a 9 day omnium at the category 2/3 level, a field structure not often seen in practice for women but one that I wholeheartedly support. After having a positive experience and a fair bit of success racing the last 4 crits of the series in 2016, it’s pretty safe to say I went into the week focused primarily on the racing itself with big performance expectations.
I was definitely bummed to not have successfully convinced any of my teammates to make the trip and join me for a few races - and while I knew we would be traveling with a few of the TBD guys, our choice to stay separate from them meant I hadn’t really planned to have any companions to race alongside or hang out with post race other than the husband and the fat pup.
A funny thing happens though when you pour your energy into such a demanding sport, you kind of bond quickly with those you are suffering alongside. So it wasn’t long before the NY-centric crew had formed a daily routine of scoping out the best spot on course for congregating at base camp, lounging on (and subsequently popping) our inflatable couches, drinking lots of race-provided intelligentsia iced coffee, commiserating amidst pre race nerves, watching weirdly motivating youtube videos, giving each other advice on course tactics, packing ice socks down each other’s backs, cheering, heckling, encouraging course-side, and then ultimately partaking in some sort of post race ritual in an attempt to recover before doing it all again the next day - mostly involving stuffing our faces with buttery Midwestern staples and a few beers while trying to convince ourselves we were not actually dying (honk, honk) and we could wake up to race another day.
Some of the crew comprised of completely new-to-me faces and some I knew by association but had never really spent time with. Yet I walked away from the weekend feeling like I gained a new group of friends with a common bond through our mutual obsession with bikes and appreciation for the perseverance - and quite frankly the village of people - it takes to get through such a long and grueling event. We genuinely cheered for each other when results were achieved - regardless of team affiliations - and ruthlessly snarked on one another just the same. At the end of the week, on the penultimate day of racing, we took a dip in chilly lake Michigan. As I had to rush out almost as quickly as I jumped in to get myself on board a plane back home in time to rejoin Corporate America, I felt genuinely sad to be missing out on the last day’s festivities and to be leaving my little clan from what essentially felt like the most fun Bicycle Sleepaway Camp.
Then again, it’s also possible that this newfound bond was the result of an inadvertent cult formation that took place over the course of 10 days. This fact remains unclear.
Chris Burati, To Be Determined
"I focus a lot on the racing memories here, but the off-the-bike moments will never be forgotten."
After having to bow out of my pre-Intelligentsia Cup race commitment due to a work obligation last year, there was no way I was going to let work ruin a fun week of racing bikes this time around.
Fun is an understatement. Next to some bike touring I've done over the last few years, this was one of the best times I've had on the bike since I started riding a little over eight years ago. When else have I been able to spend a whole week with some of my favorite people from New York, all while eating deep dish pizza, drinking lots of beer, and racing high caliber talent from around North America on some of the most technical crit courses in the US - an "easy" day being a mere six corners. Given every race is so technical, and with the competition being so stiff, you learn how to turn and race your bike real quick. You might think you know how going in, but you really have no idea. I've slowly been moving away from more traditional "road races" and more towards crits during this road season, and I can say that I learned more in terms of crit racing these 10 days at Intelligentsia than I have in the past three years of racing predominantly in the Northeast.
There's honestly too many in terms of standout memories that stemmed from this trip, but I will do my best to list my top five (in order of occurance):
- Racing the 4/5 race, the last race of day two in Glen Ellyn, at 7:40 pm on, a narrow, hilly, 12 corner crit complete with a traffic circle. I went in with the goal of getting my Cat 3 upgrade by day four, and this was the first step in that direction. I coined "KILL KILL KILL" (well, I think Natalie Tapias and Jaime Soper did a few years ago, but I revived it) during the 14 hour drive from NYC to Chicago, and that was all I could think of up until I raced. The whistle blew with me in the front, and one lap later the field of 65 had disintegrated with only 16 riders remaining. "KILL KILL KILL" accomplished.
- Crashing in the last 100 meters of the Willow Springs Road Race (Really? A road race in a crit series?) on day three, and shattering my front wheel, losing my Garmin, and giving myself a nasty gash on my check along with a black eye. To be honest, I didn't do this to myself, someone else did it to me. I really had to dig deep in order to not get discouraged, and to go back out for another SEVEN days of racing.
- Lining up less than 24 hours later at the South Chicago Kermesse, attacking from the gun, and managing to take 5th after having to grab a fist full of brake in the 180 degree turn less than a mile from the finish. Needed a lot of mental toughness for that one. Oh, and that was the last result I needed for my 3 upgrade - mission accomplished.
- Almost nabbing a top 10 in my third ever Cat 3 race at Elmhurst, and then getting to dive down the infamous slip and slide. It was a pretty big confidence booster given my tired legs and recent crash only a few days earlier.
- And finally, waiting around all day on day 10 to race the Goose Island Grand Prix, which almost didn't happen due to inclement weather. We ended up racing, and Steve and I hot tubbed, honked, and -- I at least -- began screaming "END END END" in my head. Ten minutes after the race I was back in street clothes, and in the car driving with Matt back to NYC, indescribably exhausted, but on a high from 10 days of bike racing.
I focus a lot on the racing memories here, but the off-the-bike moments will never be forgotten. A big thank you to Matt Vandivort for the unwavering support and unending racing opportunities I've been given since joining TBD, and for lending me his front wheel so I could keep racing - best teammate; Mark Steffen and his beautiful parents for being great, welcoming, and endlessly supportive people; Lisa Vandivort for feeding me beers and cheering me up right after my crash at Willow Springs; Winnie for licking all of the blood off my legs; Mogwai for licking my legs period; Steve Rousseau for once again being my in-race beacon and buddy; Michelle "Meesh" Ritondo for being so positive and for having such a great spirit; Pat Torpey for the dad jokes; and Cesar Gallego for the daily "It's Winning Time!" winning mantra.
Honk honk, everyone, honk honk
MEESH Ritondo, MATHLETES RACING
"It was rare for me to race in a field that large and really helped me gain some new skills in moving up and defending my position.
Hi, I’m Meesh and I race for Mathletes Racing in Philly! I met Mark Steffen, who races for King Kog, over the winter. He had recently broken his wrist and then shortly after, his collarbone and as we got to talking I found out that he was also planning on going to Intelligentsia. Having recently had surgery and not feeling my greatest, I loved how determined he was and how his injuries barely phased him. I asked if I could join him and his group in Chicago even though we didn’t know each other very well and he was nice enough to welcome me to his group. Well, nice must run in the family because Mark’s parents are freaking angels. I was the first to arrive and Mark’s mom Diane immediately wanted to feed me, then take me to the grocery store for more food and we even made plans to go into the city together on the day that I wasn’t racing. I had never met anyone else in our group of eight and there was definitely a moment where I thought “oh god, what choice have I made?” But I’m glad that I didn’t let my nerves get the better of me. I had a really great time getting to know everyone in our very sarcastic, snarky, sun worshipping, honking, face planting, rhabdo ridden, dad joke telling group.
I especially enjoyed making friends with Lisa Vandivort of CityMD racing, who also raced in my field and kicked some serious butt taking 2nd overall in the omnium. She really helped me to gain some confidence during the week and let me know that it wasn’t just hard for me, the competition was fierce in general and there weren’t just a couple strong people to watch for, everyone was strong! We were racing with around 40 women every single day and up to 65 on the weekend. It was rare for me to race in a field that large and really helped me gain some new skills in moving up and defending my position. I was really proud of myself for never getting pulled and never dropping out of any races even though there were a lot of sketchy situations that made me hesitate to really go for it.
By the end of the week I was feeling so much stronger than when we had started and in the final crit by Goose Island I finally felt like I was making all the right decisions, it felt like it was “winning time” as Charon Smith would say. There was a large field sprint for the finish and I took a line that no one else was really taking. I was moving up quickly but before I knew it there was a crash, splaying a bike and cyclist right in my line. I couldn’t get around so I tried to brake and brace myself as I knew this would be my first real crash. I lay on the ground and listened to screams of agony around me. I wasn’t screaming, I was seething. How had this happened? How did I get through so many days of consecutive racing only to have it end like this? Why? Who did this? Once I could control my breathing and figured out that I was mostly ok, I popped up from the ground and ripped my jersey off like The Incredible Hulk. Blood dripped down my arm as I stormed off the course searching for an explanation. I heard a lot of different stories of what happened but in the end none of them matter. It was over, and ya know what? I did good. Heck, I even crashed well, not one broken bone! As much as I wish it didn’t happen, it did and there wasn’t much else I could have done about it. In the end, that crash had nothing to do with me, I raced well and I made smart choices. The time I spent in Chicago was incredible overall and was definitely not ruined because of the crash. I’m so thankful for every fun moment, every dinner, hang, the endless cheer section, friendship, and support from our group, Team TBD., Mark, and Ceasar from The 5th Floor. This trip has definitely been the highlight of my year and I can’t wait to come back next year.
Winnie Kennish, Kibble Addicts Anonymous
Musings on Intelligentsia from To Be Determined's official English Bulldog Mascot: I love car. No, too much car. Westin heavenly bed. All mine. Don't leave me in hotel, will destroy all garbage. Please leave me in hotel, too hot outside. Mmmm salty legs. MMMMMMM a bloody, salty leg. Hot. Don't leave me alone, FOMO. Take me with you. No too hot. Meesh gave me peanut butter, new best friend. Hot. Tired. Snoring. Can we go home now. Squirrel. Humans do weird things for fun. Honk. Sleep. Honk.
Chapter II: 10 Days at the Races, most of them on sidelines. By Matthew Vandivort
Day 1: 15th Annual Beverly Hills Cycling Classic
We have a slight confession to make regarding the opening day of the Intelligentsia Cup: only half of the squad made it to the start line. We left New York City on Thursday afternoon with the best intentions - to make the late Friday afternoon starts at the Beverly Hills Cycling Classic.
But as we got bogged down by rush hour traffic leaving the city our ambition slowly faded. As we hit Youngstown, Ohio around midnight we decided that an extra few hours of sleep and a leisurely breakfast from Denny's outweighed the marathon driving stints that would have been required to make the start of Intelligentsia Cup.
On the bright side missing the Beverly Hills Cycling Classic meant we were able to take a delightful afternoon spin through a mostly deserted Busse Woods Nature Preserve. Stretching our legs after the long drive and getting a quick glimpse at the Elk on the preserve turned out to be a pretty perfect start to what would prove to be a fatigue-inducing week of racing.
Day 2: 2nd Annual Jerry Haggerty Chevrolet Tour of Lake Ellyn
So it turned out that Saturday would be our big kick-off for Intelligentsia Cup. In that regard the Tour of Lake Ellyn did not disappoint. Over the years we have compiled quite the list of our favorite crit courses and after racing it for the first time, Lake Ellyn definitely makes the cut for that list.
Set around a beautiful municipal park in a tony suburban neighborhood, this twelve corner course has something for everyone: a short riser to sap your legs, a number of technical turns including a very fast chicane, a u-turn and just to top things off a traffic circle on the backstretch that was duly hopped by any number of riders. It's the type of course I only wish we could feature on the New York City race calendar.
Saturday's schedule meant we were going to spend most of the day at the races as Burati's field didn't finish until it was getting dark. But with a beautiful setting and plenty of free Intelligentsia iced coffee on tap we didn't mind in the slightest. We setup a home base around our inflatable couch, spent way too much energy cheering each other on and had one hell of a day at the races. We even snuck into Downtown Lake Ellyn where there were plenty of food options and a nearby concert providing a musical backdrop.
Chris and Lisa scored the best results from our crew with a pair of top tens. The racing was definitely fast - giving us a pretty good sense that the level of competition at Intelligentsia was a notch above what we had experienced last year (and what we're used to in New York City for that matter).
Day 3: Wintrust Willow Springs Road Race
Sunday's Willow Springs Road Race was a bit of a mixed bag. The course was fairly scenic and it's hard to argue with any race that runs registration out of a local brewery - we certainly enjoyed a few post race beverages. Unfortunately the road race course was also flat enough that with big, sprinter heavy fields it was impossible to get breaks rolling. In addition, a long flat to downhill drag to the line with a big headwind meant that most race finishes were 20-up no holds barred sprints.
Said more bluntly this was the sketchiest finish I have experienced in at least a few years. Despite a lot of aggressive line changes in the last kilometer and a lot of emergency braking, I managed to survive in one piece, which is more than I can say for Chris who was taken out by a rider that swerved after getting stuck in a rut on the roadway. One destroyed front wheel and a quick visit to urgent care to get his cheekbone addressed added up to the one mostly forgettable day of racing that we experienced at Intelligentsia Cup (and another reminder that crits > road races).
Photo below right via SnowyMountain Photography
Day 4: South Chicago Kermesse
One of the most remarkable aspects of the Intelligentsia Cup is not that they maintain such incredibly high production standards for ten days running (though that is pretty astonishing). Rather it's the sheer variety of courses they manage to find in the greater Chicago area. From Saturday's 12-corner roller coaster at Lake Ellyn to courses that will rip your legs off with elevation changes there is something for everyone at Intelligentsia.
As for Monday's South Chicago Kermesse: it's a tailgun (or 'hot tub' as we like to say) friendly course that is made for big powerhouse sprinters (aka me). Situated on the site of the old US Steel South Works on the shore of Lake Michigan the Kermesse graced us with a beautiful low wind day of racing (unlike last year's sudden thunderstorm). The corners are wide open and absent huge crosswinds it's tough to get a break rolling. Though that didn't stop Steve from trying in the M3 field where he snuck away late in the race with some friends from New England and scored fourth place.
Shortly after Steve's race it was my turn to go to work in the M2/3 field. And by 'go to work' I mean I soft pedaled around on the back of the pack while Torpey attacked like a rabid dog in heat on the front. As expected, nothing dangerous escaped from the peloton but all that hot tubbing was for naught - I lost positioning through the crowded u-turn onto the finishing straight and couldn't recover to play a role in the downhill field sprint.
The drive home more than made up for it however with a visit to Lake Michigan, a big group dinner with our East Coast squad and a surprise stop to visit the very large elk of Elk Grove, Chicago.
Day 5: Dennis Jurs Memorial Bike Race (Elgin)
After a wide open and non-technical day in South Chicago, Intelligentsia Cup returned to another absolutely wild course at the Dennis Jurs Memorial Race. As the week plowed forward the Chicago summer heat was gaining steam and with something like fifteen corners and a steep kicker Elgin promised to be a hard day of racing. By now it was also apparent that the fields at Intelligentsia were stacked with talent. A lingering cold wasn't helping matters for me but even so the speed at Intelligentsia was a notch above what we're used to at the Rockleigh Mile or in Central Park.
Thankfully at this stage in the week our race day routine was down pat - including an ongoing wheel juggling act between Lisa, Chis and myself. Since Chris' front wheel died at Willow Springs (RIP) and Lisa's rear was damaged at Lake Ellyn they each borrowed one of my wheels for their fields before piecing my bike back together in time for the Men's 2/3 race. Otherwise our routine centered around finding a shady spot to lounge and consuming more Intelligentsia iced coffee (shout out once again to Intelligentsia for sponsoring our crazy little sport).
As for the actual racing it was a standout day for Lisa as she nailed her sprint and took home the winner's jersey and a fresh bag of podium blend Intelligentsia in what was proving to be an extremely hard fought Women's 2/3 field. In contrast, my Intelligentsia Cup was getting more difficult with each passing day thanks to the cold that had already derailed my pre-race training routine and wouldn't go away. I did my best on the (road race format) 5.73km course at Elgin but on the third or fourth lap my legs just didn't have the power required to get over the tough KOM kicker along Trout Park and I slid off the back of the field for a DNF.
Even with my results deteriorating, it was still a blast of a day with our NYC (and Philly) crew in Chicago. As we did most days, we followed the race up with another round of excessive food consumption. Which probably wasn't going to help for Day 6 -- perhaps the most challenging day of racing all week.
Day 6: 2nd Annual West Dundee River Challenge
There is one word to describe the West Dundee River Challenge: brutal. The finishing straight climb up Washington Street is an absolute leg punisher. Not so much due to extreme gradient or length but simple because you race up it so... many... times. In fact the course was actually lengthened this year to reduce the number of ascents.
Even so this was still a day for riders who can survive 1,000+ ft of climbing in a short crit. Aka not me. So instead of getting shot out the back fifteen minutes into the race I took a leisurely perspective on the day: hanging out on the sidelines, rooting for our squad and grabbing just a few pictures of the suffering.
No surprise here but Mark, Chris, Torpey and Lisa all looked superb in their respective fields. Chris even found his way to the front in the final laps in what was one of his first races as a Cat 3. In the end Lisa scored another podium and there were several top-10's for the other climby people. Though the highlight may have been the post-race margaritas at Chipotle that we got carded for (it was one block from the course ¯\_(ツ)_/¯).
Day 7: Holiday Inn Express Niles Cycling Challenge
Remember that bit about the variety of courses at Intelligentsia Cup? Well straight off a day of climbing at West Dundee the series rolled on with a pancake flat and super fast day of racing at the Holiday Inn Express Niles Cycling Challenge. A new-this-year course featuring wide open corners and no wind made Niles one of the highest average speeds of the entire week. It's also when the Chicago heat reached it's peak on what was a mostly shadeless course.
After taking Wednesday off to recover my health, I was looking forward to getting back in action on a course that suited me. With six ninety degree corners there wasn't much to worry about positioning wise - though I heard a few clipped pedals here and there - so I raced conservatively and tried to save my legs for what was sure to be a fast final lap and a very long finishing straight down Ottawa Avenue. Unfortunately when push came to shove I didn't have the legs required and settled for a pack finish.
The rest of our crew had good races, with Meesh showing off her form in the W2/3 and Cesar snagging his first podium in the Series. Once again it was the off-the-bike elements of the day that stood out. In this case our post race meal: Chicago-style deep dish pizza paired with a few adult beverages. Not a bad way to spend our 7th day in a row racing bikes.
Day 8: 5th Annual Superior Ambulance Elmhurst Cycling Classic
The final days at Gateway Cup are a very close contender but with two years at Intelligentsia Cup now under my belt I think the Friday/Saturday lineup at Intelli may be my two favorite back to back days of racing. Friday kicks things off with the Elmhurst Cycling Classic - aka a giant lawn party with a crit taking place in the middle of it. It's terrific.
The actual course ventures back into semi-technical territory with some tighter corners including a chicane on Elm Park Avenue that would cause chaos in the very wet Elite Men's race. There is also a slight rise through the finishing straight (that this year had been adorned with motivating chalk messages by a local children's camp) but the overall theme for Elmhurst is fast, especially if riders on the front are pushing the pace.
Elmhurst would also serve as my final race at Intelligentsia Cup - I lined up but with that damn cold I had nothing in my legs and put up another DNF just a handful of laps into my race (which was shortened due to incoming severe weather). But that didn't stop me from taking part in the most important course feature Elmhurst has to offer: a slip-n-slide on the third straightaway. Lawn parties, bike racing and slip-n-slides. It honestly doesn't get much better than that. We even topped things off with my first ever trip to Buffalo Wild Wings.
Unfortunately one of two main events of the day - the twilight Elite Men's race - took place in utter monsoon conditions that were not particularly conducive to the lawn party atmosphere. This video from Justin McQuerry on YouTube gives you a sense for the conditions when it wasn't actively downpouring:
Day 9: Northwestern Medicine Lake Bluff Criterium and Block Party
Going back to the Gateway Cup comparison: for many years the twelve plus corners of Benton Park at Gateway Cup served as my favorite crit course. It was often my bait when convincing teammates to venture to my hometown for some Midwestern-style bike racing. However Lake Bluff may have surmounted Benton Park to become my favorite single day of bike racing all year.
The Lake Bluff Criterium and Block Party has it all: a super technical but flat course, a block party complete with local brewers selling ice cold beverages, several great coffee and food options right on the course and our personal favorite (one that most racers don't seem to be aware of): a Lake Michigan facing beach just a few blocks from the course. Even though I cashed in my race ambitions after Elmhurst and didn't bother to suit up for Lake Bluff, the post-race visit to the beach remains one of the highlights of the week.
One of the other highlights? Torpey racing in his typical rabid dog-like manner of Kill-Kill-Attack. After getting chased down late in his race (by one of our fellow East Coast crew).... attacking again to successfully start a three man break that would stay away through the finish and deliver him to the podium. Honk honk baby. Honk honk.
Day 10: Goose Island Grand Prix (Fulton Street / Chicago)
I don't want to call the Goose Island Grand Prix anti-climatic because it has plenty going for it. As the one true downtown race venue of the entire series it has a beautiful view of the Chicago skyline and is situated right at both the Goose Island brewery and Intelligentsia's roasting space, making for great pre-and-post race refreshment options (though probably not in that beer first coffee second order).
Whether it was the knowledge that we faced a 13 hour drive at the end of the race, a bit of a hangover from the crazy courses and local vibe of Elmhurst and Lake Bluff or just the realization that in 24 hours we would be done playing bike racers for the week and would instead be going back to our normal workday routine, there is definitely a different feel to the final day at Intelligentsia.
The course itself is a hot tub friendly four corner crit with a chicane on the backstretch. The pothole studded road conditions make us New Yorkers feel right at home, but perhaps that mixed with the chicane, tired legs and tired minds tends to give fields more problems than it should.
Going into the races we had a long day ahead since the M3 field was stuck dead last on the schedule. The final race of the entire series. We were also down one rider as Lisa flew back the day prior (straight from the beach at Lake Bluff to O'hare no less) to prep for a new job. But we made the most of it with Torpey doubling up to race the earlier Elite Men's field and Meesh rallying after getting crashed out in the final sprint to stand in for Lisa on the final omnium podium.
Just like every other day at Intelligentsia, we joked a lot, said 'honk honk' regularly and probably spent too much time generating #kontent for social media. But we survived some very nasty storms that rolled through mid-race and still had a blast of a day to finish up another incredible visit to Chicago and Intelligentsia Cup.
Finale: WE WILL RETURN
If you made it this far: congratulations. This has been one of the longest, if not the longest, entry we have ever compiled on the To Be Determined Journal. But it only seems fitting for what was perhaps the most memorable experience we have had at a bike race (and I say that after personally putting up a string of mostly DNS/DNF's).
In recent months we have written a great deal on the challenges of our sport - financial, economic, equality-based and otherwise. But a week of playing bike racers at Intelligentsia reminds us just how incredible competitive cycling is and how much fun racing bikes can be with the great community support and production quality that Intelligentsia Cup brings to their series. It's a week of racing that formed new friendships among our East Coast crew and created memories that will last for as long as we're racing bicycles in circles as part of this crazy little sport.
So we'll wrap it up like this: come to Intelligentsia Cup. Especially to all of our East Coast peers - there is really nothing like Intelligentsia Cup on the East Coast. Catch a flight, take a long drive, do whatever you have to do to get out to this series at some point in your cycling career...
PS - a huge thank you to Intelligentsia Coffee and SRAM for your title sponsorship of Intelligentsia Cup. We know first hand how hard it is to chase down sponsorship dollars in the niche sport of cycling so thank you for investing in Intelligentsia Cup and letting us play bike racers for a week in Chicago. See you next year....