by Kelly Clarke
In its third year, Melas CX – the tenth race of The Chicago Cyclocross Cup, has earned both die hard fans and reluctant participants. The race, put on by Northbrook Garner Bicycle Club and Flatlandia, features lots of sand and a large drainage area dubbed the “Racin’ Basin” which provides many off-camber corners, punchy climbs and sharp descents. This might be the most technically difficult course in the series. Hence why you hear mutters of “I hate this race,” in the five minutes preceding the race. Then it is glorified later as a “preposterously good time.”
Adding to this flavor of suffering that cyclocrossers hail, unseasonably warm temperatures and a doppler full of green gave the CCC it’s first ‘sloppy’ race of the season. With the added bonus of rain to make the track greasy and slick, both camps revelled and agonized respectively. It was no surprise that experienced racers Joseph Maloney (KS Energy Service/Team Wisconsin) and Emma Swartz (Wheel & Sprocket) commanded the elite races, using all the skills in their toolbox to deftly navigate the course.
Series title sponsor, Lou Kuhn of The Pony Shop tweeted as @PonyShop: “I may not be 100% but I’m gonna hit #MELAScx with reckless abandon! Being on the slop Chicanes are ready @PonyshopCXteam @ChallengeTires.” Lou recently returned to racing after an injury, but he wasn’t the only one not in top form. Joe Maloney tweeted earlier in the week as @jhmaloney: “registering for @ChiCrossCup this weekend in hopes I won’t be sick by then. Instead I hope to be getting sick… #sickWhips.” Joe had been nursing a cold all week after racing well in frigid temperatures at Jingle Cross.
Maloney has been a regular fixture at the CCC this year, dominating the Elite Men’s category. However, many Wisconsinites came down for this race, as their race in Madison was cancelled due to poor weather. May it serve as a good reminder to always show appreciation to the parks and municipalities that let us use their venues.
Maria Larkin (Chicago Cuttin Crew) and series leader Kelli Richter (PSIMET Racing) battled for the hole shot in the Women’s Elite race, but after Richter slid out in a corner, Sarah Szefi (PSIMET Racing) took the lead dropping into the basin. Seventeen year old Emma Swartz from Madison, WI was able to power past Szefi by the end of the first lap to take the lead. Swartz rode a clean race, while most were trying to minimize falls on the sloppy course, and used this to maintain the lead for the win.
Sydney Guadliardo (Verdigris-Village CX) charged behind her, taking a comfortable second place position with three laps to go and holding on to it at the finish. Despite a few crashes, and breaking the buckle off her shoe, Szefi stayed near the front and finished third. Swartz attributed her success this past Sunday to seven years of racing on courses where technical difficulty was compounded by weather conditions.
Joseph Maloney (KS Energy Service/Team Wisconsin) returned from Wisconsin with four CCC wins already under his belt. He took the hole shot with junior Maxx Hall (Verdigris-Village CX) sticking to his wheel like glue for the first couple laps. Hall eventually faded, and Maloney’s old teammate Alexander Martin (Revolution Cycles) from Madison, WI challenged him for the remainder of the race.
Martin joked with Maloney during the race, saying things like, “Oh, I think you’ve got this one,” as they powered through the course. Despite feeling under the weather, Maloney solidified his fifth CCC win. Martin took second place, and Michael Dutczak (South Chicago Wheelmen) took third. Hall finished just off the podium in fourth.
After their race, Maloney and Martin postponed the long drive home to spectate and cheer on the Cat 4 and Cat 5 racers. It was pouring rain at the end of the day, and spectators lined the course to watch the spectacle.
The CCC takes a break next week for Thanksgiving, but PSIMET is hosting NORGE Ski Jump Cyclocross in Fox River Grove this Sunday for those that can’t stop won’t stop! Then the following weekend the series culminates at Montrose Harbor on the north side of Chicago. This race also serves as the Illinois State Cyclocross Championships and is co-hosted by Ten27 Cycling Club and Spidermonkey Cycling. For more information, visit chicrosscup.com.