Thus far, the 2019 Chicago Cross Cup series can best be defined by one word: rain.
Normally, that would be music to the ears of cyclocrossers spread across the Chicagoland area because generally speaking, rain = mud. However, cyclocross racers are one of many stakeholders local park districts need to satisfy and mud does not always equal good for others interested in using parks.
The series has learned this in real time this fall, as the first race of the 2019 CCC, Caldwell Woods CX, was moved from its location in the city of Chicago to the defunct golf course at Indian Lakes Resort in Bloomingdale. That race proved to be a true mudder, and I wrote about it a bit in my diary about cyclocross being really hard.
The next weekend, rain again sent the race scheduled to be held at Hopkins Park in DeKalb to Indian Lakes for a deja vu kind of thing at the suburban venue. A week later, wet conditions again sent a race scheduled for the city's southwest side to, you guessed it, Indian Lakes.
The first race of the 2019 CCC actually held at its scheduled venue was the Woodland Elementary race held in Carpentersville on the 20th. The course was slick in spots, but otherwise, the fourth race of the series went off with few, if any, problems.
With Mother Nature staying on-brand and delivering showers on Saturday afternoon, it appeared Sunday's Sunrise Park race in Bartlett might be relocated to the rain venue to end all rain venues, but the Bartlett Parks folks allowed the race to go on as planned.
Since the pre-race rains ended well into Sunday morning, mud at the Sunrise Park Cyclocross hosted by Athletes By Design was inevitable. However, by the time the Elite Women took the course at 1:05 p.m., many of the worst sections had started to tack up and become much more rippable.
That is not to say that there was not mud on the course for Sunday's afternoon races. Actually, check that, there was not just mud, there was a literal lake in the woods about a quarter of lap into the Sunrise Park course.
No really, there was a lake, on the course.
The rest of the Sunrise Park was a redesigned, well-balanced track that mixed mud with technical off-cambers and singletrack sections through the woods. Course designers also put some well-placed logs out on the course that presented riders with another challenge to deal with in addition to the mud.
On the whole, the CCC Elite races have each had their own dominant riders, and on Sunday, they would get the chance to continue their winning ways at Sunrise Park.
Elite Women's Race
Despite their differences on the football field and in summer vacation choices, Wisconsin and Illinois residents have maintained a good relationship on the cyclocross course. Chicago area racers have traveled north across the Cheddar Curtain to race on Saturdays and then Cheeseheads have returned the favor by heading south to race the Chicago Cross Cup on Sundays.
This season, the women of Wisconsin and the Chicago area have made a pact to race against one another more frequently to up the competition and bring the two scenes closer together.
Heading into Sunday's race at Sunrise Park, the interstate Women's rivalry has belonged to the Women of Wisconsin, with April Beard (Trek Midwest) winning the first race of the Chicago Cross Cup and then her friend Erin Feldhausen (Trek Cyclocross Collective) winning the next three.
"Erin Feldhausen, that name sounds familiar," astute readers might remark. Yep, it is the same Erin Feldhausen who dressed up as Feldy Poof and won the Saturday race in Wisconsin at Cross Fire. Feldhausen again headed to Chicago to defend her CCC leader's jersey.
Leading the way for Team Chicago has been Sydney Guagliardo, who had been the top Chicago finisher in each of the first four CCC races this season. Also joining the mix for Team Wisconsin has been Lauren Harkness (Velocause Centraal), who finished second at Hopkins Park (Indian Lakes) and third at Pulaski Woods (Indian Lakes).
On Sunday, Guagliardo committed to sticking it to the Wisconsin women. She led the field out onto the course and pushed the pace early on.
One lap into Sunday's tilt, Guagliardo was off the front, while Feldhausen and Beard worked together to bring the 2017 Masters 35-39 national champion back.
Before Sunday's race, Beard facetiously remarked that she was the sidekick to the dominant Feldy Poof this season, but early in Lap 2, she showed that especially when conditions are muddy, she is much more than the Ringo to Feldhausen's rest of the Beatles.
Beard broke from her friend and took up the chase of Guagliardo, who was already all-in on trying to vanquish the invaders from the north.
Beard won in the sloppy conditions at the first Indian Lakes race, and on Sunday when mud was again a key part of the race, she was feeling strong. Beard caught Guagliardo near the end of Lap 2 and made it a two-woman battle for the win.
As the race entered its second half, Beard took over solo first and did not let go the rest of the way. She took her second win of the 2019 season and made sure CCC supremacy remained with the invading horde from the north.
Guagliardo held her strong start to finish second.
Feldhausen finished third and retained the series leader's jersey. Harkness finished fourth and Kae Takeshita (Got Wind? Racing) took fifth.
Elite Men's Race
While the Women of Wisco have dominated the Elite Women's races in the Chicago Cross Cup thus far, it has been the Men of the Midway who have led the charge for the men. With the exception of a win by Brian Matter (Linear Sport / Trek) in the first Indian Lakes race, David Reyes (Tenspeed Hero) and Rory Jack (The Pony Shop) have represented for Team Chicago with Reyes winning at Indian Lakes Part Deux and Jack winning the next two.
Jeremy Bloyd-Peshkin (Intent) entered on a nice run for the Chicagoans, and Cole House (Pete's Garage) headed south as one of Wisconsin's top hopes to win the interstate battle.
Just as he did last week in Carpentersville, Jack raced out to a fast start on Sunday in Bartlett.
However, as Tim Strelecki (Franco Factory Racing p/b Brightleaf) has learned, it is important to keep Jack at bay, and he mirrored his rival's early speed.
A lap and a half into the race, it was Jack, Strelecki and Bloyd-Peshkin at the front. The latter of those riders was perhaps aided by his pre-race fueling choice.
The two non-Jack riders had their work cut out for them, and by the time the riders reached the water feature in Lap 3, Jack had opened up a gap on Strelecki, who again emerged as the hope to chase Jack down.
As he has been in recent weeks, Jack was too smooth and strong to be caught. Although, he did have at least one moment where he proved to be mortal when hopping the small log.
Jack has now won four straight races, and he will return on Sunday as the series leader. Strelecki held on for second and Bloyd-Peshkin took third.
Reyes and House rounded out the wide-angle podium.
Up next for the Chicago Cross Cup is Campton CX this Sunday for the annual series Halloween race.
For more from Bartlett, check out the photo gallery below.