by Kelly Clarke
Comrade Cycles Racing, along with Axeltree, a non-profit advocacy group known for their gravel rides like The Ten Thousand, hosted the Chicago Cyclocross Cup’s second race in Hopkins Park this past Sunday. The most talked about feature was a lack of feature; course designers decided to omit barriers from the figure-eight loop relying on the race’s long standing flyover component as the only obstacle to force riders off their bikes each lap. The result was a fast and flowy course with a short jaunt through a wooded section and off-camber turns that went from tacky to dusty throughout the day. The fresh course composition boasted some aspects that made Hopkins Park more closely resemble a UCI course than a local home-grown series. A paved road start and framed course-crossings complimented series improvements such as SRAM NRS (Neutral Race support), One2Go lap timing and upgraded Pactimo series leaders’ jerseys now seen at every race. Even so, the ‘cross spirit’ was alive and well with bubble machines and some racers wearing costumes.
An anonymous donor put up a $120 first lap prime for the Elite Women’s race. Maria Larkin (Chicago Cuttin Crew), known for her aggressive starts, easily picked up the prime to start the race. Amanda Schaap (Speed Merchants) from Jenison, MI followed Larkin in the first lap and tried to glean clues about her opponent’s pace, line-choice and strategy. In the second lap, Schaap jumped in a straight-away to get in front of Larkin. For the rest of the race, Larkin remained hot on Schaap’s heels, reducing the lead to nearly zero on straight sections. Schaap held the advantage in cornering and kept her composure to ride clean for the win. Larkin finished sixteen seconds behind in second.
Abby Krawczyk (Podiumwear) from Saint Paul, MN chased Larkin throughout the race. A couple mistakes in the final laps thwarted opportunities to make a pass, but she had a great enough lead on fourth place to maintain her position for third. The cool weather allowed Krawczyk to show off Podiumwear’s new sublimated merino wool jackets. And her husband, Brandon Krawczyk, scooped up a win in the intensely competitive single speed race. Not a bad day for race sponsors visiting from a couple states away.
David Reyes (Heritage Race Club) described the Men’s Elite race as being similar to a criterium. Early on, a group of five racers gained a lead on the rest of the field. Each jockeyed for position and fought to stay with the group. Reyes tried to be first to the flyover stairs each lap, because he saw his run-up abilities as a disadvantage. Midway through the race, Isaac Neff (5Nines/Motorless Motion) from Madison, WI threw down a hearty attack. The successful mountainbiker didn’t think he could win if the race came down to a sprint, so he aimed to break up the pack. But the group would not let him go. In the final lap, 22 year old Michael Dutczak (EGO p/b Sammy’s Bikes) dove inside on one of the more precarious corners, entering the woods. This gained him good position through the rooted section defined by a wall of trees instead of tape, but in the final turns experience would reign over youth. A five-man sprint had Isaac Neff clearing the line first for the win. New series leader, Dan Teaters (Team Wheel & Sprocket) from Green Bay, WI, came in second. David Reyes finished third. Michael Dutczak was the fourth to cross the line with 19 year old David Lombardo (True Veterinary Care Cycling p/b Gryph) right behind him.
Even with this explosive elite level racing, the kids’ course – for riders aged 0-10 – saw an even more boisterous crowd, with many trying their hand at racing (many on push bikes) for the first time. Juniors, Single Speed and Women’s 4 categories continue to have record participation. Fast juniors and growing spectator crowds show a bright future for the Chicago Cyclocross Cup, now in its eleventh year.
Next week the series is back inside city limits at Dan Ryan Woods, where Beverly Bike-Vee Pak bring us the steepest climbs of this eleven race series. They are also hosting a warm-up race the day before on the same grounds. For more information, visit chicrosscup.com.