This blog documents the racing, training, & riding experiences of the participants of PWP

Pedaling with a Purpose

My name is Kristen Meshberg and I am a former category 1 bike racer. I competed nationally in both road and track. I am a USA Cycling Coach, and help individuals develop plans to achieve their goals. To survive the Chicago winter, I developed an indoor workout program called "Pedaling with a Purpose."

I now have various locations across the United States. To find out more about Pedaling with a Purpose or Coaching, email Kristen at: kmesh.pwp@gmail.com

Monday, April 23, 2012

Leland Kermesse and Lincoln Park Criterium

Leland Kermesse

The Leland Kermesse is a race that is loved and hated by many.  My husband's team puts this on, so I get a first hand view of how much work goes into it and how many people are needed to make it run smoothly.  Thanks Flatlandia!

I have to admit I was irritated that they combined the women's field with the men's cat 4 field.  As a rule I don't like this situation.  Other than the obvious safety concerns,  I don't think it makes for a  fair race for the women.  However, I totally understand why the folks at Flatlandia made this decision.  With such a small team, they needed to combine fields to shorten the day, and make it more manageable for them.  And as a bonus, I got to ride with some PWP folks--Max Riordon and Mike Morell from Cuttin Crew, Mark Misicko from Tower, and another Spidermonkey teammate, Dave Cushman.  

The race is a 25K Loop consisting of windy flat barren roads with 3 gravel sections making up  40% of the loop.  This year, the women and cat 4 men were doing 4 laps for 100K.  The gravel's consistancy can vary  wildly depending on what the weather's been recently.  It can be deep and loose, or tightly packed, and if it's wet and sticky it gets all over you and your bike, and if it's dry it is incredibly dusty and gets in your lungs.  Your positioning when you hit the gravel ends up making the race.  Depending on the condition of the gravel, passing can be difficult or impossible, so if you can to the front on the gravel riders opening up gaps behind you can cause a split. When you hit the pavement, a fluid breakaway can be impossible to catch due to the wind.  

Because of the gravel, the race gets a lot of attention from folks who normally race cyclocross.   I am not one of those people and am terrified of the gravel.  I just try to survive as best I can.  Of the two times I've done this race, this year the gravel seemed more tightly packed and fairly easy to negotiate, and the dust that can generate in drier years seemed to be minimal.   

We began the race and I have to admit it was really fun having a fast group to ride with, rather than braving the wind with the typical small field of women.  I was in decent position when we hit the gravel, and when we exited the first gravel section I didn't see any other women with our group.  I knew if I could just stay with the front group of guys I could get a free ride to the finish!  It was so nice to have a friendly Spidermonkey Dave to chat with, and fun to see him easily maneuver around in the field.  On the second lap shortly before the hitting the first gravel section again, Sarah appeared!  I was thrilled.  This was too good to be true. We hit the gravel when out of nowhere there was a big pile up ahead of us.  I saw a line where there was just enough room to sneak around but another rider was heading for that line at the same moment so I had no choice but to jam my bike sideways and head into the freshly plowed field.  I didn't crash but had to dismount in order to get out of the field.  Sarah had gotten caught up in it too, but we jumped on and chased back on to another chase group.  After the gravel, I was with a small group of about 4-5 of us including PWP'er Max from Cuttin Crew that started trading pulls and working hard, motivated to catch the front group.  We were gaining ground and after an entire lap, right before we hit the gravel we caught the main pack!   But being at the back on the gravel, I was not in good position and not able to close the inevitable gaps.   I spent the next lap riding all out, picking off riders, and got within sight of the field.  At this point I was riding with only one other rider and just not able to close the final gap.  Right before we hit the gravel on the last lap, there was Sarah again!  So exciting.  We knew if we stayed upright we were guaranteed a 1-2 finish.  Before we hit the finish, Sarah and I chatted and she graciously let me have the win.  We came across the line together about 10 minutes ahead of the next woman finisher!  Not only did we get a great finish, but we got a really hard ride in.  Also worth noting was our Spidermonkey teammate Dave finished second in the men's race!  Really fun hanging out after wards and hearing the stories of the other riders.  Props to our Spidermonkey teammate Kristi Hansen for getting third in the women's cat 4 race!  All in all a great day.

Lincoln Park Criterium

On Sunday we had the XXX team's Lincoln Park Criterium.  It was at Montrose harbor, and it was a sunny but incredibly windy day.  The race was on the lakefront and the wind off the lake was so brutal it felt nasty cold.  Nonetheless all the Spidermonkies that had been hanging out and racing earlier in the day, stuck around to cheer and support Sarah and I.  

Sarah and I discussed our race plan, and I was hoping to soften up the field by attacking, and hopefully the two of us would get away together.  We both felt tired from our efforts the day before, and the headwind on the long start finish stretch was brutal.  There was a nice sized field and a couple of teams represented.  
Sarah and I got call ups!

The LPV team threw down the first attack and then the second.  Then somehow we had a break of 4, consisting of two Spidermonkies and two LPV riders.  This seemed to be the break, when all of a sudden Psimet was there making 5.  We started trading pulls, but it didn't seem like the group was  super motivated to work well together.  They called a prime, I went for it, got a gap and stayed away and held it for the win.  Not sure how long, but I think it was about 10-15 minutes into the 50 minute race.  I had hoped Sarah and I could have gotten away together, but as it was, she got to have a nice easy ride sitting in while the other three riders chased.  She was able to have enough left to give an amazing attack on the back stretch of the course, and hold it for an entire half a lap to the finish.  We were able to pull off another 1-2 finish!!!  We had planned on jumping in the men's race directly afterwards but we quickly scrapped that and decided to just be happy with our results of the weekend.
Lincoln Park Criterium Podium:  Sarah and I and Katie Iserman from Psimet who's result was notable because it was her first race back since being sidelined with an injury.  Nice Job Katie!

An incredible fun day to ride in front of the entire Spidermonkey team who were all out in full cheering force!  So cool to hear about the women's cat 4 race where Spidermonkies Kristi and Stephanie executed excellent team strategy to get Stephanie onto the podium for second place.  

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

PWP Participant WIns Cat 4 Gaper's Block Series!

Women's Omnium Podium: Kristina Young (TATI) - 2nd, Eleanor Blick (Johnny Sprockets) - 1st, Robin Hoecker (Half Acre Cycling) - 3rd, and Sue Wellinghoff (xXx) - 4th (Photo by Amy Dykema)

Chicago Participant Eleanor Blick was the overall winner of the Cat 4 Gaper's Block Series.

Way to go Ellie!!!

Hi Kristen! Thought you might be interested in the Gapers Block report I wrote. If you want to share it on the PWP blog, feel free! I can't thank you enough--PWP has definitely taught me a ton. The amount of energy I had to push the pace, follow attacks and recovery quickly to make another move was totally new, and it felt awesome.

Read her report here:

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Illinois Season Opener Burnham Super Crit

The Illinois Cup season opener was yesterday and this year my new team Spidermonkey Cycling co-hosted the event along with the Burnham Racing team. That meant a loooong day in whatever weather northern Illinois in March decided to give us. We ended up with overcast skies and a thermometer that started at 37 degrees and topped out at about 45 during the day. Could have been much much worse but it still made for a cold day in the elements. Racing your own race is always hard for the promoting team but most of us did it, and some of us raced twice.

My new teammate Sarah Rice and I were going to race together for the first time and we signed up for the women's open and the men's 30+; it was the first mens race that we were eligible for and we wanted to get it out of the way so we could get into "volunteer" mode for the rest of the day. Never having raced or even ridden with Sarah, we didn't really know what to expect.

The women's race was small, but had some strong riders in it. Sarah and I tried to mix it up but no one seemed willing to let anything get away. Having no opportunities to sprint this year I decided to go for the primes to test it out. I got both of them and ended up with a huge gap on the first one that I decided to try to stay away. I held it for almost a lap, but Sarah reported that Village Verdigris and IS Corp chased it down. At the finish, I was feeling confident in the sprint, and was in good position when Verdigris lead it out early. Sarah went up the right side and I went up the left and we held it for 1-2!! Especially fun that my old BH teammate Anne was on the podium with us for third.
(Awesome prime that I sprinted my heart out for. I will wear it with pride given my known love of cyclocross. The other was a potbelly sandwich! Thanks Potbelly :) )

We then changed and hung out in the cold doing some race volunteering until it was time to race our 30+ race. Getting back into the spandex was very unpleasant--it felt impossible to get warm. I tried to keep reminding myself that it could be so much worse! When the race started I actually had trouble clipping in and got a terrible start! I kind of pride myself in my good starts, so it was a little humbling. But I was able to recover and settle in quickly. My goal was to get a good hard training ride in and practice maintaining position--and hopefully make the break! The field was a little sketchy. The wide sweeping turns made it hard to see a good line through the corners, so more than once I found myself being shoved onto the grass, and seemed like I was constantly having to go around riders after they cut me off to take the wheel I was on. Sarah and I did some good work and at one point shut down a break together. But when the winning move got away, I wasn't in good position and missed it. Instead of trying to bridge or work to close it I spent the rest of the race just hanging out. It felt a little anti climactic and when the race was over I was kicking myself for not making more of an effort durning the second part of the race. However, mainly I was happy to be safely done and to change into warm clothes.

It was really cool to get to meet all the spidermonkies I hadn't yet met. What a fun and hardworking group! I was super impressed with Sarah--she's a newly upgraded cat 3 who held her own in the men's race, and worked really well with me in the women's. With a 1-2 podium on our first race, I'm excited to see what the rest of the year will bring!