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

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Superweek 2012: Cracking the Colombian Cartel

 Since my accident at Fixed Gear Classic I've been fighting my way out of a sprained ankle and a nice depression.  Thanks to the help of a great support network, I've been progressing.  Namely, Doc Louis at Hinsdale Orthopedic,  Newt Cole at Morningbird Studio, my coach, and of course Jason and all the good friends, family and teammates who stuck by me.  The ankle, road rash and head injury healed, but I felt very tired, and I lost a ton of fitness.  I eased into racing again with a couple Thursdays at Northbrook.  I found that I was getting beat in sprints, but could hold my own with the endurance. I jumped in the second to last day of the Tour of America's Dairyland, and while what I did wasn't exactly racing, I was able to ride around and finish the race at the back of the field.   I was on the brink of quitting forever (I'm dramatic like that) but my coach said to keep working,  do Superweek and if I had a good attitude I'd go in at 80% and come out closer to 100%.

Superweek has gotten a bad rap over the last few years and attendance was lower than ever this year.  I am a bike racer.  I live near Chicago.  I've traveled all over the country to do bike races.  When there are races near my house, I'm going to race them.  I'll always have a soft spot in my heart for Superweek as when I started racing it was THE premier crit series in the country!  Our women's series started on Saturday and went 9 straight days through until the following Sunday.  Conflicting with the first day was the final race in the Illinois Cup Race Series, in Morton, IL a little town near Peoria.  I decided to double up and do both.  Probably not the smartest move, to put myself at a disadvantage to the other Superweek competitors, but since I wasn't confident that there would even be a superweek series, I decided to head down and race the Morton crit first, and then head over to the Superweek opener which was close to home in Wooddale.

Illinois Cup Race, Morton, IL
The Morton Crit turned out to be a gem of a race!  Nice prize money for the poorly attended women's race and lots of fun stuff for the kids to do in a super cute teeny tiny downtown area.  At race time temps were well over 100 degrees.  Only one other cat 1/2 woman, and a handful of cat 4's in the field.   I got second in the final sprint of the race,  but managed to pull out a sprint to win the mid race $100 prime.  By racing this race, my teammate Sarah and I secured the the top two overall spots on the  Illinois Cup for Spidermonkey!


Wooddale, IL
After the race we jumped in the car and drove to Wooddale.  I was very excited to see that the Colombian National team was there and fielding a team of 6 riders, and the Costa Rican National Team  was there fielding a team of 3.  That was it for big teams, but the race was on.  We had a field of about 15, the rest of us being locals and individuals.  Even though the temperatures had dropped about 10 degrees, it was still hot.  Racing in the extreme heat earlier that day had taken a lot out of me and I did not feel great in the race.  The Colombians controlled the race, until the final sprint, when no one seemed to want to lead out, so I did and came in very tired at 5th which I was happy with.

Geneva, IL
Photo Credit Elizabeth Rangel

Sunday we raced in Geneva,  a fancy little town on a great course with two sharp technical downhill corners.  I love this kind of course!  We quickly had a break of 5, two Colombians, me, and two other individual riders.  Not cohesive, it was amazing we stayed away from the field, and another Colombian easily bridged up making it a break of 6.  I ended up 5th in the sprint.  Disappointing, but not surprising given my sprinting form.

Richton Park
I really like this south side neighborhood and they seem to really like having the race.  Cool for this race was my former teammate Stacy Mosora coming out to test out her crit legs!  Also new for this race was the added dimension of a Canadian women's team racing with us.  At the line the promoters told us that due to poor attendance they would only be paying out 4 places.  When promoters do this I am not happy about it.  I always feel like they are punishing the people who show up, but honestly I do understand. 16 is not a money making field size.  The race started fairly tame, but the Canadians attacked and then Stacy threw down a couple of attacks which the Colombians countered.  I was able to bridge up and get off the front with one of them, joined shortly by a group of 3, 1 Costa Rican and 2 other Colombians.  I got very frustrated in this group.  Only one of the Colombians would work with me.  I wanted the break to stick so I took every other pull, with the group coming to an absolute standstill if neither I nor the one other Colombian rider were pulling.  On the last lap, my fellow worker attacked, I covered it, but the others were on me and everyone came around me except the one who had led it out so I came in at 4th-last spot in the money and a result I could live with.

Willow Springs, IL RR #1
The Willow Springs Road Race is a nice course with a significant hill in it and the finish at the top of the hill.  It is also very close to my house and I train on these roads often.  Today we did a 3.8 mile loop, going up the hill 6 times.  Going into it I knew the Colombians would dictate the race, and the Costa Ricans had made it clear they were not going to work with me. I knew I had to make the break today.  With such a short race, I thought there would be early attacks, but there were none.  I attacked a couple laps in, but the Colombians didn't want it to stick.  On the second to last lap, I attacked again up the hill.  Three Colombians countered and with them went the Costa Ricans.  I tried to go too but blew up so hard I completely popped off the back of the chase group!!  I regrouped, chased back on, and went to the front and drilled it.  I couldn't do it alone, and the others in the group were unwilling or unable to help chase.  The remaining Colombians were on me when I tried to bridge, and it was very frustrating.  I ended up 9th on the day.

Willow Springs, IL RR #2
The next day we did an extended version of the same course, and it ended up being an extended version of the same frustration for me.  Same hill with the same finish, but the loop was 10 miles, and we did it 5 times.  The Colombians attacked and counter attacked two at a time on the hill and easily got away.  The chase was futile and frustrating.  Rather than ride at 5 mph I lead out the whole last lap and rolled in near the back of the field.  After getting played two days in a row I decided I was tired of getting beat and took the next two days off to regroup.  Also for those days  the race moved into Milwaukee and I didn't really have any travel plans lined up so it just worked out better for me to stay home.  I decided to go back up for the weekend races.

Downer Avenue, Milwaukee, WI
Since Saturday and Sunday were in Milwaukee, Jason and I brought the kids up, got a hotel with a pool, and made a "vacation" of it.  Having just raced this course 2 weeks ago as part of the Tour of America's Dairlyand with 60 women in the field, it was interesting to race it with 18.  There was one tricky hairpin corner.  They shortened our race to 30 minutes, which is very short for a superweek race.  There were a couple of attacks, but nothing got away.  At 3 to go an individual rider made a solo attempt and held it.  On the last lap, I got pinched and nearly taken out on the hairpin!  Scary, but it made me mad enough to jump the field on the back stretch.  In the final corner I caught the rider off the front and then just a moment too late I realized that I had a small gap!  I got passed by two Colombian riders to end up third.  I was super happy for a podium finish finally!!
New Berlin, WI
This industrial park crit had wide sweeping corners and one short side that had a slight uphill.  Going into the last race of a series when you are not in contention for the overall and the yellow jersey is secure can make for some fun racing.  From the line I went hard and the Columbian rider that had worked hard with me in the previous races went hard too.  We immediately had a gap with one other Colombian and a Canadian rider.  The other Colombian would not work, and tried to get in the way of our efforts.  The Canadian rider fell off the back.  All week I'd been regretting my inability to speak Spanish but never more than now.  I couldn't figure out if they wanted the break to stick or not but I sure did!  The only people giving splits were the Colombian team managers, so I didn't even know if we were gaining on the field.  But we were.  Eventually I got some English splits and heard we were making great time.  The two of us drilled it until we lapped the field less than half way into the race.  I unsuccessfully tried to drive our break past the field, and we were reabsorbed.  The rest of the race was very slow broken up only by sprints for points.  I was marking my break mates and had a fairly decent sprint at the end and almost won :(  but came in second.  It was close and if I had to lose to someone I was glad that it was the woman who had worked with me all week.  What a fun way to end the series!
The elusive stage win
photo credit Douglas Fox

New Berlin Podium from Left:  Otto Wenz, founder of Superweek,  my daughter Lucinda and me in Second,  Colombian National Team in First and Third and Michael Garrison, current promoter
photo credit Scott Siebers

Sidney enjoying his summer vacation at an industrial park crit in wisconsin 

My poor results in the road races and skipping two days of racing caused me to end up 8th overall.  I feel pretty good and while I don't know if I'm actually at 100% (isn't that why we are all hooked on this sport?  Because if we work just a little harder we can get a little better??) I definitely feel much stronger now than at the beginning of the series.  Progress was made!

There are lots of problems with Superweek and I don't begin to know what they all are. I was glad to have a series to race and even though I got my butt thoroughly kicked I was glad that the Colombian Team and the Costa Rican Team showed up and I was able to have some successful racing in my backyard!  Thanks and good luck to everyone.

Now to pull up the soap box.  I was sad that more people weren't there but what really struck me were all the complaints of the men who were racing.  Things like:
"They cut our prize money"
"They only paid out x places and a break of x was up the road.  There was no point in racing"
"The field was so small there was no place to hide"
"They combined us with pros"
"The race was not what they advertised"

I can't tell you how many times my prize money has been cut at the line, or my race shortened or field combined.  It happens to women all the time.  So to the men who were making these comments, perhaps now that you have experienced the suckiness of this you will give a nod to the women when you are promoting your races.  And women, the only way we are going to get a better deal is to have more women in races.


  1. Thank you for the honorable mention (photo). Stay strong you are a great competitor.

  2. Thanks! And thanks for taking such great photos!