It wasn’t that long ago that one wouldn’t really have to ask roadie friends what their weekend plans are in mid-July. But this is a new day, and I’ve learned that the old rules and the old calendar don’t really dictate “the season” any more. And that’s OK. That there is very little consensus about what constitutes an interesting and meaningful event simply means that folks appear to be writing their own narratives now. Well, that, and also burning out in May, thanks to overzealous coaches, brutal winter training plans, Computrainer social clubs, and an early spring absolutely stacked with miserable, cold, and wet crits.
Only a fraction of the local scene raced ToAD this year, with many citing either/or decisions which pitted that series against PCSC, so I’m hopeful that we’ll see large crowds for this well run and very promising event. But we’re in the trough between those two omniums, and I was curious this week what folks are up to. Would they be suiting up for some long weekend rides? Would it be a rest week to save the legs for Prairie State? Or would it be a weekend of road trips, perhaps to the wonderful Maple Hill Road Race in Lawton, Michigan or the Wisconsin State TT Championships?
Here in Illinois there are two very different, but similarly sized events on tap. Both the inaugural Ten Thousand ride and the Winfield Crit have about one hundred pre registered participants. I’ve been thinking about this contrast all morning, and I wonder to what extent we are witnessing the future and the past of amateur participatory semi-competitive cycling events, in this microcosm.
The Winfield Crit was once a premier event on the local summer road racing calendar. It pairs a technical, exciting course with great neighborhood support and traditionally very high payouts. Previous winners have included Kelly (Benjamin) Fisher-Goodwin, Bryce Mead, Robbie Ventura, Josh Carter, Christy Keely, Jessi Prinner, and Mike Sherer. But for any number of reasons, we are witnessing events like this fall out of favor, if not outright fold. The majority of the participants tend to be male masters racers who live in the region.
The Ten Thousand Ride is the latest project from Axletree, the same organization which puts on the Gravel Metric. Described as a “Gentleman’s Race,” it is an unsupported, grueling 200km mixed terrain event that includes 10,000 feet of climbing. This format is booming around the country, and absolutely has captured the local zeitgeist.
As the gravel trend has grown here in the midwest, it has interestingly expanded from the first wave of adventure/touring/rando/mtb folks to cx racers looking for summer racing opportunities to roadies looking to diversify a sometimes repetitive season of crit after crit to first time racers. It’s that latter category that is most fascinating. A cursory glance at the Ten Thousand start list shows that there are four times as many women doing it vs Winfield, and a surprising number of younger and/or newer riders of both genders. That’s pretty amazing for a first year, unsupported, absolutely bananas event.
Also this weekend is the Indy Crit, the biggest race of the year in Indiana, and arguably one of the best in the Midwest. Thankfully, registration appears to be healthy, and fields very tough. There are 4 Chicagoland racers signed up, which is a little mystifying considering the region’s identity as Critville, but also not surprising in the slightest.
As for Tativille, the crew is split this weekend. Loren, Katie, Kara, and Carrie are headed out to suffer through Ten Thousand, a handful are camping in Michigan and shredding some hills, and the rest of us are… riding cross bikes at Palos. While the young racer in me would scoff at this motley crew and its terrible choices, the 2014 me observes it for what it is. And it is the mainstream.
Also: Fall Fling, Belleville, Villa Park GP, Edwardsville, Spring Prairie, Cherry Roubaix, Gateway, Bloomington, & the Great Egyptian Omnium.