October 2008


Earlier this year, Brooks announced they would award 50 top Brooks dealers across the globe with a limited edition White Swallow saddle. The 50 saddles would be numbered and awarded at Eurobike and Interbike. North Central Cyclery was one of the top US dealers to receive the coveted saddle.

It arrived in a non-descript cardboard box, in a linen bag, wrapped in bubble-wrap. I had imagined an armored vehicle, and armed gaurds; but I guess they were going for the quiet, under-the-radar approach.

It’s a beauty.

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It is now Wednesday, and the Hopkins Cross Race has been over and done for 3 days. I am just now capable to putting some of my experience into words.

I first looked at the clock at 4am to see if it was time to get up yet. I was so anxious I couldn’t sleep. I finally got up at 4:50 to get some grub and get to the park. I should have left at 4. I got to Hopkins and drove around the park dropping off stakes and tape. Evidently I looked pretty suspicious driving through the trees – an officer showed up as I was loading the Element for another loop. He looked like a guy ready to be done with the 3rd shift. His interrogation was telling of his exhaustion:

HIM -“We had a call about a suspicious car in the park.”

ME – “That must have been me”

HIM – “What are you setting up for?”

ME – “We’re having a bike race in the park today.”

HIM – “ok.”

And then he was gone. I thought the body-shaped piles I was dropping all over the park would have brought on a little more inquiry, but no, it was 5:30 in the stinking morning.

The Evanator was the first zombie to arrive at 6:28am. He didn’t need convincing to join me on a trip to Dunkin D’s.

The Half Acre people started rolling in just before 7am – which is impressive given the 50mi drive they had to make. We were all a little slow, but it started to hit the fan around 7:45. We had an incredibly long and windy course that required miles of caution tape and over 250 stakes. We had great people show up and help, but it was still a monumental task. I ran and rode around the park like an idiot for 3 hours. All of our good intentions for a clean and organized registration process went out the window as the riders started congregating around the frantic volunteers.

We finished the course after buying another $80 in caution tape and using up almost everything. We were done with 30min to spare before the first race. People were already testing the course before we finished taping and everyone had good things to say.

The DeKalb Fire Dept showed up with their shiny new Surly Karate Monkey EMT bikes to patrol the course and take care of casualties.

The race started and a great wave of relief came over me. It had come together. The other promoters tried to tell me it would, but i didn’t believe them. I hope they got a kick out of my panic.

The sky darkened as the first races were going and it started to drizzle soon after. It rained for a while; the worst of it fell on the 1/2/3 race (rightly so!). The fast guys were great to watch in the slick conditions. The spectators congregated at the run-up/barrier/switchback/slip’n’slide area. I don’t think a single rider stayed upright for the whole course. It was a blast. The Chicago Cuttin Crew parked their beast bus at the top of the rough back section and had a nice crew of people keeping the energy up back there. Thank you, CCC for coming out.

After the 1/2/3 race it started to clear up. The sun even made an appearance. It was clear skyies for the 4a and 4b races, but the course was pretty greasy still.

I learned a valuable lesson that day. Donuts, Pizza, and a 4am wake-up call do not make for a good day of racing. That being said, I am not totally disappointed with my race. About 18 minutes into my 30 minute race, I could have eaten a buffalo if it was in front of me. Usually I feel like vomiting during a race, but this is the first time I felt ravenously hungry. Quite strange.

It was a great feeling to cross the line and know the day was almost done. I knew the stress of take-down wasn’t really mine to bear, but it was meant for the next promoter, Ted. He had to pack it all up for his race.

At the end of the day, after everyone was paid and everyone went home, it was a surreal sight. The stakes were pulled, but the course was clear. The wheels of 230 riders making 4-5 laps per race had left a matted snake of dark grass weaving through the trees. It beckoned for more. It is hard not to follow the track as you walk through the park.

It was a truly incredible day. Team Half Acre was awesome and we couldn’t have done it without them. A heap of thanks to the DeKalb Park District, The Chicago Cross Cup people, my own NCC Crew, all the riders and all the spectators who came all the way to DeKalb on a rainy Sunday. Thank you.

It was a crisp morning in DeKalb. Fall has fallen. I took a spin on the cross bike and took some pics on the way. Here are a few shots of DeKalb that even locals would have a hard time recognizing.