See the race on MotionBased:

xXx's Cyclocross offering in Jackson Park kicked off the Chicago Cross Cup for 2008. I arrived plenty early so I could watch the hour-long Pro/1/2 race - I wanted to see how experienced cross racers would ride the course - what lines they took approaching barricades, etc.

Heeding Randy's advice from the previous week, I pre-rode the ~1.25mi course twice. Generally flat, it provided some rather technical off-camber turns into barricades, 180 degree turns transitioning pavement to grass, and long straightaways allowing for passing. The course was generally narrow enough to make passing difficult outside of the straightaways, so I knew that positioning at the start would be critical to avoiding the inevitable traffic jam as the peleton headed into the first narrow section.

I managed to line up on the second row, inside at the start - at the time it seemed like the 4a group was big when I watched the start of that race, but now it seemed like there were MORE guys in the 4b race.

Dave Fowkes gave us our pre-race speech and started us off. The rider ahead of me clipped in properly and was off like a rocket - I was able to do the same and followed his wheel out of the start/finish area. I charged hard into the first narrow section, somewhere around 8th wheel. As I wound through, I caught the jam-up in my peripheral vision and charged ahead. I approached the off-camber-dismount-into-a-barricade and popped off the bike perfectly, somehow. I suitcased the bike up to the next barricade instead of rolling it (was yelled at for this), cleared the second barricade and remounted, clipped in, and was off again. Never had I so cleanly mounted/dismounted before. I was about 10th wheel when I came to the third barricade and dropped my chain... tried being uber-PRO and shift it back on, but it wasn't happening. I grabbed the chain, pitched it onto the small ring, and got back on the bike. I dropped my chain on that same spot 2 laps later... not sure what I was doing wrong. After the first chain drop I knew I was mid-pack and that it was unlikely I'd catch up, so I settled into a tempo and rode, trying to keep from being passed any further.

On the last lap, the intensity caught up with me and I just had no gas left in the tank but I pushed it out as hard as I could. On the back half, Guy Graves yelled "MOVE YOUR ASS ITS THE LAST LAP" which found me with more energy, somehow... knowing that there was a decent pavement section before the finish, I shifted into my 53x24 and stood on it, sprinting like there was no tomorrow - I hit the pavement and worked through the gears, hitting the grass again around 22-23mph and passing 2 or 3 riders in disbelief.

My goal for the race was to survive, finishing without breaking anything. The bike's ok, I'm ok, and it was fun.

Before I raced, I wasn't sure if I'd like cyclocross. I found that answer in Jackson Park. :)