Racing lessons: the road race

What is a Road Race?

Since American amatuer cyclists spend most of their time within the tight, gladitorial confines of the criterium, they cherish the opportunity to partake in what their European counterparts often take for granted:  the Road Race.

There are two types of Road Races in the United States: true point-to-point road races  and "circuit" events.

Point-to-point races are exceedingly rare, due to the high cost of maintaining the 30 to 150 miles of race course, and are usually only seen at the pro level.  Circuits, raced in laps of 1.5 to 10 miles, are more common, but are still much less prevelent than the closed course criterium. 

While circuits may resemble a criterium, they utilize road-racing rules, and there are a few differences:

Road races are generally on open roads, raced within a "rolling enclosure."  The field stays between a pace car and a chase car.  The pace car keeps the road ahead clear, and the chase vehicle, usually a motorcycle which enforces the "yellow-line rule" or communicates any important course information to the field.  The yellow line rule is enforced on rolling enclosure courses - riders must stay to the right of the yellow line and crossing it is grounds for disqualification.

In road-races and circuits, racers must chase to return to the field in the event of a crash or mechanical; there is no free lap as allowed in the criterium.

Tactically, the techniques employed by racers are the same in every race: you will still see the attack, the chase, and the block.  The longer nature of the race and the much more varied terrain affects how these tactics are used stragically, however. published a fantastic tutorial this year on the anatomy of race: click here for Act I and Act II.

For more information, visit and pezcyclingnewscom for great coverage on the local, domestic, international cycling scene.

Utah drops the hammer on texting drivers

The New York Times reported on the recently passed Utah legislation which makes texting behind the wheel a crime punishable by up to 15 years in jail should it result in a fatal crash. From the article:

"The new law, which took effect in May, penalizes a texting driver who causes a fatality as harshly as a drunken driver who kills someone. In effect, a crash caused by such a multitasking motorist is no longer considered an 'accident' like one caused by a driver who, say, runs into another car because he nodded off at the wheel. Instead, such a crash would now be considered inherently reckless.'It’s a willful act,' said Lyle Hillyard, a Republican state senator and a big supporter of the new measure. 'If you choose to drink and drive or if you choose to text and drive, you’re assuming the same risk.'"

Read the full article here.

The law was enacted after a crash caused by a texting teen killed two noted rocket scientists. In the end the teen pleaded guilty to two counts of negligent homicide and was sentenced to 30 days in jail, 200 hours of community service and required to read "Les Miserables".

The University of Utah also happens to be the source of a 2006 study that showed how and why drivers who are talking on a cell phone are as impaired as those with a .08 blood alcohol level, a finding that is becoming more and more recognized, accepted and cited. Keep up the good work beehive state!

It seems as though a cultural shift in our national attitude towards the use of multitasking technologies while driving is inevitable as the undeniable scientific evidence from the lab continues to stack up on top of the anecdotal evidence in the form of roadway carnage. Transportation director Ray LaHood’s upcoming September summit between senior transportation officials, safety advocates, law enforcement representatives, members of Congress and academics is just one more tangible reason to hope for a national shift in perspective about the issues and dangers associated with distracted driving.

In much the same way that we once lived in a clouded state of cognitive dissonance about the dangers of drinking and driving, but were finally shaken out of that somnambulistic state, we can hope to one day soon come out of the dream (or nightmare) we're living in now about the true dangers of the use of distracting technologies while driving.

September remains hot

While the road season is winding down, there are still several events vying for the attention of Chicago cycling enthusiasts.

La Vuelta d'Espana began on Saturday - with Fabian Cancellara taking the prologue time trial and still in possession of a 6 second lead.  While Christian Vandevelde's Garmin Slipstream team is racing in Spain, the Lemont native is gearing up for next week's...

...Tour of Missouri opener in St. Louis on Labor Day.  Expect a lot of heavy hitters -including Dave Zabriski and David Millar riding for Christian - as well as European superstars Heinrich Haussler, Mark Cavendish, and Franco Pellizotti to bring a continental atmosphere to this promising stage race.

And on September 12th, the Illinois State Championship Road Race will take place in Willow Springs, practically Vandevelde's back yard.  Registration is open

You'd look hotter in a helmet

You really would look hotter in a helmet. Check out the NYTimes Bill Cunningham's "On the Street" fashion show all about helmets.

Complete Streets Resolution Passed in Highland Park

Great news to report from the North Suburbs – on August 26, the Highland Park Traffic Commission passed a resolution to develop a Complete Streets policy. While the resolution will still require approval by the Highland Park City Council, this is a great step forward to towards infrastructure improvements that will make roadways safer and more accessible for pedestrians, cyclists, and transit users.

Congratulations to the hard working residents of Highland Park who propelled this effort and worked in partnership with Doug Gerleman from the Northbrook Bike Task Force to raise awareness of the benefits and need to prioritize a Complete Streets policy that will bring further continuity to the North Suburbs by providing alternate transportation options.

If you are a Highland Park resident, let your City Council members hear your voice so that a Complete Streets policy can be officially adopted!

If you are interested in initiating or participating in a bike task force in your community to bring awareness and priority to policies that support pedestrians, cyclists, and transit users, please contact me so we can help you get started. This win in Highland Park shows that interested residents can indeed make a real difference in the community!

Interview with a CTA bus driver who's a customer service pro

Here's a great interview on one of my favorite local transportation blogs. VoteWithYourFeet chats with Jairo Naranjo, a veteran CTA bus driver about customer service and much more.

State road race championship is on

Tower Racing is once again bringing Illinois cyclists a state road racing championship, on Sept. 12, 2009.  Through unintended, yet fortunate circumstances, it will move from last year's location in Oak Brook to an area many area riders are intimately familiar with, Willow Springs. has an excellent, must-read preview of the race published, but anyone who has done the Cafe De Luca ride on Sunday mornings from Wicker Park will have the advantage here.

Registration is open and is expected to fill up fast.

Crossing over

It's that time of year. 

Road racing is winding down; not much remains except for some final state championships and random crits.  Burnouts are everywhere, looking for low pressure rides and long mornings at the coffee shops.  The local group rides are filling back up with regulars, while others are discovering their significant others again.

But soon, fall barbeques will send sweet smoke across the parks, stereos will be blasting classic rock across the parking lot, and the welcoming sound of a frothy, cold beer popping open will attract friends far and wide.

It's not a tailgate party.

It's Cyclocross season.

Looking for a way to continue your fitness and keep your competitive edge?  Or way to break into bike racing without risking road rash or worse?  Cyclocross could be for you.  A combination of road and mountain biking, running and pedaling and in-between, cyclocross racers navigate a techical course over varied terrain, including barriers which require a dismount, then retire to sidelines for beer-handups and other general shenanigans.  It's no wonder cyclocross is one of the fast growing disciplines in American cycling, and in competitive sports, overall in fact. 

The Chicago Cross Cup kicks off the 2009 season in Jackson Park, brought to you by XXX Racing - AthletiCo, on Sunday, September 20th.  Registration is open.

Schools Cut Back on Transportation

According to a report by the American Association of School Administrators, 23 percent of school districts are cutting back on school bus routes and availability due to funding shortfalls. Rather than not offering any transportation services, Active Trans has a better solution. Implement Safe Routes to School and other programs that encourage walking and rolling to school.

Active Trans has multiple programs for elementary schools including one-time presentations, mini-grants for Walk and Roll to School Day events, curriculum and fun challenge programs. Give us a call at 312.427.3325 for help starting a program at your school.

Read the full report here.

Lakefront Trail Activities August 28-30

Activities that may affect your use of the Lakefront Trail August 28-30

Friday, August 28

Friday Night at North Avenue Beach, 6-9pm


Saturday, August 29

Chicago Shoreline Marathon, I'm not sure how much this will affect Lakefront Trail Traffice, this is a water event with check points on the shore at 63rd St. Beach, 12th St. Beach, North Ave. and Montrose beaches. The event is from 9am to 4pm

McDonald's Kids/Fleet Feet Sports Triathlon, Lincoln Park (Foster Area), 5am-3pm


Sunday, August 30

Chicago Triathlon, Grant Park, 6am-3pm

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