Kerry Werner

Kerry Werner takes Bronze at the 2018 USA Cyclocross National Champs

It had been 4 weeks since the last bare-knuckle brawl at the Hendersonville NCGP, in Hendersonville, NC. I ended up winning both days that weekend and came out of it with a huge boost of confidence, a sharp focus on nationals, and lots of mud in my chamois (refer to this Kona Cog post to fully understand the degree of my soiled chamois).

Jim Lehman, my CTS coach, and I had been discussing my weaknesses all year, as they came up, and sought to weed them out during this time. The four weeks off from domestic racing would provide me the final training block before a five-weekend push of racing in Europe, which included nationals through the weekend after the World Championships.

I was lucky to have the local NCCX cyclocross series and a solid group of strong racers in the area to help mitigate the monotony of training by my lonesome.

With all the work done and my confidence in the right place, I boarded a plane bound for Reno, NV on Thursday.

My fiancé’s whole family was out for the race and we were all sharing an Airbnb. Her dad raced masters on Wed, her and her sister were racing single speed on Saturday and elite women on Sunday. Her mom was there in a support/cheer capacity (laundry, grocery shopping and yelling at us to go faster). Emily’s sister and her boyfriend drove up from Salt Lake and he was, sporting a “Tim the Tool Man” tool belt, ready for stuff to hit the fan and get some action in the pit. Needless to say, we had a full house.

Friday and Saturday were acclamation days for me. Doug and I were making last-minute fine tunes, not only on the bikes but my legs.

I was getting used to the time change and checking out the course, finding the good lines, and the bad ones.

Also, checking in with people I hadn’t seen in over a month, and most importantly trying to manage the nervousness and excitement.

I was constantly trying to keep my mind off of the race. I don’t like to brood over how I feel and constantly run through potential race scenarios in my head. It takes the fun away. So Aaron Bradford hooked me up with his good luck chain to keep my mood and mind in the right place.

However, the anticipation was always with me and building, up until the gun sounded at 3pm on Sunday afternoon.

I clipped in straight away and got the holeshot. I found myself at the front of the race, sitting in the top five. Everything was going smoothly. I was feeling comfortable as J-Pows was dictating the pace for the first half of the race, which I was totally cool with. My plan was not to stick my nose into the wind until absolutely necessary and when I did I was going to make it count.

Plans changed about five laps in when the pace was quickened and I started feeling the effects of 4500ft. I was walking a dangerous line trying to match Jeremy’s efforts, and when Stephen got on the front, I knew that if I went with the move I wouldn’t last more than half a lap. So I had to let it go.

A gap of 15 seconds opened up as I came through with 3 to go, but Tobin was starting to feel the altitude too and became dislodged from Hyde and Powers at the front. With him in no man’s land, I put a target on his back. Things got easier as people were shouting at me that he was falling apart. I couldn’t see his face and his body language was hard to read but after hearing a handful of people describe his grimace as “foaming at the mouth” I knew I still had a chance at the final podium spot.

Head down, I started closing in. two laps to go he had seven seconds. When we came through the line with one to go and I had just managed to connect. I sat on his wheel through the start stretch then attacked. I knew if I could get a little gap on the first half of the course I could hold it off. All the pedaling and effort was from the start line to pit two. From there it was a false flat to the “off camber”. If you could lead out of the off camber it wasn’t long until the finish.

I gapped him and started foaming at the mouth myself. The spectators were extremely motivating and helped me hang on. I breathed a sigh of relief after descending the off camber with no problems and motored to the line for 3rd.

I was elated, even though I came in with the expectation to win. I could do nothing about the altitude. Powers was ready for it. He had put the time in at altitude before the race and Stephen is just a freak and riding outrageously well right now. Therefore, standing next to those guys at the end of the day felt satisfying. I had no resentment towards my effort it was all I could do.

With nationals done and dusted the domestic racing season has concluded. I have a lot to be proud of this year so far. I finished 2nd in the US Cup, took 6 wins, top 20 at the Jingle World Cup, and topped out at 23rd in the UCI world ranking.

However, it ain’t over yet. Thursday I fly across the Atlantic to kick off my European campaign, starting with the French World Cup, Nommay. Then Hoogerhiede, the World Championships, and three category races after Worlds. After a season where I set high expectations in the US I am looking forward to going over to Europe with no expectations.

Of course, I have goals, top 25 in the world cups and worlds. But so many things can happen. Jet lag is real, the starts are crazy and sometimes involve crashes, there will likely be mud, which could mean unforeseen mechanicals, and the flight over in the germ tube can ruin a person.

Consequently, I’ll toe the line with a determined focus and fight tooth and nail for every position. But when things don’t go my way I will try to treat it like water off a ducks back and move on to the next one.

Snowy Sweep At Hendo NCGP

My excitement started peaking on Thursday when I saw weather reports calling for snow! Little did I know what we were in for… With that said I figured I would stir the pot and get other people excited for the coming battle. Tristan put up a win last year and lives in Hendersonville, so he took on “people’s champ” status. (I made this boxing spoof stats flyer)

Kerm and I left for Hendo at 10am. It took us 4hrs to drive the normal 2hr drive due to some adverse weather conditions. This is what the parking lot looked like upon arrival.

Needless to say we were happy to be parked for the weekend, though I was worried. Looking across the park at the taped course revealed a constant 10’’ blanket of snow. So much for a preride… I was curious how racing in the stuff was going to be considering we can’t use bigger than 33c tires. I was happy not to be going off at 8:30 on Saturday morning but thankful to those brave and dedicated souls for busting the crust.

The snow kept up all night and we woke up Saturday morning to winter in full effect. Collegiate racers towed the line at 8:30am and were probably better off racing with flats and tennis shoes with Yaktrax than cycling shoes with clips.

We got on course for preside at 11:40am, which by then, a considerable amount of snow had melted and been turned to slush by rotating tires. Eric Thompson and I got out for a pre ride and we were both filled with excitement, the kind that school children get in anticipation for Santa’s arrival.

The women went off at 1:20 and we followed after at 2:30. (Emily got 3rd, her first UCI podium appearance in a long time!)

I got a good start and found myself sitting on Tristan Cowie’s wheel. Though, once we veered off the start straight pavement I was taking direct spray to the face and wanted to get to the front where I could see enough to pick my own line. I was running Donnelly PDX front and rear at 19/21, which was perfect. There weren’t rocks or roots to hit and low pressure was hooking up while allowing the PDX tread to clear marvelously.

PC Heather Angel

A group of 4 of us traded places at the front of the race the first 3 laps. Eric Thompson, Cooper Willsey, Tristan Cowie, and I were testing out each other’s lines and putting the screws to each other to find the chinks in the armor.

I managed to create some space and gap Tristan but Cooper and Eric where still breathing down my neck. With 3 laps to go, I found some space and put my head down, but focused more on being smooth than relentlessly putting effort into the pedals. Being consistent and upright was crucial not just to maintaining my gap but also keeping me in a good comfortable mental state.

PC Heather Angel

I stayed out front through the final laps listening to the announcer talk about the battle going down between Eric and Cooper for second, happy that I only had to battle with myself.

Podium time!

PC Heather Angel

Sunday we woke up to sub-freezing conditions. The course was a gnarled mess of frozen ruts from yesterdays racing.

The main line from yesterday was now untouchable unless you fancied being jarred and bucked around or risking a flat. Crossing Saturday’s race line was like crossing a rock garden. Sunday’s lines were either two feet to the left or right of Saturday’s. All the insides were then outsides and outsides were insides.

Again the official dropped the flag at 2:30 and I took to Tristan’s wheel again, who has had some pretty stellar starts lately. I don’t know how he gets clipped in that fast…

A group of 3 formed quickly at the front and we set to testing each other out. Eric upped the pace on an off camber on the backside of the course, which broke us free of Tristan. Then Eric and I took turns throwing punches at each other while trying to hold off Tristan and two other chasers.

We were working together, looking forward to an end of the race battle. However, Eric bobbled coming into 2 laps to go, which allowed me a little bit of daylight. I took the opportunity to put my head down and make a more concrete gap.

PC Heather Angel

With the ruts constantly changing and fear of an unpredictable mechanical I was grateful to get some space just in case. I grew the gap and stayed consistent, pitting once a lap the last 3 laps just to make sure. Kerm was holding down pit duties just fine and stepping up to the plate in the wake of Doug’s absence.

PC Zeb King

I came into the weekend really looking forward to the sweep after missing out on a win last weekend in Tulsa. While I am not originally from NC I do call it home now and a lot of the cycling community here see me as a local racer so I was ecstatic to take both wins at my “home “ race.

It’s always nice when you can rub bows between the tape but share special moments out of the saddle. For instance, smore’s to warm our bones while waiting for podium. (I don’t know what I am doing with my hands…)

PC Heather Angel

Huge shout out to Tim Hopkins, NCCX and Hendersonville NCGP promoter, for keeping things together this weekend. Turn out may not have been as high as it could have been because of the weather but Tim and his crew did an amazing job at making sure the weekend ran smoothly. They battled lots of snow, pressure washer rental company bailing on the weekend, got more pressure washers, which then froze, constant course retapping, lots of snow shoveling, etc. Hats off.

Now its 4 weekends off before nationals. I plan on supplementing in some local NCCX racing, training with the boys, and enjoying the holidays. Until then, cheers!

P.S. Stay tuned for new rider cards coming out!

Tulsa Tango

After eating way too much turkey and having way too much fun with friends over Thanksgiving it was time to get back between the tape for the last C1 weekend of the North American CX season.

Doug had dropped the trailer in Tulsa after Louisville so we both flew in and met up on Thursday. We stayed at Jill and Chris Dakin’s house, who were amazing all weekend. Their two 11 year-old boys raced the weekend, Chris did the P 1, 2 race both days, and the whole family came to support all the races all weekend.

Friday, we spent a lazy morning getting ready to check out the course, which opened at 3 pm. Though there is not a lot of elevation change in the park Tanner and the course designers put together a fun track. There was an up and down sandpit, a slick creek crossing, an unpredictable creek crossing, some fun single track in the woods, and some stairs that were rideable.

Day 1 the course went counter clockwise and Day 2 was the opposite.

I was prepared for some tactical racing as the course wasn’t physically demanding. The key was to keep it together as you were seeing red on the rev limiter. One dab or slip up could open up a gap, though, the gaps were hard to maintain due to the nature of the course.

After another pre-ride Saturday around noon, I opted for the Donnelly file treads at 21F-24R.

 

The gun sounded and we were routed straight into the sand section. The field was strung out and we had a large group at the front for the first half of the race. It wasn’t until 5 or 4 to go that the front group was a definite group of 5: Tobin Ortenblad, Gage Hecht, Lance Haidet, Cody Kaiser, and myself.

With three to go Gage dropped his chain on the steps and then it was Lance, Tobin, and I at the front. Gage clawed his way back on as we started 1 lap to go. I found the front halfway through the last lap, which is when we entered the single track. Soon after that we approached the finish.

I thought being in the front at that point was crucial to holding the chasers off. As we came upon 200m to go I was sure I was going to have the win until I went to the outside around a right-hand corner to avoid the steeper part of a ditch crossing, the line that everyone took all race. Tobin came in hot and sent it straight over the ditch on the inside to chop me in the exit of the corner. I was on his wheel but there was no room to move up in the final corners of the race and he held me off for the win.

That one hurt. I was looking forward to getting a C1 win this season and that was my last chance. While it was my best C1 finish, it didn’t come with the satisfaction that those kinds of finishes usually provide. I was feeling physically strong all day and comfortable in the technical bits but Tobin found the chink in my finish strategy armor. Ellery, Chris’s 5 year old daughter, burst into tears when I crossed the line in second because she wanted me to win so bad. I am glad she acted out my emotions so I didn’t have too. Heh.

There exists a sliver lining, though. We went back to the host house and grilled out, had a cocktail or two, and ate outside on a 60ºF night in the beginning of December, but apparently, global warming is “fake news”.

After a pre-ride of Sunday’s course, I opted for MXP’s at 23F-25R. There were a few more roots exposed and the extra grip comforts me when I am riding aggressively, which was the plan for the day.

The wind was howling all afternoon and I knew that would make it even harder to break up the field. No one wants to stick their nose out in the wind and pull everyone along with them, especially on a tactical course like Ruts n’ Guts.

Sure enough, we had a huge group of 15 strung out two laps in, then 10, and then 8. Finally, with about 4 to go, it was a group of 5. Again, I was feeling strong and thinking ahead to the end of the race, where my positioning should be and how to hold off Tobin’s, infamous, last half lap charge.

Just as we entered the woods section after the finish we dipped down and turned left across a small rise. I took a hard pedal stroke out of the corner and SNAP! I managed to break my chain.

I was far from the pit and there wasn’t much I could do but kick push and run. I got a new bike from Doug and proceeded to do damage control. There wasn’t much to race for except the purpose of finishing the race, going hard, and anger management. I could have easily thrown in the towel as I wasn’t going to get any UCI points and the payout for a C2, outside of the top five, isn’t worth getting out of bed for. But I stayed on the gas and stayed in the race mentally, which is a positive take away.

After the race, I was bummed out. I was feeling good all race and looking forward to shaking it up on the last lap to contend for the win, which is the about the only positive take away. There is comfort in knowing that my result on paper was a direct result of something I couldn’t control rather than having a biomechanical. The fitness is there but so was a small lapse in oversight from lady luck.

It’s on to the next one! I’m heading to Hendersonville, NC, which is 2.5 hrs from Winston-Salem and a race I have done for the last 4 or 5 years. I got my first UCI win there and I am looking forward to the course changes that Tim Hopkins, NCCX race promoter and course designer, has made. There isn’t any rain in the forecast but the temps are dropping into the mid 40’s and lows in the 20’s overnight. Maybe we will have some freeze/thaw slick but at least we will be in long sleeve skin suits.

Kerry Werner Race Report: Supercross Cup

After a weekend off to get my wits about me and some local racing, Kerry Shields and I loaded up the RV and headed north. First, a pit stop at my grandparent’s house, then Friday to the course.

I went to the Rockland Community College venue last year, solely in a support capacity for Emily. I got the flu week before the race, which was a beautiful day Saturday and a mudder on Sunday. The weather this year was looking good and wet for Saturday, and also the potential for remnant slip n’ slide Sunday. Needless to say, I was excited to toe the line.

Myles, race promoter, and course designer, did a good job utilizing a long hill, evenly, throughout the course. There were ample off-cambers and tough punchy climbs. So when the drizzle started falling just before our race on Saturday I knew we were in store for some slick corners.

The majority of the course was on open grass fields, which was conducive to running very low pressure, especially with the added moisture. However, there was a wooded section which was newly cut for the race and had quite a few exposed roots and rock, which was conducive to a higher pressure to prevent flats.

I went 26-24 on the Donnelly PDX (Rear and Front) and sure enough, by the time we hit the first off-camber tight uphill, into the stairs, I knew I had too much tire pressure.

 

I waited a lap until our group started forming then did a quick pit, yelling the half lap before to Kerry so he would drop 2 PSI, front and rear. Curtis and Cooper put a few bike lengths into me but I quickly rejoined and immediately felt more confident on the bike.

I started getting gaps on Curtis and eventually Cooper. They also pitted for tire pressure adjustment, which helped me get some more time.

 

With 3 laps to go, I had a good 25-30 second lead so I coerced myself and the bike to stay steady and smooth.

I took one more pit for a clean bike one lap before the finish. I didn’t want anything to go wrong on that last lap and the bikes were starting to pack up with the newly uncovered dirt turned to mud, in the woods.

From there it was smooth sailing to the line.

Day 1 Highlights from dirtwire.tv HERE

Saturday night more rain came down and it was on and off until early Sunday morning. I thought the course would be similarly slick but the heavy winds dried it out significantly.

The punchy climbs got soggy and felt as if the mud was turning each tire knob into a little suction cup.

I hole shotted again but this wasn’t as necessary as yesterday, maybe even an unwise decision. The wind was howling at times and being on the front was a major burden. A lap in, and with most of the technical sections behind us, the field was strung out but still one huge unit. It didn’t widdle down to a group of 3, Curtis, Cooper, and I, until about 6 to go then it was a group of 2, Curtis and I until 4 to go and then Curtis got away from me with 2.5 laps to go.

He was hitting it hard up the climbs like every watt went directly into propulsion, and going straight over the top. I was feeling inefficient and he was cracking me. Eventually, I couldn’t hold his pace over the top of a climb and he was gone. At that point, I knew it was survival mode. I tried to mitigate time loss and came in 2nd, down 30 seconds.

Champaign showers followed and warm showers followed that.

Day 2 highlights from Dirtwire.tv HERE

We quickly broke down our compound, loaded the RV, hitched up the trailer, and got on our way down south. First, another pit stop at home then back to NC on Monday for Thanksgiving prep and some more training.

P.S. I am making my first turkey this year, so cross your fingers for me.

 

Photos by Marco Quezada

Loo-vull Sluggin: Kerry Werner’s weekend of two halves

After a week of Airbnb’ing in Louisville (pronounced like you have a mouth full of jelly beans, hence my title), I was eager to get after racing. We stayed about two miles from the course and a lot of my rides went by the venue so I was checking out the stakes and walking through the park all week.

This race had been happening for a number of years closer to downtown and right off of the river at Eva Badman Park. However, with Louisville hosting CX Nationals next year, USAC didn’t want to chance a potential repeat of the flood in 2013 that effected the World Championships.

Friday the tape got put up and we went over to set up the tents and ride the course. The top section of the course, around the start finish area, was flat as a pancake and didn’t have much in the way of technical or defining sections. The bottom half was all set on a gradually sloping field. The course designers utilized a steeper section of the field, in front of a historic house on property, to add in the technical bits, which played the biggest role in the races. There was a tricky, when wet, off camber and ride out, followed by a set of stairs, and ending with a steep downhill with a tight 90º degree corner at the bottom. Rain on Friday night left these sections slick and challenging. Needless to say, the race was going to be a fun one. You know that when you are having a blast in pre-ride, trying to dial in sections.

5:30pm Saturday was go time. Therefore, there was a lot of time to kill all day. Luckily, Emily and Kermy Shields came to the race and brought the RV so venue time wasn’t too much of a drag.

Off the line I found myself to have a good start, slotted in to the top three. After the first lap, the gaps were formed and our group of five at the front had a gap. There were never and huge attacks but small gaps would open on the technical sections and eventually the group was whittled down. Stephen and Gage got away from Tobin and I three laps in when I missed a pedal after putting an outrigger out through a tight turn. The gap never got out of hand, Gage and Stephen were having their battle while Tobin and I lingered just 10-15 seconds back. Eventually, Stephen got away from Gage while Tobin and I ended up taking it to the line.

No one was riding the little off camber before the finish, the whole race and I knew that if Tobin came into me ahead of it riding I was going to immediately commit to running and try to pinch him out before the pavement. This exact thing happened as Tobin came into it with me on his wheel. I jumped off while he got hung up and then I managed to get around him and completely gut myself to hold on to third.

My cheeky little move…

What a day! Rounded out the podium with this cheeky little move but Tobin made me hurt so bad to keep it (@horsteng…). Also, locked down 2nd in the #uscupcx overall. Can’t thank my @konabikes squad enough. 🙌🏾 @shoaircg for funding and putting @rtrebon in charge of running the series. It turned out to be a just what we needed. – – – @rideshimano @clifbar @julbousa @jakroousa @donnelly_cycling @girocycling @wildernesstrailbikes @crankbrothers @lizardskinscycling @cts_trainright @tenspeedhero #konabikes #superjake #rideshimano #duraace #di2 #feedyouradventure #ridedonnelly #jakrooapparel #girosynth #wtb #crankbrothers #weridecb #dspbartape #lizardskinscycling #touchitfeelitloveit #ctsathlete #horstspikes #horstengineering #cxismydisco #fieldwrench

A post shared by Kerry Werner (@kerryw24) on

This was the first time I felt the need to completely lay out on the ground after a bike race. I had, on many occasions, leaned over my bike using it as a support but this time not even that would suffice.

Stephen won, while Gage was 10-15 seconds down, while Tobin and I were another 10-15 seconds. Some real dicey racing and I was happy to end up 3rd.

That meant I held on to 2nd in the US Cup Overall! And I got to take home my first “big” check, which I still can’t get anyone to cash.

Sunday was more or less the same schedule except there was way less time to ride the course because of all the different Pan Am Champ categories.

Upon first inspection, I was really pumped to be out on file treads, Donnelly LAS. The course had tacked up so much that the ground was a soft and intensely grippy power suck in spots. Though this was not everyone’s impression. Most were on intermediate tires.

 

I had another good start and slotted into the front of the race, which quickly became another group of 5-6. Micheal van den Ham, Canadian National Champ, was riding really aggressively early on and even got a small gap with Tobin, but it came back.

Half way through the race Stephen had gotten away and the small gaps in the group were starting to take their toll on me. Tobin and MvD gapped me a little off on a slog of a climb and I couldn’t bring it back. This was when the pin was pulled and the grenade went off. Fernando came by me like I was standing still.

I managed to do some dirt sampling whilst trusting a soft “rut berm” with three to go but I held it together and shook it off in a second.

Luckily, we had a big gap before this happened so I took a lap to get my wits about me and then attempted to rally. Jamey Driscoll was behind me and I had just enough in the tank to hold him off for fifth.

One more lap and I may have pulled the plug on the whole thing. This was not uncommon for the day as many found themselves at their limit for too long, without realizing it. Yesterday’s race effort and the culmination of the physically demanding course were no doubt the cause of my detonation.

While I wasn’t happy with fifth in the Pan Am Champs race I was happy with the weekend as a whole. I managed to hold down 2nd place in the US Cup CX overall as well as come out with one podium.

Now it’s time for a weekend off. Kerm is having his race as a part of the NCCX in Salisbury, NC, which is always a fun course. Plus, this year, he is going to let me give my two cents in the layout. Watch out NCCX’ers, you’re in for a treat this year.

Then its up to NY for the Supercross Cup and another weekend off before the final C1 of the season in Tulsa, Ok. My last chance for a C1 win this season, unless I magically rise to Van Der Poel and Wout’s level by the time Worlds come around.