Kerry Werner

Kerry Werner Finishes Third at the 2019 BC Bike Race – Read His Full Report

Emily and I couldn’t have been happier with how our Honeymoon turned out last year at BCBR. We had such a blast and we both ended up doing well in the solo open divisions. Also, I think it set me up really nicely, from a fitness perspective, heading into CX season. So when we finagled our way in this year I was pumped! 

Kerry Werner | KONA COG

7mesh came on board as the Kona Adventure Team’s clothing sponsor this year and they were putting a “composite team” together. Sam Schultz and Felix Burke were on the roster, subsequently, they picked up my entry fee too and put me in the nicest kit for 7 days of BC singletrack. Emily reached out to Amy D Foundation Team sponsor, Pearl Izumi, and we were off to the races, literally. 

We made another trip out of going to and from the race with a week before and after in Bellingham, which is just such a cool town and the perfect place to acclimate to the BC style of riding.

Kerry Werner | KONA COG

Ironically, on the 4th of July we boarded a shuttle bus (because it would have been stupid to rent a car and let it sit all week in a parking lot and now use it) and headed north for Canada. 

Long time Kona employee and all around awesome guy Dik Cox picked Emily and I up at the train station in Vancouver and we promptly got settled at his place and went to grab our numbers and hear the pre race talk. 

One interesting thing, which was new to us “alumni” was the prologue start. With 500-600 people starting at the same time it’s nice when everyone starts in a similar order to where they will finish so there isn’t an extreme amount of chaos when things tighten up in the first singletrack. So to nip that problem in the bud we were going to do a quick, 4k tt, except we started in groups of 4-6 in 30 second waves, so it was more like a team tt but where everyone was trying to turn the screws on each other. 

Kerry Werner | KONA COG

Geoff, Felix, and I found ourselves at the front of the race after that sub 7 minute effort but only by a hand full of seconds. Then immediately after the morning prologue we headed to Horse Shoe Bay and hopped a ferry to Nanaimo and then drove to Cowichan Valley for the first real stage start.

Kerry Werner | KONA COG

Emily and I were staying in “Tent City” with the race this year, which just means we were using the race provided transport and food all week. Last year Cory Wallace had everything dialed so we were on our own program, which had its benefits, but I was looking forward to hanging out in Tent City. 

Cannondale sent our cyclocross buds Stephen Hyde and Kaitie Keough to the race this year, as a duo. Except, Kaitie didn’t want to be tent mates with Stephen all week, I don’t blame her (the guy is a walking fart factory). So she asked Emily and I if we would have a problem switching and we obliged. It was hard to say no when I could sense the desperation and inferred fear in the text she sent. 

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Stage 1 was a one of a kind stage where the whole day was broken up into two timed sections, like an xc enduro race. There was a big road transfer from the first zone of trail to the second and BCBR didn’t want people racing amongst cars. So we raced from the line and then took a neutral easy spin as a group to the start of the second stage (within the stage) where we lit the pace up again. 

The pace was super high the first day but Geoff, Felix, and I were able to create some separation and push each other on the downhills. We got a minute or two total the first day on the rest of the guys but were by no means comfortable as the week was long. After day 1 I felt like we were already 3 or 4 days in! Haha

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From Cowichan we drove north up the east coast of Vancouver Island to Cumberland. An old mining/logging town that has had a bit of a revitalization due to housing prices in the more populated areas becoming too expensive. There is a great taco shop, Biblio, and a kiwi style ice cream spot, pizza, and beer. What more could you ask for?

When we arrived tent city was all ready set up (that’s how it went every day). We staked our claim on Spruce st and called it an early night. 

Kerry Werner | KONA COG

Stage 2 kicked off right from the center of town with a few words of wisdom from the “Town Crier”. After less then 1min on pavement we hit gravel and climbed for 40min to the top of the first descent, Furtherburger, a tight single track with more roots than stars in the night sky and so much tree coverage its was nearly that dark. 

I made my first mistake of the race here by not slotting myself in behind Geoff and Felix for the descent. I wasn’t aggressive enough and by the time I worked my way up to 3rd wheel they were gone and not looking back. 

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I ended up riding the day solo trying to chase but it was no use. I finished about 3min down but put some more time into 4th. 

My post race routine was as follows: hit the Tim Horton’s (T-Ho’s) tent for some Tim bits, potato chips, and Clif Recovery bars. Then promptly to the WD 40 Bike bike wash station before the line got too long and the bike washers stopped caring about clean bikes, then to the shower before that line got too long and the floors were covered the same single track we just tore up all day. A lot of BCBR is spent standing in lines or avoiding lines. Lucky, the faster you race the faster you can get these things done then spend the rest of the afternoon relaxing. 

Kerry Werner | KONA COG

In our case, the group of us finished racing and hit Biblio Taco for some lunch, because I couldn’t eat that many Tim bits.

Dinner was provided every night by BCBR, which was best in Cumberland. I was very satisfied. Good food, a plethora of dessert and fresh fruit. 

Kerry Werner | KONA COG

Stage 3 started in Cumberland as well. A Shorter stage 28k. Looking at 1:15 finish time so it was a one bottle, two gels kind of day. The first half of every day we saw big group of strong guys at the front. Michael Van den Ham (CX guy), Ben Sonnetag, Payson McCelveen, Jon Odam, Sam Schultz. Really the first bits of descending or technical trail was usually where the cracks came apart. We were pretty evenly matched fitness wise. 

Felix and Geoff pushed the pace early and I didn’t make the same mistake again. I was on them like white on rice. We got a gap once we hit Vanilla, a pretty iconic Cumberland trial about 40min into the stage. Then Ben bridged up to us and we rallied for the middle bit of the stage together. Geoff decided to “test” our group out on a pretty steep 2-3 min loose gravel climb towards the end of the stage and I came off the pace. I may have only lost 5-10 seconds by the top but then Geoff’s local knowledge of the trails and Felix pushing him grew that gap to 50 sec by the finish. I put 10 more seconds Ben in 4th and it was straight to post race routine and then an afternoon transfer to Powell River on the Sunshine Coast.

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BCBR took over the New River Ferry Terminal and then arrived at Tent City on the beach in Powell River. 

Kerry Werner | KONA COG

We took in the first real solid sunshine and grabbed dinner. The Ferry transfer days go fast as there are a lot of moving parts but when there isn’t much to unpack or things to account for there is still a good bit of time to read a book in the shade of a pine or in this case listen to waves crash onto the shore. 

Kerry Werner | KONA COG

Stage 4- Powell River was longer but flatter and the speeds were higher. We did 56k with 1300m of climbing. We had a big group for most of the day until about the last 11k. Felix started to push the pace on a gradual single track climb towards the end and fissures started to open. Ben, Payson, and I eventually whittled the gap and the race for first was now on 5 riders minds. 

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Felix punched it hard within the last k and I jumped his wheel. I knew if I was to get a stage win it was going to be today. So I sat on but as the speeds increased I quickly realized I was out geared. The 32 up front and 10t of my new XTR gear wasn’t quite enough and I found my legs not wanting to spin more then 120rpm. I surfed from Felix to Geoff when he jumped and then Payson went and I tried to come around too but I couldn’t get my damn legs to move any faster. So 3rd it was. That marks 4 days in a row of 3rd place. Consistent? Yes.

Kerry Werner | KONA COG

A super chill afternoon was spent organizing for a bit of a hectic morning. Also, the anticipation of precipitation was looming heavy on everyones shoulders. I thought the Sunshine Coast was called the Sunshine Coast for a reason. 

Kerry Werner | KONA COG

We woke in a drizzle and promptly packed up and got to breakfast. It was an earlier morning then other mornings because we were jumping on a float plane rather than a Ferry for our transfer to Earl’s Cove. Not everyone got on a float plane. You had to ask early and often for this luxury and maybe know a few people. Or, in our case, Emily pleaded that we didn’t get to do it last year on our Honeymoon and we wouldn’t hold a grudge if we could do it this year. 

Kerry Werner | KONA COG

So off we went!

We started in the Earl’s Cove Ferry Terminal, which was so cool. Then straight into some power line climbs and slick, Rooty, rocky, and tight single track (AC/DC). Felix and Payson got away about 1/3 of the way through. Geoff seemed to be suffering but this was all part of his plan to let the young whipper snappers do work early and make them pay for it later. The problem was that no one saw what was coming next…

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A person unaffiliated with the race decided to be an asshole and tamper with the course markings. So about half way through they moved a left hand turn to a right hand turn. Felix and Payson, about 90 sec up, turned right but right when we got there a Moto official told us to turn left, which was correct. 

We were told to keep racing and the two leaders would get a time bonus at the end. Obviously, this changed the races psychology. Felix must have felt some wind taken from his sail and Geoff’s plan of waiting to put effort in later now was a bit foiled. Regardless, we kept pushing and figured everything would sort itself out at the finish.

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I bonked and hit the wall hard while Geoff and Ben rode away on the last climb. Luckily, there was some good descending straight to the finish so I was able to mitigate too much time loss but Ben took 1 minute out of my GC lead. It was time to start paying more attention to eating and metering my pace to make it through day 7 in 3rd. 

After cleaning up it was straight to Kris Sneddon’s parents place on the water in Sechelt for a traditional Salmon dinner. God it hit the spot. Then Kris’ parents offered Emily and I to sleep in a real bed and there wasn’t much protest. We took them up on that offer faster than they had expected, I am sure. 

Kerry Werner | KONA COG

With Day 6 started in Sechelt it was another bigger day with decent amounts of climbing and a lot of it on gravel road but they single track was choice and there was an awesome 20min descent into the finish at the Langdale Ferry Terminal (HWY 102 trail).

The race more or less stayed together with a few different guys taking turns at the front. Felix found an opportunity to strike in the last 1/4 of the race and put the wood to Geoff who just didn’t have it. Ben and I ended up coming around him and finishing a minute ahead of him. Ben went over the top into the final descent 45seconds up but I knew a smooth descent could close that. 

Sure enough I caught him but unfortunately it was because he crashed from bar punching a tree and ended up braking some fingers. Somehow he managed to ride all the way down to the ferry terminal and finish but he wouldn’t start stage 7. Again, I finished 3rd on the day. 

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We made it to Squamish just before dinner and afterwards I went to bed super early. One more day tomorrow!

A 9am start meant 30 more minutes of sleep, which was welcomed. I knew Geoff was going to push the pace. He had 3min to get on Felix and to get that kind of time he would have to start throwing blows early. 

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Sure enough he sent it before we even hit single track and when no one in GC contention tried to go with I was more then happy that the pace didn’t get lifted too high. I was ready for a Champs Elysees kind of finish, not a death march. 

Van den Ham was feeling good thus Stephen and I latched onto his wheel and let him drag us through the dirt all day. He ended up flatting on Hoods then Stephen and I breathed a sigh of relief and throttled back for the last bit of trail. 

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We both came into the finish together and I knew he was going to try and beat me so he could rub my nose in it later and I was ok with that. After 7 days of being on high alert I was keen to simply coast across the line. 

Geoff couldn’t crack Felix and I was more then happy to be holding a free Alice and Brohm’s ice cream cone in my hand less than 5min after finishing!

Kerry Werner | KONA COG

It was such a good week with so many highs and a couple lows. The trails were in such good shape and overall the finish times were faster than last year. I was a little bummed to be stuck on the bottom step again but after watching Felix and Geoff go at it I know that 3rd is the best I could manage. No mechanicals, flats, or other serious problems meant a smooth week of racing and a good block of training heading into the final push before CX season. 

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Now a little R&R in Bellingham then back at it for CX season, which kicks off the first weekend in September! 

Bikepacking: The White Rim Trail

IIt all started with a brainstorm amongst the Kona Adventure Team misfits. We were trying to figure out some adventures we could pair with races we wanted to hit on the calendar. Grand Junction off road was on the list so I reached out to a long-time road and CX pro-Jamey Driscoll, who lives in Park City, to see if he knew of any cool stuff in the Moab area. He immediately told me about his one-day suffer fest on theWhite Rim Trail. 

So while it didn’t end up becoming a Kona Adventure Team project it did a dance in the back of my mind, gently nudging me and being suggestive whenever I heard “Utah” being talked about. Coincidentally, we made plans to go see Emily’s sister in Salt Lake City. We were going for 10 days to ski, but we weren’t skiing until the second half of the trip. So BOOM! We made plans to ship bikes, bike packing gear, camping gear, etc. (This is where, if you watch the vlog, you’ll notice I am on a BMC mountain bike rather than my Kona Hei Hei. I mixed up some labels and shipped my Hei Hei to Becca in New Hampshire rather then Utah and I sent her bike box of parts to Utah, which I obviously couldn’t use. So I borrowed Emily’s sister bike.) Once we landed in Utah, we got our bags, stole Katherine’s bike, as well as her car, and we headed south on I15. 4 hrs later, voila, we were in Canyonlands National Park.

The White Rim Trail is more of a 4X4 road, honestly, as long as you have 4WD and your truck (or whatever) isn’t lowered you could probably drive it. It starts in Canyonlands National Park, inside of the Island in the Sky zone (actually just next to the Island of the Sky Visitors Center). 

The Island in the Sky zone is an area of Canyonlands National Park that sits high above the surrounding areas. It is a large plateau that has a drivable paved road in and out, which acts as the main artery for entry and access. As you drive in there are hiking trails that branch off of the paved road and drop down to the rim below. There are also numerous campsites up high on the plateau as well as other camping areas down on the rim.

If riding clock-wise, as we did, you immediately drop down Shafer Trail, which is a dirt road. It is located a mile before the Visitors Center as you enter Island in the Sky and it wastes no time in getting you down to the rim. ( *Pro tip- you can actually drive down the road to Shafer campground, which lies outside of the Island in the Sky park permit boundary and camp for free. We were going to do this but the road was closed because one of the switchbacks still had ice on it.)

So. Many. Switchbacks!

Kerry Werner | KONA COG

Once down at Rim level the miles fly by. You quickly pass a vast overlook for the Colorado River.

Not 5 min later you pass a pull off for Muscleman Arch, which sits at ground level and as you walk up on the arch it slowly separates itself from the edge of the rim. You can actually walk across it, which is a little scary but we heard no rock movement upon our crossing. 

Kerry Werner | KONA COG

For the majority of the ride you are 20 feet or less from the edge of the rim. Thus, the views are extremely accessible and incredibly immense. 

Forward progress was slow and we covered only 30 miles in the first 3 hrs of riding. The constant stopping and taking pictures/ picking our jaws up off the rock slabs (from the awe inspiring views, not crashing) didn’t get us to our stopping point, mile 66 Potato Bottom Campground, any faster. But we were savoring the day and the time in the saddle. The views demand a slow pace and laid back attitude. Also, this was our first dose of real sun and warm weather since our training camp in Malaga Spain in January. 

Kerry Werner | KONA COG

We passed a granite slab overlooking Monument Basin and spotted some fairly deep puddles.

We stopped to filter some water. This is the perk of doing the Rim Trail in the spring. You would be hard pressed to find any water on the White Rim at any time of year, however, during the winter and spring the temps stay cool enough that when it rains it stays on the ground for a little while longer.

With Green River being the only permanent source of water on the route we thought it was a good idea to stop. 

Kerry Werner | KONA COG

Topped up on water we crept on, weighted down and bloated like tics. Passing White Crack area, little did we know we were about to start hitting some steeps. If Murphy’s Wash up to the bottom of Murphy’s Hogback was tough then ascending Murphy’s Hogback (mile 55) was like Alpe d’Huez. Of course, you would fare better if you were trying to make the loop happen in 1 day but then you wouldn’t be having any fun and you wouldn’t have enough time to appreciate the splendor and wonder of the extraterrestrial terrain.

Kerry Werner | KONA COG

We had a big long descent and then 10 miles to our campground. The shadows were growing longer and the sun was lighting up the tips of the majestic rock towers surrounding us.

Kerry Werner | KONA COG

After 6 hours, moving time, we rolled up to Potato bottom Campground, exhausted and elated. Our asses were sore from all the sitting, it is quite hard to stand up a lot with so much weight on the bike, but we both relished the throbbing of our sit bones, and elsewhere, because the views were truly unimaginable. 

Kerry Werner | KONA COG

We collected water from the Green River in a collapsable shower bag because there is a lot of sediment rushing along with the precious H2O. You have to collect the water and let it sit for 30-45min so that the particles fall out of suspension and you don’t completely clog your filter system. So we planned on letting ours sit overnight.

We fired up the Jetboil and dined on couscous, tuna packets, a bit of trail mix and crawled in the tent at 8:30. Lights out.

After sleeping 10 hours we crawled out of the tent for breakfast and got on with day 2. Cloud cover had set in thickly. We took our time packing up, eating breakfast, and filtering our water from last night’s collection. 

Kerry Werner | KONA COG

On the road at 10am we quickly warmed up on a climb out of Potato Bottom that overlooked the Green River in a big way. 

Intermittent drizzle kept us company for the first hour of the ride. At this point we had done about 12 miles and reached the mineral bottom road junction. This is where the “trail” part ends. Mineral bottom road is a 2WD rated and maintained section of dirt road that drops off of Island in the Sky Rd about 8 miles from the Visitors Center when you are driving in. 

Kerry Werner | KONA COG

This was a relief in terms of continuously moving forward, from this intersection we literally climbed straight up off the Green River. And by straight I mean lots of switchbacks. Basically, the opposite of what we started with on Shafer Trail. 

Kerry Werner | KONA COG

After pounding some modified Clif Shot bloks we put the bikes in the easiest gear and got on with it. We managed only a few paper boys and by the time we got to the top we decided the climb wasn’t so bad because you could see all the switchbacks we hit on the way up and it felt pretty bad ass looking down on the menacing snake which induced a good bit of uncertainty. 

Kerry Werner | KONA COG

We thought the going would be faster and smoother but, alas, we were mistaken. The road rolled on and on for 12 miles and while Mineral Bottom road is a maintained road and suitable for 2WD vehicles the braking bumps and small divots caused by rain erosion rattled our teeth and punched us in the taints incessantly and without wavering. Thus, for the first time on the trip we were looking forward to finishing up. 

At least on the “trail” part, the first 72 miles you expected uneven road surfaces, rocky ledges, and bumpy potholes. However, on the “maintained 2WD” we had expected to fly along on smooth hard packed dirt. The views ceased to be as big and jaw dropping. They were all behind us now as we headed east destined for the pavement of the Island in the Sky Rd.

Kerry Werner | KONA COG

The temp started to drop a little and the intermittent drizzle became a steady rain by the time we hit the pavement and had 45min left.

Emily got in my draft and we motored to the parking lot. In hindsight, we should have stopped at the park entrance, but we were hungry, cold, and wet. Plus, we left our park permit in the car so it wouldn’t have mattered anyway. We never touched the brakes when we blasted by the guard shack and he/she no doubt radioed ahead to be on the look out for two disheveled looking cyclists with a “stop for no one” attitude on their faces. 

We rolled up into the parking lot, dropped our bikes, unlocked the car and immediately started putting clean dry clothes on. About the time Emily got some pants on a Park Ranger pulled up with lights a blazing from the top of his head duty F350. He asked us to “Step to the front of the vehicle” and when I asked if I could put my mesh bag in the car so I didn’t have to put it on the wet pavement and drizzle he said “No. Just put it on the ground.” Ha! I put it in the front seat and we both played dumb as he read us the riot act while reviewing our park permits, and passes. Luckily, we paid all $75 of permits that were necessary because I am sure he was looking for a reason to slap a big ticket on us. 

We continued to get dressed once the Ranger left us be. We threw the bikes on the car and got out of Dodge.

The lack of phone service out in Canyonlands area was bittersweet. I had so many pictures and stories I wanted to share but I was stuck with them all to myself and Emily. The 45min drive in to the Island in the Sky was actually quite therapeutic on the way out. It forced us to relive a lot of the trip, talk through low points and high points, and actually refined our perspectives with parts we had forgotten about as we were caught up in the hustle and bustle of moving forward.

We got out of the wilderness on March 13th, which was my Mom’s birthday. I figured telling her about it was as good of a birthday present as there could be. I sent her a few pictures to prove it! 

If words aren’t your thing, the link below has my vlog, which depicts our actions but doesn’t do the landscape justice! It wasn’t a difficult feat to get the ride done and so I recommend if you are in the area and have a nagging urge for adventure that you check out at least part of it. Whether on foot or bike the Island in the Sky area is worth the trip.


Cyclocross World Championships

Becca: Worlds is a different beast. It is a coveted position to even make the team – only 6 elite American men and women were able to make the team this year. These elite riders, along with a few junior men and U23 men and women descend upon a city, along with the other national teams of the world to pretty much take the place over. We stay as a team, a bunch of strangers, using strange mechanics, eating hotel meals, and kowtowing to the demands of the team as a whole. Except for Kerry who was too good for that and stayed with his family, but I wish I had vlogged from the inside Team USA perspective. 

Kerry: After two weeks of training in Spain I was looking forward to unleashing some of that fitness. However, the first two races back were super heavy and for some reason, no matter how fit I am, I can’t figure those tractor pulls out. Zonnebeke and Hoogerheide were rough but my head was up, looking forward to World Champs. I was also holding out hope that it would be faster but slick AF.

We flew into Copenhagen on Wednesday and rented a car to get to Middelfart (that is not a joke). I spent the week trying to stay mellow and not think about the race too much. The course was frozen when I went to check it out on Thursday, which had me excited that the race wasn’t going to be very heavy and speed and finesse would rule the game. 

Becca: I was very excited for my possible performance at Worlds. My season was coming together after getting a 6th place the Saturday before Worlds and 18th at the final World Cup in Hoogerheide the day after that. And at the World Cup in Bogense in 2017, the course on which worlds was held, I got 17th. Things were looking good! That is, until… I got mud in my eye at Hoogerheide. And that “mud” may or may not have given me pink eye and a head cold that manifested on the Wednesday before the big day. 

Because of my illness I didn’t train leading up to the race, only doing some super easy spins. The only time I was outside was Friday before the race, and I did a short preride on the frozen course. It was similar to the world cup, except frozen and thus faster. The downhills were rideable but the transitions were so hard and abrupt people were flatting just on frozen lumps. I was no longer excited for the race ahead. The course was going to run fast and that is never good for me and with my illness, I didn’t expect much. This may have been my saving grace.

I woke up the morning of the race able to breathe out of my nose for the first time in days. I had been up most of the night coughing, but for me, that just meant the illness was working out of my head and into my chest before it is gone for good. My eye wasn’t even crusty!!!!! I was in good spirits at breakfast – better than I had been all week.

I was on the trainer warming up in the hour before my race, and it started happening. Well, two things happened. My heart rate proved responsive to my efforts, and, it was raining. THANK YOU, GODS OF CYCLOCROSS!!! 

I was grid up in row 4/5, so, let’s just say that at one point I looked over my shoulder to see if I was in dead last. Not dead last. I did some passing. I came through the first lap in 24th I am a little surprised! I mean, there were only 40 starters, but I didn’t think I had passed that many already.

I keep trucking and I find myself in 18th coming in for the next lap. Then 17th the lap after that. I am picking off riders and riding smooth, I have got this!! At this point, I am trading places with Loes Sels and Helen Wyman. I come through in 15th, then, I come through in 14th and I have a good gap on the two behind me and I am closing in on 13th. I am going to get it. I CAN DO IT!!! Holy crap!

Then, they holy crap got the best of me and I dumped it. I went down once in the whole race, and at that moment I was caught and passed and the switch inside of me went from YOU CAN DO IT and you ARE doing it, to, man, you proved you can do it now you should just be safe. 

Gotta admit I am a little disappointed in myself for that. I finished 16th and I was in the hunt for 13th. It hurts the more I think about it, but, I have to flip the race around and remind myself I came in with no expectations and a bit under the weather. I could tell my head was fuzzing when I was digging deep and that is no good way to ride a slippery course. I think the only reason I was able to race the way I did was because I was patient and had no expectations.

I am proud of my result, but I want you all to know that this is not a great result for me, this is the place I belong. I have ridden this way before, I just have never been able to maintain it. But, now, just in time for the season to end, I am getting a grip on it. A few more races left, and hopefully, I can keep it all together and keep getting some results and then build on this for next year. Next year, I am hunting for that top 10 at worlds, not just a top 20 or even top 15.

Kerry: My race just got a little out of reach. With Rebecca finishing 16th I was hard pressed to think I was going to find myself anywhere near the top 20 so Rebecca was, obviously, giving me shit about our season-long placing competition. Unfortunately, for her, there was no clause about worlds having a heavier weight on the outcome than the other races. 

With my head in a good place I got out on course on Sunday morning and was feeling good. I opted for muds while others were going for intermediates. There were a handful of sections of the course where traction was an issue but 90% was good for intermediates. I just didn’t want to make any crucial mistakes when I was blown so I chose the tire which would give me some more cushion. 

After pre-ride hanging out in the USAC team warm up boxes, I was all eyes on the prize until Lance Haidet jumped in the effing ocean! IT WAS 35ºF! The water had to be similar in temp. 

On the trainer, I was bumping a specific playlist catered to getting me jazzed up for worlds. “Fatbottom Girls” made me smile and feel like an American, “Till I Collaps”e by Eminem put me in angry white boy mood, and “Colours” by Marshmello helped solidify my upbeat mood. 

Once the gun went my first priority was not cashing. I was feeling good and trying to move up on the first lap. I may have burned a match or two that was unnecessary to move up a spot and back again but being patient can be hard to come back from as well. I came through the first lap in a huge group that was strung out throughout the whole start-finish straight. 

The next lap our group was more solidified and it was a group of 10 or so fighting for the low twenties. I was feeling good still but getting gaped out of the corners coming into the long straightaways. I eventually spent enough time yo-yoing at the back of the group to get properly separated. 

I was in no man’s land from that point on. On lap two I remember hearing 8 laps to go! The damn race was fast AF! About 4 laps in I was in no man’s land with a solid gap in front and behind me and that was my race. I was in 30th place. 

Towards the end of the race, Stephen Hyde and a Spanish rider were breathing down my neck. The Spanish rider made contact but I dropped him again.

Then he made contact again coming into the last lap and came around me as we neared the start straight, which I was cool with because I didn’t want to pull for that section. As soon as he came around me we rounded and corner and got pulled…. So I got 31st. Damn!

I left it all out there and rode well. I would have liked to be in that group in front of me but my legs said no. It was a race I am not really excited about but I am content with the result. Results wise it would seem like I have made zero improvements over the last three years of racing worlds. I got 33 in my first worlds, 27th last year, and 31st this year. Every year I learn a little more by racing on this side of the Atlantic but being over here for such a prolonged period has really cemented in some critical things I have to work on. 

(Big thanks to Patty Means for coming over to catch the world champs in stills. I love Patrick’s style and having him shoot worlds was great. If only we could have actually had a minute to catch up!)

However, before I call it a season we have a Wednesday mid-week race, Maldegem. Then Lille and Hoogstraten on Saturday Sunday. Just one more push!

Have a look at the vlog to catch all the behinds the scenes!

Belgian Beer to Spanish Tapas

We landed the 19th of December and hit the ground running! And we ran straight into the highest concentration of cross racing one could experience all year. It is dubbed the “Christmas Block”, or “Kerstperiode” if you are a hard core muck boot-wearing, Jupiler-guzzling, cigarette-puffing, frites-devouring cyclocross fan.

 

We are sane people so Rebecca and I were not signing up for the full race schedule, which goes as follows: Sint Niklaas, (Waasland Cross), Namur World Cup, Zolder World Cup, Azen Cross, Bredene, Diegem, Baal (or Petange Lux), Gullegem, and finally Brussels University Cross. Phew, that was even lengthy to type out.

We would pick and choose our way through this block. We based our schedule on extended jet lag/ acclimation, predicted exhaustion, and potentially better results at over lapping weekends. Thus, I started with Waasland Cross and Namur, followed by Zolder.

By this time I had still not felt like myself. I felt like I had one speed and no snap or even desire to race an empty the tank. Rest was the priority and so I watched everyone race Azen cross, do the famous whoops, and hop the big ditches, and hoped for better legs on Saturday at Bredene.

My body responded to voluntary absence from racing in a positive way, I felt like racing was fun again and I was eager to twist the throttle. So to cement that feeling in I skipped Diegem on Sunday night and watched from home, on the couch, eating a waffle. Did I feel guilty? No, but I was regretting not being on the start line. It looked like such a good time. Diegem has a legendary atmosphere, which I am hoping to be a part of next year.

We threw a hail marry! Instead of showing up for the big prime time GP Sven Nys in Baal we trucked it south to Luxembourg for the Petange C2. With the bigger names in Baal we were hunting for the podium. The course was crazy. Straight up and straight down up on what looked like a mellow MTB track. A mechanical took me out of the top 5 but the vibes were trending in a positive direction.

That left one weekend, two races, left before heading to sunny Malaga, Spain. I was really looking forward to going to Spain with the last few races behind me and hoping to take some positive feelings with me into the training block.

Gullegem was Saturday, where I cracked a top ten in a barebones field (still counts). Brussels University Cross was Sunday, which we were lucky to have happened… Some students protested the race being on campus for the weekend during their exam week. I can understand that. Who could concentrate with the salivating run off of steam over the campus grounds from frites vendors? Or how could anyone page through a textbook and glean any amount of information as you here little kids screaming “Mathieu, Mathieu, Mathieu Van der Poel!”

Anyway, the course was awesome! Tons of off cambers and tricky little moves that suited by handling skills and my legs were able to carry me to 14th, the last rider to not get pulled. Thus, I got the most bang for my buck, even though races are free, by being on course the longest.

I also grabbed a little bit of camera time, which is rare when you are not hovering close to MVDP. By hoping the stairs in front of Lars Boom I got a courtesy shout out and slo-mo replay from Euro Sport!

We were all looking to put the Kerstperiode behind us and welcome the sunny skies tantalizingly awaiting us on Monday afternoon on the Southern Coast of Spain.

Everyone’s mood was elevated on day one when even though we rode longer then we had planned and it was a joy to feel warm air weave its way in and out of parts of our bodies that haven’t seen the outside world in weeks, perhaps months (Rebecca is from NH…).

 

After recovering from the weekend it was time to go! I was in need of some longer days in the saddle and this place was providing amazing roads, views, and lots of time spent riding with friends.

The Cannondale Cyclocross World team is in Malaga, as well as a road team out of Toronto, “Toronto Hustle”. So there is no shortage of rad people to ride with.

It’s rejuvenating to be spending time outside, riding unstructured, and in whatever direction looks coolest.

Exploring the winding climbs and ripping descents.

Heading for the mountains or pedaling up the coast.

Canyon floors and switchbacking dirt climbs back to the ridgeline.

It’s not all bike riding either… There is some amazing food in the place. From taps to paella and everything in between.

Rebecca just got on a plane heading to France for the Pont Chateau World Cup. I am hanging back and milking this place for all it’s worth.

Back to Belgium on Monday to get ready for Zonnebeke, a little tune up C2 race, before the Hoogerheide World Cup on Sunday. I am getting really excited to get back between the tape and reap the rewards of the long hours I have sewn.

Until then… You can check out the “Euro CX” vlog series highlighting the entire Kerstperiode and all of the shenanigans around racing thus far. I have been letting the Gopro recharge and the next vlog will go live after the Zonnebeke and Hoogerheide weekend. Then it’s off to Denmark for World Championships, and one more weekend after worlds before b\packing the CX bike away for much-neededed rest.

Euro CX Campaign Youtube Playlist

Louisville Sluggin: CX Nationals 2018

Kerry: After Hendersonville’s snowed out Sunday race I was keen to get to Nats to check out the track and get a feel for it. Unfortunately, there was limited time to do that. With so many amateur races being packed into the week there was seldom at 20min open course time. Also, when there was a 20min course window it was hella crowded, but I digress. 

The track was very similar to the Pan Am champs race last year. I liked it a lot. It was super physical and had some really good off cambers to challenge the technical aspects of a rider’s quiver. With some rain in the forecast later in the week my spirits were on a high level.

I spent most of the week trying not to think about the race, and let my heart rate get away from me just sitting on the couch thinking about different race scenarios. This included spinning through Cherokee Park, hitting the local coffee shops, and hanging at the house with Sherman my beagle.

Becca: I have a new favorite Nationals. Previously it was Asheville, followed by Hartford, Boulder, Reno, and last, Austin. But Louisville was a good one. My ranking system includes weighted #feelz from course, results, venue, week leading up, afterparty, and overall experience. This weekend scored high in all categories.

Friday night the rain came in and the course slopped up. We saw the slogs and slips go to runs and slides. Our tent, perched in the grass and not in the concrete lot got flooded – the grass turned to mud and there was no way to actually use the space. Luckily, Shimano not only takes care of us with great components, wheels, and shoes, but they also let Kerry and I warm up under their nice spacious tent on Saturday for our preride!

It rained through the morning so by the time we got out on course (at noon, not 5 pm), it was a sloppy mess. I knew it would be much different on Sunday, with the rain stopping and the hint of sun poking out, but after talking with Coach McGovern we decided any course time was good course time and Kerry and I headed out, for a single lap. Yes, it was a lot of walking, but it was a really fun time, too. Knowing that the conditions would change let me enjoy the slop instead of being worried about finding the hidden ruts, deciding when to run vs ride and looking for the best lines. I just got to ride, and it was freeing. I also got to see Kerry eat it HARD on the fast descent and that, too, was freeing. 

I did my one preride lap on the day. It took 30 minutes. I knew it would be a race of riding smooth and mental fortitude. It reminded me of 2018 Worlds in Luxembourg, where our preride was fun and sloppy but the day of the race (for the women) was heavy peanut butter forcing more running than riding. Instead of the typical cyclocross effort which is 90% or 110%, a course like this was 100% all the time. You can’t let up. There is no easy. And because of that, you can’t ever really go harder.  I had no real plans or lines, except when I would pit and that I would take it on the shoulder to run to the pavement. I didn’t ask anyone about tire pressure, run choices, spike lengths, lines, or anything. This was maybe the 1st race ever where I put everything on me 100% (that said I went 19/20PSI and I should have gone MUCH lower, but there was hardly any riding, so what does it matter?). 

I didn’t have much structure to my warmup. I didn’t feel fresh so I just tried to get my HR up to 180 to flush the system and that’s all I felt I could do. I then had to head to the start line in a trek that was just like at a euro race – a battle between mud and spectator traffic – it was enthralling!

We go on the green light.

Ellen Noble does her typical 2 bike-lengths off the start in a half a second, and not too long after I find myself in second place. I mean, it didn’t last long, but this was by far my best start ever. Both off the line and through the lap. The first turn was a gradual arc with thick mud and any one spot seemed just as bad as the next, but I was to the outside and had a longer way to pedal than others and ended up into the next element near 6th place. Compton was edging to pass and I could feel her behind me. My instincts told me to shut it down but my respect and feelings on the day said just ride your line, don’t open the door but don’t be a douche. She passed.

I can’t remember too much of that first lap except knowing I was in 3rd at some point because I saw Katie and Ellen crash together as I was bombing down. I kept it upright (though likely at a slower pace than they were going before they crashed). I watched what they were doing to help me select lines, judge traction, and know when to try to run. Over halfway through my 1st lap and I knew the pace was going to take a toll later on. But I was still in 3rd so I kept trudging.

The best part about my position was the cheers. People. Were. So. Stoked. 

Some of the next events I can’t quite remember the order of.

I went in to pit 2 during lap 1 and took a clean bike. Because the men’s preride was immediately before our race, Wilson had to stay at the tent to help Kerry and Nick was in the pits to catch my bike. I roll it to him and I take my clean bike from Doug, on my shoulder. My Kona was so light that I actually hit myself in the head with my saddle – it was at least 20lbs lighter than the one I had just plopped to Nick. 

I was still in 3rd but so close to Ellen, in 2nd. The crowd tells me she is tired, she is cracking, she is crying. I can’t go any faster but I work hard to keep crawling on. I catch her on the limestone steps but nothing inside of me will let me go faster – she looks over her shoulder at me and puts in a dig so hard I just can’t keep up. I am on her wheel going into the downhill chicane but I can’t take my lines with her in front of me, though I’m not sure why. 

I keep close at the bottom of the course and almost catch her again on the muddy downhill but again, I am not in my line and get bogged down in some thicker mud. She gets away again. And then, the nail in the coffin.

I go to get a clean bike from the pits. I see Wilson. I am running in, he waves his arms and says “NO BIKE, THERES NO BIKE DON’T COME IN”. If I go in with no bike to take I have to stop and have someone pretend to do something to my bike. I swerve out. Sunny goes in. I am bogged down and churning through the deep mud outside of the pit lane. Where is my bike? How will I do another lap on this bike? It is heavy and clogged with mud, will it even make it? I had no choice. On the section of the course with the most pavement I was damned with a bike 25 lbs too heavy and unable to roll easily due to the mud. I lose ground and soul. At the stair flyover I go to run up and physically can’t lift my bike – never had I encountered the run up with this heavy of a bike.

The effects of race brain are real, and I don’t remember when Sunny makes the pass on both Ellen and I, but after that I was battling for the last podium spot and each time I almost made it, I messed up and dropped back again. I rolled across the line in 4th. And as I have been saying, not only is this my best Nationals results but one of my best rides ever. Sure, I came in 4th, but I battled. I was up there. I didn’t just ride the whole race off the back of the leaders, I was a leader!

After the race, I asked why I couldn’t get a bike when I needed one. Pits that backed up? No, it turns out the rear derailleur on my bike had gone bad (the servo???). Lucky for me, I didn’t experience any problems before I pitted, which may mean it happened right before. It is something that could have happened just because of the grit and grime, or more likely, I shifted under load (me? Never.) and killed it. But Doug miraculously ran to the Shimano tent to get me a new unit, then back to the pits to get it on. 

A few things that could have improved my race: I spent so much time being calm that I didn’t have the mental fire to fight. It served me well for the first lap, but when my body was failing me my mind couldn’t overcome. I am still working on striking up that balance between staying calm and feeling the fire. The benefits of being calm on this course meant that I never crashed! I got tangled in the course tape trying to ride too close to the stakes, or had some sloppy dismounts, and often rode too long before deciding to run, but I never spontaneously combusted like so many times earlier this season.

Kerry: Saturday I got out for a proper course inspection. By proper, I mean that the course was finally similar to what it was going to be like when we raced on Sunday. It was not pretty. The rain was great for the racers that got the course during the rain. However, all the races that happened at the end of the week ended up tearing it to smithereens! It was super deep mud, so much mud that some of the down hills were hard to coast down. It turned the course from a hard to ride physical course to a runners course. My mood got knocked down a peg or two. I am all for a challenge but I knew I didn’t have the legs that the course was demanding. I battled Curtis earlier in the year on a similar course and he blew my doors off. I just can’t keep up with almost half the time on course spent running. The conditions below, including a little spill…

I searched for a silver lining and was still counting myself for the podium. I just had to hang on as long as I could. 

I was 3rd wheel off the start and slotted into 4th by the end of the first lap. I was smoked though.

I knew I couldn’t keep the pace. I started to fall off on lap two and settled into a group battling for 4th for the middle of the race. There were times when I thought I had it, times when I thought I didn’t, then it would come back, then I would be in 6th again. 

Finally, Drew Dillman passed me and went away, my legs were losing steam. I battled the last two laps with J-Pows before he ran away from me on the last half lap. 

I crossed the line exhausted and bummed out because I wanted to give so much more then I had. Every time I envisioned the race unfolding I always thought it was going to come down to a final 200m attack and I always pictured myself being there to contend. 

That’s the way it is though. The course was not my friend and it is obvious that I need to work on my running game. I thought I had learned this lesson last year from a race or two but apparently, I am thick headed. 

There is a takeaway, not necessarily from the race but the season. I topped the standings in the ProCX calendar points accumulation.

It wasn’t a series, simply a tabulation of points accumulated from every UCI race in the US that happened. I did enough of them and did the best at the most of them to top the leaderboard. Hopefully, next year there is a series and a little more to fight for but I am not complaining with this super cool Louisville Slugger.

So I bought a bottle of Bourbon and headed back to the Airbnb where we celebrated Rebecca’s good performance and top-notch job by our support staff. Doug Sumi and Wilson Hale killed it all weekend, spraying mud off our bikes and occasionally onto themselves. They were part of the dream team. Kerry, or Kerm, Emily’s dad also kicked in and helped with a last minute tent move to pull us out of the soggy muddy plot we were given to a cement pad that King College gave up to us. Emily’s mom, Lynn, kept all our chamois clean all week. I didn’t have to start the washer or dryer once! Nick Czerula, Becca’s boyfriend pitched in for the physical bits some but mostly hung out and took cool candid pic’s of us goofing around the house. It was a real team effort and for a program that usually runs pretty small, it was cool to have it grow for the last weekend of the season. 

It was back to NC on Monday and straight to packing. Doug had about zero days off since he came in and Tuesday spent the day, first, cleaning bikes that only had been partially cleaned after the nationals disaster. Then packed 4 bikes, and helped me set spare parts aside from the 2 months in Europe on the horizon. God, I hope he is our full-time wrench next year. 

I wrote this sitting on a bed inside “The Chain Stay” on the eve of my first CX race in Europe, Waaslandcross in Sint Niklaas. I am hoping to use it as an opener for the Namur World Cup on Sunday. I never feel great for that first effort off the plane. Cross your fingers for me folks and keep your eyes for vlogs. I’ll be publishing a few since we have 7 races in the next 10 days! Let the Chaos begin.

Catch up on the last vlog:

Dude Guy! Warwick NBX GP

Beckster: As I sit down to write this, I realize how often I write things about how lucky I am for the weekend and how special the venue is to me. It is pretty often, but this weekend was no exception. NBX takes place in Warwick, RI, and though Providence, RI is where I got my start, that race is no longer there so this race just a few miles south has replaced it as an anniversary venue. The cyclocross community in this area is what made me fall in love with cycling and it’s why I am who I am today. LUCKY FOR ALL OF YOU!!!

This year, and finally by this point in the season, it all came together for me. After 2 years on tubeless tires, I am finally getting used to tubulars again; I am figuring out the pressures to run, learning their limits, and trusting their strength. That was IMPERATIVE on this course, to trust that a little boom and bang here and there would not flat them. I was able to ride light, even in a turn, pick a discrete line instead of general area to ride (precision and accuracy, yay!), and I even got my wheels off the ground a few times to just jump over some gnarly knots. 

Kerry: My second flight of the year. Man I love CX season on the east coast. It’s just so easy peasy. And with Becca only a 2hr drive away the only thing we were missing was all the equipment. 

We sent Bones, Van Dessel mechanic, with our bikes from Supercross, he performed some much needed TLC, and we reunited with them on Friday for a course pre-ride.

Saturday we woke up on the other side of the inlet. We could have jumped in our host houses kayaks and paddled across the water to the beach run on course, faster than driving there.

Upon Saturday’s course inspection I decided to bump the tire pressure way up. 28-26 (R/F), but in hindsight I wish I would have been at 30/28. There were just so many damn roots! 

The course is really cool and the venue has a distinct Euro feel. The beach run, or ride, was the highlight. The park is littered with walking trails through small wooded sections, filled with loose sandy soil. A few quick punchy up and downhill sections and boom!

Beckster: If everything came together this weekend, I must have won, right!? Nope. I did not. This was a C1 weekend and drew top talent including Kaitie Keough, ranked 5th in the world, and the taker of the top step both days. She is not a bad one to lose to. 

Saturday was chilly all day until the clouds parted and the sun shined down on us for our race. My start was (you guessed it), not fast. But I wasn’t in any of the typical NBX first lap carnage and rode in the front group for the first lap. I finally found myself in the 2nd position, with Kaitie far out in front.

No matter how hard I went, though, the gap between her and I didn’t seem to close, and the gap behind me to Ruby West barely grew! Remembering how easily she closed down our gap the last time we faced off (at Supercross) I stayed engaged, didn’t give up, and was able to hold her off and maintain a 2nd place finish – my highest C1 finish ever. 

 

Kerry: Off the line, I slotted 3rd wheel, which was fine. Stephen and Curtis were wide open the first two laps and I was struggling to latch back on out of the corners leading into the long straights. It was like a motor pacing session but I couldn’t point thumbs down and expect them to slow down. 

I fell off after two laps and rode the middle of the race by myself trying to hold off Spencer Petrov. He whittled the gap down and we rode the last 4 laps together. I was running Thom Parson’s GoPro, for dirtwire.tv content procurement and go some awesome footage. 

I put in a few digs here and there but couldn’t shake the young whippersnapper. We ended up going to the line together. I highly suggest checking out Vittoria’s “Vittoria Northeast Cyclocross Series” Youtube page for the high light videos and some epic in race footage.

In the highlights you will see Spencer sprint up my inside on the final sprint, nudge me out for positioning, then me (in a fit of rage) come back around him and take the sprint and 3rd podium spot. Thank God too because otherwise there would have been a Cannondale podium sweep.

I was not really pumped with my ride. Watching Stephen and Curtis ride away from me like that sure was humbling. My legs were just not responding. I chalked it up to some lingering fatigue from the last training block I put in. So I tried to put it out of my head and cross my fingers for Sunday.

Beckster: I was fast off the start. We were all contending with some tire slip as we powered off the line. I put my weight back and was able to pull ahead of a few people. No hole-shot, but pretty good for me. I made it through the first sweeping turn of the start loop in the clear. The start loop was literally the only grass on the course, and as we went in for the left-hand turn before the woods, I tapped my breaks. With a tire pressure set for roots, not wet-grass traction, I slid out.

My bike slides away from me and I am hunkered down, holding my hands overhead and actually yell out, pleading, “NO ONE HIT ME!” And, no one did. Surprisingly, no one else went down, hit me, or ran my bike over. I was able to pick up my bike and hop back on as the last few riders were clearing. Kerry said when he saw me there were 5 of the over 30 finishers behind me. My boyfriend, Nick, told me to stop messing around. Because clearly, I planned for this.

The silver lining for me was, the pressure was off for a good result, and at least I scored a 2nd place yesterday. With that lack of frantic energy, I was able to charge forward. I passed people in huge groups. I passed in turns. On hills. On pavement. In mud. I hucked roots and splashed through puddles. I was through the thick of it by the end of the first lap. Nick yelled, “get that last podium spot, one more rider!”. Really? I’m there already?

I had passed a few riders I wasn’t expecting to, given the conditions and my setback, but maybe they were having bad days. Wow. So, I forge forward and nab that 3rd position. I could have likely taken 2nd without my setback, but I doubt I could have beat Kaitie on the day, so I am super pleased with my ride. Other racers commented on how fast I passed them. A couple said they envied my aggression. The funny thing is that I didn’t feel aggressive. I hope to be able to recreate that mindset, confidence, and skill come time to race in Europe. That is no place for being timid!

In addition to the 2nd and 3rd place podiums, I did get to climb on the top step of the Vittoria New England Cyclocross Series podium, taking 1st! The series was Gloucester, Northampton, Supercross, and NBX. Despite not racing Gloucester, my podium finishes at all other events were enough to get me the overall!

Here’s to hoping some of this momentum carries through to Nationals and beyond.

Kerry: We did the preride thing again and the course was basically run in reverse, which was cool. The biggest change was the rain made a big difference in adding some need for traction control.

I wasn’t sure about this because of the sandy soil but it was slick and a proper mudder. The downside to this was that the deeper mud sections and the deep puddles on the course were hiding roots, which were easily found by a weighted front wheel and more than once a lap I was rimming out or concerned that I had broken a wheel/ flatted.

Off the line, I slotted in 3rd wheel again, then proceeded to stick with Stephen on the second lap. I took some turns, saw some daylight, but he brought me back, then took some turns of his own.

I basically sat on his wheel for the middle part of the race. Checking his lines and trying new things. I am sure I took new lines every lap and some of the sections I didn’t find “the line” until the last lap.

With 2 to go I started to come unhinged. Stephen was riding the muckier straightaways just s smidge harder and the small gaps I was able to close down earlier in the race were becoming more of a chore.  

So I settled for 2nd. There wasn’t much I could do. It was one of the situations where once you were off the line of the guy in front of you and already on the limit the gap would just grow and not come down. 

With this result, I was much happier. My legs felt much better and I was able to push. The conditions definitely suited me more than Saturday but I am convinced that I felt more opened up and ready to rumble. 

Now we were tasked with breaking down the tent, loading up all our muddy stuff, and getting out of there. Luckily, I brought a headlamp. The darkness set in early up there and by the time I got out of doping control it was already a task walking back to the tent trying to avoid roots and a face plant. 

Check out the Vlog for some behind the scenes and in race POV coverage!

Next on the docket is my home state North Carolina Cyclocross NCGP in Hendersonville, NC, about 2.5 hours west. It is looking like a mudder, with rain and snow in the forecast. I love this race because Emily and I always take our RV to this race and it’s fun hanging at the venue and seeing some of the amateur racers that I haven’t seen since the summer.

Supercross Cup A Cyclocross Epic

FYI: We are going to focus on Becca’s perspective for this weekends blog post. For reasons that will soon be clear.

Supercross is a race that always has predictably unpredictable (crappy) weather, and no matter the venue or course, something gets thrown in to make it fun and tricky. I had found varying levels of mild success there in the past, and was really hoping that this would be my weekend. It had been 2 years since my previous (and only) UCI win, and I have had countless near misses since. It was time to break the curse.

Cue Supercross weather, and snow dumped across New England on Thursday night and into Friday morning. Were we going to contend with snow, ice, or mud? By the time we raced on Saturday, it was slick mud with icy cold puddles of melted snow. The air temp was in the low 40s but the cold water of snowmelt meant no fingers or toes were safe. 

The course itself is across a grassy field with some undulation and a tricky woods section. But it was all mud. The uphills were runs. Most of the flat sections were runs. The downhills were recovery coasts, but you couldn’t really recover if you were white-knuckling the bars like I was. The woods were less muddy and more soupy, so it was easy to pedal through but you couldn’t see the sharp rocks or the slick roots so you had to choose your speed wisely.

I started well on Saturday, immediately getting slotted behind Canadian U23 National Champ Ruby West. She starts to draw away from me as the lap unfolds, but she bobbles a few times and I get to close the gap. She drops her chain and I get to attack. I am off the front and leading the race.

After 3 laps, I am still leading. I had been riding smoothly, so smoothly in fact, that my 10 minute lap times were all within a second of each other. The crowd is cheering for me that I can finally get my win – it is my race. I feel like my 20 seconds or so is pretty solid, I just have to stay upright.

In the last lap I encounter lapped riders. I yell “RACER BACK” and they don’t yield. One is running in the line I had been riding. The only rideable spot in the wide grassy track. I have to dismount, I yell “JUST STOP”. She does not stop. I go around, losing some time. I continue on. I get to the crest of another hill and see another rider. I yell for her to get out of the line because I am about to go careening down this hill with no option of stopping to avoid running her over. She does not move. I delay my mount. I lose time. She again does not yield around the turn. I run a rideable section. I lose time. The finish is minutes away, and I can now see Ruby over my shoulder. I try to ignore her and stay calm. She catches me up the final hill – a run. We get to the section of boggy grass that had baffled me the whole race – not sure if I should be running or riding and where to mount. She hops on, I keep running and get ground. But then I hop on, she has momentum and passes me. Watching the video is painful because it is so obvious I should have got off to run, but in my head, if I was on the bike when we hit the pavement then I could outsprint her – but the gap was too big and the finish was too close. There was no way to do it. I had lost the race. Again. 

Check out a recap of the race, and the finish (from a million angles) here:

I was pissed, to say the least. Heartbroken. Confused. What made it worse was Ruby was exhausted at the finish, and I wasn’t, but where could I have put that effort out on the course? I had so many emotions that anytime I went to talk to someone I instead wanted to scream and cry. It felt childish to have these feelings but they stem from passion, not hate. Looking back, I am still totally bamboozled as to how it happened. I am happy to note that Ruby shut down the 20 seconds, I didn’t slow down. Any slow down to lost riders was made up in my lap time by working harder once Ruby was over my shoulder. So, luckily, unlike so many times before, I didn’t scratch on the 8-ball. I was happy with the race I had ridden, no crashes, mechanicals or mishaps on the treacherous course. Besides, there was always tomorrow. By the time we were at the podium I was not exactly over it, but in much better spirits and ready to celebrate Ruby’s victory and my own accomplishments. Besides, there was podium bubbly.

Sunday, the course was the same only run in reverse. The temperatures stayed above freezing so the snow continued to melt, but the days’ events churned the water and mud into a thicker concoction. There was even more running, with the flats getting heavier and the downhills becoming uphills. Many races had much thinner fields, the elite races included. Many didn’t bother preriding. I almost didn’t, but for the sake of being a winner I did.

My heart was heavy. My body was cold. I didn’t really feel like racing. We got to the line and I was jealous of the people not showing up. The whistle went and I got on the pedals. I started slower than the day before. Or others started faster? Cassie was throwing elbows like we were in line for the last Tickle Me Elmo. Ruby was at the front. I was not.

I was gapped off through the first run and even more so by a bad line choice down a muddy hill. Her gap increased across an off-camber run. I kept my eyes on the prize: the daylight at the front. I got to the front of the chase, dropped the others easily, and very quickly made time to Ruby just by riding some things she was running. I sat on her wheel for the rest of the lap and into the second just to make sure I was ready to go for it. And I did. I passed Ruby on a run up and never looked back. After the woods section, I heard I had a gap. Through the finish line, they thought Ruby had a mechanical (she later joked to me that she wanted to yell to them, “nope. You’re wrong. I just can’t go harder” haha). I heard I was up to 1:30. 2:30. With a lap to go, I still wanted to take nothing for granted. I joked with all of the onlookers to not jinx it. I only looked over my shoulder once I hit the finish straight. Another flawless day, but this time without the last minute hunt-down. I finally won. Over 4 minutes later, Ruby would cross the line in 2nd.

I am obviously very stoked to have finally won, but it isn’t quite as nice under that lingering pain from Saturday. I wish I could go back in time and decide to run that last corner as Ruby did, so maybe we could come to the pavement together to at least take it to a sprint. Or that she had caught me sooner so we could have battled 1-on-1 a little longer! But what’s done is done, and I have accepted the 2nd and then, of course, that final victory of a top step finish!!!

I only have one more domestic weekend before Nationals, and that is the C1 at NBX in Warwick, RI. Then, the team heads over to Belgium, where each race is a victory just to finish with everything intact!

Check out Kerry’s Vlog:

Kerry and Becca Head North to the Pan Am Champs, Eh!

Becca: From the time we left my parent’s house in Ohio and drove up to Midland, it was raining. Into our pre-ride. It was raining. Kerry was pretty excited about this. I was not so sure how I felt. It was my first time at the Silver Goose race in Ontario, Canada, and though I had heard the course was fun, that is a pretty vague description. Preride proved it was suuuuper tricky – it made me think of NBX with off-cambers. Lots of line choices to avoid roots, rocks, and other oddities. Add in the slippery ground and the off-cambers were quite tricky, and finding the speed limit was a game of guess-and-check.

Kerry: We woke up to sprinkles and by the time we loaded up the truck we encountered a light dusting of snow. So the course was going to be super slick still.

We lined up on Saturday morning before the women, which is always a treat. I enjoy getting done and catching the end of the ladies race.

I had my mind set on the whole shot because there was a left hand swooping 180º, slick AF, corner right off the start straight. That was followed by a right 180º corner and a slippery false flat into another corner.

After the gun I found my pedals then promptly pulled my right foot out of my pedals (note to self, tension the pedals before Pan Ams tomorrow). I settled into the top 5 and tried to avoid the chaos!

In the first couple laps there was a larger group at the front taking turns and testing each other. It came down to Gage, MvDH, Stephen, Cooper Willsey and myself with two laps to go… Though the first part of the course was slick it wasn’t quite enough to make a huge impact. The second half of the course was tacking up so the technical bits weren’t playing a huge role on the outcome of the race.

Gage sent it off the front on a small climb out of pit 1. MvDH followed. Stephen hesitated and I was on the back of the group, not the best position to be at the end of a race.

After that move went I adjusted and decided not to go all in to try and bring Gage and MvDH back. Part of me thought Stephen was saving some for Sunday and if that was the case I was going to do the same.

Stephen and I came through with one to go and hit the slick bits together. I was pedaling on a straight part when all of a sudden I was on my ass! After I stopped sliding I watched Stephen ride away and the podium with him. He shortly bridged the gap to MvDH while I had to fight to keep Cooper off my wheel.

I was a little disappointed, I was hoping to have a good race and use that momentum to carry me into Pan Ams on Sunday. But this is a fickle sport where adjustments must be made from day to day. I put off my missed podium as a result of my rookie mud riding maneuver and convinced myself that it was a good opener and Sunday I’ll be raring and ready to rock!

Becca: Because I felt so tentative on the course I was happy that Saturday was a C2 and the big game of Pan Ams was on Sunday. But then again, I knew the big game was on Sunday and that was also lingering on my mind for all of Saturday. I told myself to give it my all on Saturday because I figured I wasn’t exactly going to win on Sunday, but that is easier said than done when the environment is one of stifled brewing energy, bubbling in everyone’s legs and chests.

Saturday, I pushed hard in the early parts of the race, but I found myself dabbing and bobbling often and it was making me get gapped off of 4th. I started to channel the need to ride smooth instead of race fast and at first, I got dropped a little but I quickly found a groove and settled in. Soon, it was a battle for 3rd between myself, Maghalie, and Clara Honsinger. I got a pedal jammed into a stake on a steep climb, blocking Maghalie. We battled up the steps but I let her have the first one into the drop because I knew she was going faster than me – having just climbed back into contention after a mechanical. I thought she was going to race away with it but instead just stayed there, dangling ahead of me.

We had 1.5 or 2 laps to go and I pitted for a clean drivetrain. Clara passed me. And, that was the race. I yo-yoed off of Clara’s wheel for the rest of the lap, all with Maghalie in sight. I finished 5th, within 30 seconds of the winner. It was a good race, and one I knew I could have done smarter and thus finished better. But that was fuel for Sunday.

Kerry: The team retired to a dinner of chili and fireplace conversation. The perfect way to shake the northern Ontario cold. I went to bed counting sheep and dreaming of a big stack of pancakes smothered in Canadian maple syrup conjured up from just down the road.

We woke up to a sunny and blustery morning. This made me frown. I knew it wasn’t going to rain but I was still hoping for some slick corners. With this weather hanging around all day our race would likely see a dry course.

Sure enough, I got to the track and told Dave to slap the Maxxis Speed Terrane’s on. Files it was! While I am a sucker for a muddy race I am also a sucker for a muddy race followed by a tacky, hero dirt, track where you run muds on Saturday and file treads on Sunday. 

The sandy gritty soil was not hanging on to moisture and a few corners were crumbling under the continuous stress of gripping tire treads. 

I ripped my Jakroo Hawaiian print flower pants off with 3min to go, dropped my jacket with 2min to go, and waited for the 30sec warning. Then I dropped the clutch on the whistle. I tightened my pedals so all systems were go and I hit the first corner in front. There was so much grip that the track was like a highway. Strung out from the gun!

With no technical bits or slippery parts to break up the racing, we saw a big group at the front for the first half of the race. 

The front group didn’t whittle down to four until about three laps to go. MvDH was doing a lot of work on the front. He had home soil watts and cheers of “GO, eh!” To propel him through the race. Curtis and Stephen were right up there. I was suffering though. 

With the course being fast and tacky there weren’t enough punchy parts for me. I find my fitness is better when the efforts are shorter instead of longer power sections, which is what the course comprised of. I did my best to hang on to the back of the group. 

There were 2.5 laps to go when Stephen rolled his ankle into the concrete stair set and hung MvDH up with him. Curtis skirted the pile-up and immediately got a gap. He put his head down and tried to pour it on. MvDH wasn’t having it. I tried to hang on to his wheel as he brought Curtis back but it was too much. I fell off his wheel with 3/4 of a lap to go and limped it in for 3rd.

Again, I wanted that win and jersey to go along with it. But I can definitely walk away and say I emptied the tank. It just wasn’t my day for the top step. Third is better then I did last year so I took some more UCI points home to help me stay top-ranked American for at least a couple more weeks. 

Becca: Where Saturday was slippy, Sunday was grippy. It was actually just like Cinci (but much less slippery on Saturday) and we went from muds to files. 

I had an okay start, but in the first lap, I found I couldn’t quite match the efforts of the front 3 or 4 and again found myself in 5th. We raced last but had been at the venue for nearly 5 hours, riding on and off and I think my legs were just heavy from the schedule. I knew they would come around, I just had to wait for it. The energy from the spectators was so strong that it actually kind of took me aback – I channeled it but didn’t really have a way to release again. I felt squirrely. 

Going into the second lap I slid out HARD on an off-camber turn – my tires skittering across a hard rut because I was holding the brakes instead of letting it flow. The group of four or so behind me passed by. I picked up my bike, gave it a look, and hopped on. The speeds were so high they already had a big gap on me. I took a few minutes to find my groove again and just kept churning away. Despite riding smooth (well, everything but the sand. Sand is my nemesis.)

I wasn’t gaining any ground on anyone in the group. After a lap of being alone, Catherine Pendral was coming along behind me and I felt a little extra gear to fight. With that, I passed one rider, and then she and I battled until we both passed another. 

I loved following her lines – Catherine is a multi-time mountain bike world champ and it shows. She has great flow and her line choices are less “hereish” and more “THERE THERE THERE THERE”. I can’t describe it better than that. When I would use a broad brush to outline where I hoped to roll, with precision she pushes her tires where she needs them to be.

For a lap I was actively battling holding her wheel and passing when I thought she may be able to outride me, acting as a blocker. When we had less than a quarter lap to go, it was my worst part of the lap: the loose corners and the tricky (for me) sand. It was the perfect time to be in the lead to block her from drawing away.

I botch a turn and tell her to just freaking pass me. I literally pause for her too. I could feel her sawing at my rear tires as I rode (not physically touching, just hovering) and I was feeling embarrassed by my inadequacies. Hell if I was going to let her see me in the sand. I took the few extra turns on her wheel as I would a science class. I took the loss in payout and UCI points as tuition. 

Eighth. Eighth place and I knew I had fourth. I know I am a podium contender. I know it is there. Recently all of my race reports are accounts of near misses, almost, excuses, and lessons learned. I know eventually, I have to shit or get off the pot. None of this is choice – I want to win, I am trying to win, and I know I can (not always, but, at least like, once, right?). I feel like I am due for a breakthrough, and I know it won’t happen by luck but it will happen with me putting these pieces together. There is no question that I am going for the wins in my next two weekends: Northampton and Supercross. If they happen, let’s all have cake. If they don’t, let’s still eat cake. 

The most important thing is this weekend is not a lost opportunity for Team Kona, but instead fuel for the bigger fire. 

Cincy CX: A Race Fit For A King

Becca: The Cincinnati race weekend is close to a hometown race for me, having grown up about an hour north (note that in Ohio we measure distance in time). Despite my love for the race, it never really goes super well for me. Last year my body gave up, leaving me unable to pedal through my favorite type of heavy-mud conditions on day one at Devou. Day two went okay. Years before it was never complain-worthy but not super great. This year, knowing that both days were going to be at the King’s venue, I was pretty hopeful that I could finally excel on the C1 day – that course is raw power.

I was anxious for our race, knowing the start would be everything on the twisty, slippy course. I warmed up, focusing on the start effort. Front row call-up always adds some nerve, but it was long straight away and I built my confidence.

The whistle blew. I got my pedal and pedaled fast. I found myself drifting back and realized I had forgotten to shift. I shift and pedal, pedal, and shift. I am top five exiting the pavement, a good place to be. A few turns and I feel that the pace is slow. I go to the front. 

I.

Go.

To.

The.

Front.

Then I realize why the pace was slow. I slide out. Whoopsie daisies. It was slicker than even the preride. The best way to describe the surface is with saying it was like snot on glass: the top layer was saturated and was sliding on the otherwise dry and hard ground underneath. It never rained hard enough to saturate down below.

I go from first to third. Someone slides out in front of me and I go to fifth. Another slide. Seventh. Chase through to fifth. It was really a game of back and forth, not by who was going fastest but who was crashing the least. I was powering passed people when I could, only to crash in the turns. I was not riding smoothly or keeping my power in check. I was frantic, worried about the race and not the ride. I hate looking back because it is all so fixable in hindsight! It was so different from in preride that things I was riding easily had turned in to runs during the race and I didn’t have long toe spikes in so I wasn’t getting good foot traction. I was able to ride some things but when I saw others running I would hop off and it was maybe a worse decision than just staying on the bike.

 I was always so back and forth with people that I never pitted – it didn’t seem necessary. I must have bumped my rear derailleur hanger and that combined with the mud made my chain drop between my wheel and cassette. I had to stop to pull it out. Luckily, it didn’t get wedged because it was easy to pull out, and luckily this had before and I remembered to shift into an easier cog so that it didn’t happen again right when I got on – that’s a win. But in the time it took me to fix that, my solid lead on the chasers (who were in seventh and eighth) greatly diminished. I pitted for a new bike and in being yet more frantic to regain my old place I crashed even more. I ended up finishing eighth, quite disappointed in myself for the sloppy riding and rookie mistakes.

After the race I was able to find some positives, like my start, aggressive riding, and remembering to fix an error post-crash. I also felt a lot better after watching the men’s race, because they looked like deer on ice and it was HILARIOUS!!

Kerry: After checking out the course on Friday I was really pumped for Saturday’s race. It was shaping up to be a real slip n’ slide, especially once all the amateur racers got rid of all the grass. I was all smiles going to bed on Friday night and looking forward to the forecast for rain overnight and drizzling throughout the day on Saturday. 

Sure enough, when we arrived around noon for pre-ride on Saturday morning the ground was hard underneath and there was a thin layer of slick mud snaking its way between the tape. The name of the game was “smooth is fast” and how uniquely can you draw lines to find the most traction. For me this was skirting the main lines drawn from earlier races and running wide or inside, popping over the main line, and back out to the grass on the other side of the corner. Another phrase that comes to mind is “grass is fast”.

After watching the juniors race followed by the women’s race I had a pretty good idea that the race was going to blow apart. Therefore, I was dead set on getting the whole shot and having line choice and a wide open line of sight in front of me.

I didn’t quite get whole shot but I was second wheel to Gage. Then I jumped around him on the second set of off cambers. Then I quickly fell behind him as I floundered for traction. I was foot out tri-poding and my clipped in foot was still pedaling, nevertheless, I was moving backwards. I knew that meant my tire selection was not quite up to par so I got into the pit on a more aggressive tire. 

This immediately proved to be advantageous and I started making up some lost ground. Unfortunately, it was a little too late. By this time Gage and Lance were up the road about 15 seconds. 

I did all I could muster but could bring Gage back. He was riding super consistently at the front and maintaining his lead. Lance, on the other hand, started to fall apart on the last lap and I brought the gap down to single digit seconds. One more lap and second place may have been achievable. 

It was one of those races when you finished and didn’t feel super depleted. There just weren’t many sections where you could put down power. And the few sections that I could put down power I was hesitant too because I wanted to have my wits about me when I hit the slippery bits. It was all about managing and gauging efforts so you could stay consistent. I did that well, which I was happy about but coming up short lit a bit of a fire for Sunday’s race.

Becca: Day two. Would it be more muddy, just as slick, or a power course? Lucky for me, the wind dried up all the snot and then the sun came out to seal the deal on the tacky course! It was changed to cut out some corners, add some elevation, and make it overall more Becca-friendly. [Note: I LOVE the mud and perform really well in it. But Saturday was not muddy. It was snotty and just not a good environment for where I am in my racing right now]. The wind was so gusty that everyone had to take their tents down and really batten down the hatches. Gusts up to 45mph, not surprising if that was the speed of some of the sustained wind as well.

The whole day I felt mellow and quiet. I was in my head, but my head was empty. I decided that I wasn’t going to race that day. I would show up on the start line with a number, but I was the only person out there. I was going to ride smoothly. I chose a more aggressive tread than I needed on the day only because I couldn’t get the slippiness of Saturday out of my head, and I didn’t want that fear to linger out on the course.

Another good start for me. I had to battle some overly aggressive riders, but I was able to come out in front of them and settled solidly into fourth place, in line behind Ellen, Kaitie and Katerina. Good wheels to be on, and being that it was so windy it was good to be on wheels. I was anxious and the pace was low so I kept half wheeling – like a dick. Using my own energy doing mini yo-yo movements. Even worse is my ability to follow wheels. I was letting little gaps open up that I had to shut down. My own fault. I just don’t see how the other riders do it, follow each other so closely like a choreographed dance. I was seeing other riders slip and I was reacting to them. I was seeing them falter and making sure I didn’t get tangled. I was being reactive instead of proactive. 

After two laps I was tired of closing my own gaps and seeing that the group was still 10-deep I knew I had to do something or I was going to be at the tail end of the 10. I go to the front. I don’t attack, I just go there and ride the course how I wanted to. I really underestimated that headwind, though. On a day like that the usual 20% drafting advantage is put to 80% advantage no DOUBT. I am at the front for nearly a lap, and when the podium contenders wanted to pass, they did so easily. I know I could have kept up with their paces, but for some reason, there were a few turns that I could not get out of my head from the prior day’s race and I was going slow, picking around the ground trolls that were taking my wheels out from under me the day before. At some point Clara passed me, taking fourth, and I for some reason I just couldn’t close the gap. Maybe I had mellowed out my brain too much for the day, overcompensating from the day before. Maybe my legs were empty. I was not exhausted at the finish, but I was proud, and I guess that is worth it, to have finished a proud fifth than a regretful… somewhere further back. 

The ability to dance at the front is a skill that I should have worked on last year, except last year I never made it to the front to try, so here I am, a year later working on skills I should already have. I put in two good days of racing, but swapping around some aggression and decision making could have made two good days one really great day, or at least two better days. Each weekend I am clawing my way further and further up the results list* (relative to race quality), being very consistent, taking something away from every race, and usually applying to the next. Who knows, maybe I will have another breakthrough at the coming race at Pan Ams? Maybe Nationals? Heck, maybe I should save the breakthrough for worlds 😉

Kerry: Sunday the course went to the opposite side of the spectrum. From greasy slick to tacky dry. Muds to files. I slapped on some Maxxis Speed Terrane’s and was ready to rock. 

There were huge gusts of winds, 30-40 mph. Tents were getting whipped around like sails and the course tape was ballooning out across various sections of the course. 

I figured because of this the race would be a huge pack race like it was in the juniors race. In the women’s race, the first lap saw a huge group of 10-15 riders strong, so I assumed our race would follow suit.

I got the whole shot and kept her pinned. The technical sections on the second half of the course split our race up a bit more than I initially thought and so I kept the hammer down. 

A predicted sprinkle touched down on lap two so I hit the pit for a more aggressive tire. So did everyone else. Couple the gaps that formed from everyone pitting with the wind and the high pace and our race shattered. 

Gage, Curtis, Stephen, and I were on the same page keeping the pace high. By mid-race we managed to have a good gap between our group of four and the rest of the field. 

Then Curtis came off and then there were three heading into the last lap. 

Curtis didn’t lay down by any means and was chomping at the bit to latch on to our group trading pulls with Jamey Driscoll. 

Gage went first just inside half a lap to go. I latched on to his wheel and Stephen came off a bit. Gage kept the pedal to the metal and was pouring it on. I was hanging on by the skin of my teeth until I came unclipped trying to wrestle all the forward momentum I could out of my bike. I clipped back in but this allowed Gage another two bike lengths heading into the final feature on course. 

I kept pushing and hopped the barriers to maintain contact just as we turned right on to the finish pavement stretch. 

Gage sat up for a split second and looked back over his right shoulder. So, naturally, I punched it up the inside! 

With so much of a headwind into the finish line, I knew I needed all the help I could get and I may have got a bike length ahead before Gage reacted and got on my wheel. 

I was looking back under my armpit watching his front wheel creep closer and closer ahead of mine but I had just enough to hold him off.

Razor thin margin but a win is a win!

Check the last minute of the CX Hairs Maxxis Cyclocross Television “minisode”

I was gassed as you could imagine but so happy I didn’t lay down after Gage put the wood to me and had a few bike lengths on me. Persistence and a little bit of ninja work on the finish sprint got me to the top of the podium and has my confidence up heading into Pan-Ams looking for a new jersey.

Also, check Vlog 21 for all the behind the scenes shenanigans….

DCCX: Racing in the Nationals Capitol

Kerry: My wife, father in law, and the doggies headed north for the nations capitol on Thursday evening. We split up the drive with the RV and rolled into the venue to find Robert Marion and his big ol RV and trailer stuck in the parking area. We were appreciative that he went ahead and figured that out before we did. 

Being only eight miles from the national mall we hit a bike path and rolled into the capitol to be tourists. We checked out the National Monument, the Capitol building, and the Lincoln Memorial before heading back to the venue and calling it a night. 

Bill Shieken, one of the promoters of DCCX and founder of CXHairs, was gracious enough to host Becca. Emily and I decided to “camp” at the venue in the RV. RV life is far from roughing it, believe me. I wish I could stay in the RV all season. 

Day 1

Becca: I was pumped up after Charm City, finally breaking through a mental barrier I spent an entire year building up, brick by brick. I had never raced DCCX before, but this year I was excited to go to defend my lead in the PARKWAY CX TROPHY!!!!! The series was a 2 weekend 4 race series between Charm City and DCCX weekends based on cumulative time. Going into the weekend I was leading the series by 30 seconds or so ahead of Sunny Gilbert!

DCCX was a race weekend I was capable of winning, and the series was mine for taking. Finally, I was about to step up to Kerry Werner status. 

The course was flowy and pedally. There were roots and broken up pavement, but I wasn’t worried because I have learned to hop and float. The damp ground was watt-suckingly spongey, which made the straights slow and the corners rippable. A few of the corners were loose which just meant you had to stay alert and off your brakes. I had it all dialed. I even told Kerry I was feeling smooth – a good thing or a bad thing, who knows? 

Kerry: After some morning spins in Rock Creek Park we were all systems go. Now we just had to wait for the damn race to start. 3:15 for Becca and 4:15 for me.

Becca: Day 1 offered a prime for the 1st lap – the first rider across the line after lap 1 wins $250. At the gun Sunny Gilbert was ON IT, going after that prime and a 30 second lead over me. I Becca’d the start in a true Becca fashion, getting stuck behind a line of riders stuck behind a rider who could start but couldn’t turn. I am patient trying to pass, knowing my time would come. I catch Sunny at the line at the end of the 1st lap. 

She takes the prime but I take the lead – it wasn’t worth putting out an effort to burn a match when I had bigger things in mind. Like the big step of the 1st place podium spot. I take the lead and don’t look back. Sunny is chasing hard but I focus on my own race and my near 30-second lead until I get so confident I realize that I am about to win a bike race and I focus too hard. 

I know all I have to be is smooth, so I do the equivalent of waxing the day you need to show up in your bikini. You think you will be smooth but you will be red, blotchy, irritated, and just terrible. 

I stare into a loose corner and tell myself I will crash if I don’t let go of my brakes. So, I don’t let go of my brakes and I crash. I just slid out and hopped off, but I had to run up the next hill because of the gear I was in. Sunny closes the gap and I am caught. Each time I get a little lead I bobble again.

The next big bobble comes at the stairs as we approach the finish. I go to block her, thinking she is coming up on the inside and I hit a bump and end up riding my stem into the stairs. An impressive though not smooth dismount later keeps me in the running but I had unplugged a Di2 wire in the process. Shit. Shit shit shit. Which one was it? Can I shift? I find that I can. I think it was the front shifter but I didn’t need to shift that. No harm no foul. But I lost a split second just thinking of that. I was in the lead. I pass the pits and climb the hill to the finish straight. I know Sunny is back there. What do I do? I make THE mistake. I look back, sitting up a little wondering how to sprint. I should have kept pedaling. She closes the small gap and sits on my wheel. It is done. She comes around and outsprints me for the win. I overthought it at every turn. Making me crash. Making me bobble. Making me sit up. Making me not sprint to the level I know I can. 

I should have won that race. Sunny raced better than I did, was smoother, I know I know, but DAMMIT THAT RACE WAS MINE!!! 

Fear not, my friends. This was Saturday and there was a whole new race to be won on Sunday. And win it I shall. I was feeling fresh and optimistic on Sunday. The course was reversed with a few alterations. A few roots were tricky, but I was ready for them. 

Kerry: The temps were in the high 50º’s low 60º’s, perfect CX weather. There was some moisture on the ground and thus lots of traction, like hero dirt traction, almost too much traction. The slight uphills were a slog and a half!

As Becca mentioned the first lap show cased a $250 prime, Rapha money, so I was all set to go after that. I found my pedal straight away and got the whole shot.

I never looked back. Honestly, my biggest asset on that lap was hoping the barriers. I had everyone on the rivet before then but the soggy ground and slight climb after the barriers made hopping them and carrying momentum so efficient. 

I had a slight lead across the line and $250 more doll hairs in my pocket. So I kept pouring it on and they kept chasing. While I managed to increase my lead up to 25sec at max it would rollercoaster. I would have 15, then 10, then 20, then 10. So I had to stay on it and smooth. One slip up at the wrong time could have given those guys a carrot to chase. 

I was managing to ride the stairs, which wasn’t faster, due to the entry being a complete 180º uphill. But it was a crowd pleaser! So I kept the pace high that way I could afford a few extra seconds to ride stairs. 

The last lap I got a little nervous. On CX courses it’s really easy to judge how much time you are putting on someone, maintaining on someone, or losing on someone based on where you see them on an adjacent part of the course every lap. On the last lap Travis put an attack on Eric and started reeling me in. I had 30 seconds and then he was coming closer and closer. By the end of the lap it was only 10sec. 

With Saturdays win I was looking forward to some family time. My parents came into town for the race and Emily’s mom had an Airbnb near the venue that they were staying at. So my dad brought his pots and pans, sharp knives, and pa sourced foods to concoct a stew that warmed the bones after a chilly evening. 

We invited Eric and his crew over. Bruce came and jumped in the photo edit cave for a bit before joining in on the conversation. It was a good time. Then because it’s my dad’s birthday next week he baked himself a cake and we all ate it and sang happy birthday to him! 

Day 2

Becca: My start was better, Sunny’s wasn’t as good. Maybe it is because the prime was moved to lap 3, maybe she was feeling yesterday. Maybe everyone else’s was just better? She was in the lead but took an early slide-out that set her back. MUAHAHAHA VICTORY SHALL BE MINE! 

I was on the front from then on and didn’t look back. Arley was on my wheel up until that lap 3 prime, which I took then found myself with a good gap. I kept my head down and kept up a smooth and fast race. Everything was going flawlessly until the 2nd half of the 4th lap, and I flat. Rear wheel was completely flat, I must have hit a rough patch of pavement too hard, I know right where it happened. I was hopping roots through turns quite elegantly, but there was a section of abandoned pavement that was too long to hop and it was sort of a pick-your-way-gingerly type of thing. Well. I must have gone full Pumpkin Spice and hit the rear wheel. 

The announcers didn’t see the flat and said Sunny closed the gap. She caught me by the time I hit the pits. I rode that flat well, but I lost 16 seconds in that over quarter lap because of it. I pitted. Sunny got up to 20 seconds or so on me, and I saw my win go out the window, and I was just chasing the oblivion trying to keep the gap under 30 seconds for the win. Then, somehow, she was so close. SO CLOSE people were telling me three seconds. I WAS GOING TO WIN A BIKE RACE! I was so excited I hopped off my bike and threw it to the ground (I slid out in the loose downhill corner before the stairs. Same problem as the day before. Old habits die hard).

Okay, so the win was gone after that. But, I still had second and the series. Until I stood up and realized my boas on my left shoe were completely open, shoe was falling off and I had banged my rear derailleur and sent it into crash mode. I was stuck in my 11 tooth cog. I had to run up a slight hill because I couldn’t push the gear. I had to stop because my shoe was coming off. I bent over to tighten my boa and wouldn’t you know if I didn’t get passed. Crap. 3rd place. I realize I can still shift my front chainrings so I shift down into the little ring but I am still in my 11. Good thing I have been practicing for being overgeared my WHOLE FREAKING CAREER and was able to keep 3rd against a charging Arley. And. As soon as I cross the line. I hear it. I have kept the series win by 4 seconds. $1000 by 4 seconds. 

I am happy with the series win and reflecting back, it is awesome to keep hearing from all of the spectators what a show Sunny and I put on. So really, we did our jobs. I did my job. Sometimes a loss in a hard-fought battle is more noble than a win that is taken so easily (cough cough Kerry). The fitness is coming around. The confidence is high. The handling is every improving. The pieces are coming together. The podiums will continue, the wins will come, and the spectators will be forever impressed by the performances we women put on out there.

Kerry: The course was basically in reverse on day 2. The biggest change was the wind! It was howling all night. In fact, Kerm and I even took about five tents down at the venue so people would show up and find their $1000 10X10’s in a state of “pick up sticks”.

The course was even more hard packed than yesterday so I strapped on the files, pulled on my Hawaiian Jakroo warm-up pants, Timmermade puffy, and headed to the line. 

There was another Rapha prime, but on lap three. So after getting the holeshot I settled into the group. Eric Thompson, Travis Livermon, and I quickly established the front three and on lap two I sent an attack to secure that $$. I came across the line another $250 richer and also 15 seconds richer. So again I kept at it. 

Due to the wind, my gap continued to grow. Eric and Travis didn’t want to take up the pace making and waste energy out in the wind. They were too evenly matched. So I set a new goal, don’t get off the bike!

The approach on the stairs was much straighter and the stairs were actually not any slower to ride or run. Combining that with hopping the barriers and I was set to never let my feet touch the ground. Remember the game “the ground is lava” when you were a kid… Yeah.

With the crowd behind me I was having fun. I came across the line for the 3rd DCCX weekend sweep in a row and the Parkway CX trophy. Combine those wins with the Rapha primes and I was $2340 richer! That is better than sweeping a C1 weekend. Sorry I am not sorry you other suckers didn’t show up. Becca and I don’t mind. 

Stay tuned, the next weekends include Cinci, Pan Ams, NoHo, and Supercross.

 

Charm City CX: Two Podiums, Two Race Reports (Part 1- Rebecca Fahringer)

Last year was my first Charm City experience and I really enjoyed it. I loved that it was a power course with slogging climbs and swooping turns, and the crowd was energetic and very interactive. It was actually the race where the most people approached me with hellos, equipment questions, and congratulations. I am pleased to report that it was an overall positive vibe that was 100% replicated this year!

 

The weather was slated to be cooler than last year, but no rain was in the forecast. Despite this, there was quite a bit of mud on the course due to some broken water lines. The muddiest sections were along the pits before the (larger-than-last-year’s) flyover, down by a road crossing, and then coming back up to that road onto the finish straight. Despite these sections, the rest of the course was nice and tacky.

Course pre-ride on Friday we really thought it was going to be a file-tread weekend. The grass had been cut, everywhere but between the tape, and the wet spots were just wet grass. Some corners were slick, but we expected once the grass torn up the dirt would provide traction. Watching social media from the host house on Saturday morning, we were seeing the muddy bikes but were still skeptical. Showing up to the venue we saw the lines for the power washer were long, and after a lap of our own, we found out why. Those small sections of wet grass or little running streams turned into huge mud bogs. 

It was decided to be an All Terrane day to help for some grip on the grass off-camber turns and when dropping into and climbing out of the mud bogs. There was a little thought and discussion as to whether or not the mud near the pits was rideable or if it should be a run, but most decided to just run in. 

I had a front row call-up. The biggest contenders were Maghalie Rochette, Kaitie Keough, Ellen Nobel, Caroline Mani, and Sunny Gilbert. Lucky for me, Caroline was sick. Unlucky for me, all of the other women are very fit right now. The start for the race is a long climb that ends will a nice steep punch. I settled into the top five to seven wheels, knowing I wanted to be further up but telling myself to be patient and not make any stupid moves to crash anyone out.

Bad decision. 4th wheel was a rider that turned at about half of the speed of the front 3 and a huge gap opened up. I saw it happening but I couldn’t pass her and the other rider behind her in the turns without risking a crash. Then, I went to pass on a straight section before the mud bog, a risk I was willing to take, until Jamey Driscoll who was standing beside the course delivers this PSA “they moved the course! Course change! Stay right!”. Apparently, while we were on the line, the course got restaked, making us take a turn in to the mud. No worries, us women are used to completely new lines due to new course designs that aren’t discovered until our first lap.

I again wait to pass. I can’t remember when the pass happened, but there was a 13-second gap between me and 3rd at the end of the first lap. Another 6 seconds back to the blocking rider. That was a huge deficit. I was never within a direct sightline of Kaitie Keough, who was in 3rd dangling between myself and the front 2 riders.

Everyone was saying that I was closing the gap, but I never seemed to make ground on her, and the most I could do was try to stay away from Sunny Gilbert who was dangling a few seconds behind me. I succeeded and finished the race in a solid 4th, which was one spot better than last year.

Going into Day 2, once again following a win by Kerry, I was determined to make a podium – I knew I was capable. I took Kerry’s burnt pancakes as a sign from above that I could do it. The course was very similar, but the mud pits grew even larger yet. I didn’t make any equipment changes, except adding a bottle into my jersey pocket and an ice sock tucked behind my neck. My start was fantastic. I got my pedals, remembered to shift and pedal, and ended up 4th wheel entering the course. I made a pass to punch it into 3rd, and there was only a small gap up to 1st and 2nd.

I was STOKED! YES! I CAN RIDE IN THE FRONT GROUP!! I was so excited, that I rolled in the mud. Heading up into the pavement I was too stiff when I hit the ruts exiting a mud pit and just fell over. I quickly grabbed my bike, started running, and hopped on. I looked down and saw everything seemed to be in order with my drivetrain, so I got out of the pedals to catch Sunny who managed to pass me despite trying to take up a lot of space when I fell as to not get passed. I could not quite catch her wheel. I spent most of the race dangling in 4th.

I settled for the spot, saying at least I am tying with yesterday. But I looked back and saw Georgia Gould charging hard behind me, closing the gap. Crap. Georgia is retired. I would need a really good excuse to get beat by her (she is an incredible athlete and honestly totally capable of winning the freaking bike race, but, this is my only job). I used the motivation of not losing 4th to see I was actually closing in on Sunny. When I heard she was within 10 seconds I decided I could do it, and I was willing to lose 4th place trying.

I caught up and picked my moment to pass. Once I did, I could tell she was cracked, but I worked hard keeping the pace high and keeping my head in the game. And I crossed the line with my first UCI podium of the season – finally. But what is more, is that I crossed the line without any regrets and only one “what if”. “what if I didn’t crash on the first lap?” But we don’t ever race in a perfect world and rarely do cyclocrossers get clean races. I was stoked. I am going to keep this mental motivation through my week of race and training into DCCX, hoping that Cycleution Coaching helps me get in tip-top condition for the Pan-American Championships later this month. A podium there would mean the world to me! Or at least the continent.

Charm City CX: Two Podiums, Two Race Reports (Part 2- Kerry Werner)

All I could think about all week was the top step. With Stephen on the mend, the podium was wide open and I was hungry. I wanted my first C1 win but I also didn’t want to overthink it. Luckily, I was around family all week so it wasn’t a heavy topic occupying my mind. 

The drive was only 2hrs from my parents’ house in southeastern pa to the Baltimore Airport, where Becca was flying in. With relatively no traffic the drive was smooth and we were at the course by 1pm, which was way too early. The mega fly over was still being built and the course wasn’t fully taped yet. So we occupied our time by swatting mosquitoes and organizing equipment, which was more or less just thrown in the trailer after Jingle Cross. 

After a pre ride we were off to the host house. A quick stop at Traders Joe’s, for pancake mix, then chipotle for dinner and we were all set. Katey and Joe (owners of Joe’s Bike Shop) were nice enough to put us up over the weekend and dealt with us bringing loads of stuff into their house, using their washer and dryer, and making stacks of pancakes every morning. 

I was prepping to leave for the venue on Saturday morning when Bruce Buckley sent me a photo of someone’s bike…

What I thought was going to be a file day actually turned out to be a real mudder. There was some rain earlier in the week in Baltimore, which the ground was holding, with an iron fist. Overcast skies were preventing anything from drying out and after the morning amateur racers went off the ribbon of dirt around the course was continuing to be slick. There were also two mud bogs on course. Apparently, there was a broken drainage pipe under the ground just past pit one and another broken drainage pipe towards the end of the lap. The first was being churned up and thickening all morning leading riders to run from the exit of pit 1 all the way to and up and over the fly over. The second mud pit was providing us with standing water, half way to hub deep, that you couldn’t see the bottom of but was relatively straight forward. The ground after the standing water was the most tricky part as we were tracking water past the puddle, which was turning the ground to peanut butter and kept you searching for traction on the short little climb after the puddle.

These were perfect conditions for me. I was looking forward to having a few corners slick and my legs were feeling ready to twist the throttle.

I threw on the Maxxis All Terrane’s, at 22 rear- 20 front, and headed to the line wearing the #1 number. 

I really wanted the hole shot so I could push on the early corners and see if people were struggling early on in the slick conditions. I got it and kept the pace high. 

After the first lap I pulled off and Curtis, Bolo, Van den Ham, and Driscoll were there, but the cracks were forming behind us. 

We tested each other all race but could not make it happen. With 2 to go we were still all together though the hurt was on everyone’s faces. Bolo got to the front and pushed a big effort, riding through the mud pit into the flyover that everyone else was running. He immediately opened up a 5 bike length gap and I knew that was the move. Up and over the fly over then I really had to work on the other side to catch him. Luckily, there were turny bits and not tons of pedaling. 

I latched on and went up the mansion climb with him. Then I slotted in front of him just as we went over the top. The turns after the top were fast and awkward, I pushed the pace and opened a small gap. One of those gaps that isn’t big enough to look back at, you just know it’s there from other people yelling at you and you hope to god you can just pour on a little more to make it more substantial. 

That’s what I did but I may have only gained another second or two. We hit the last corner maybe 3-4seconds apart but with that gap into the finish straight there was no way to contest the sprint. 

Holy crap! First C1 win! And I had to work like crazy for it, which made me even more excited about the race. 

It made it all the more special that my mom and dad were there, my new wife, and in laws. While Baltimore isn’t home for me, a lot of the spectators know of me from racing in the area when I was younger and they sure made me feel at home. Gracias!

We all grabbed some food at R. House Sunday night then packed it in for the night. 

Sunday was the same deal. We showed up at the venue around 12. Then got out for pre ride at 1:30. The track was tacky and dry in spots. The sun was out baking the ground and turning those slick corners into hard packed speed boosters. 

The files were perfect, Maxxis Speed Terrane, except for the mud bog before the sand pit, the one with a slight uphill after the exit. Riding through it was fine but trying to get back up to speed after it was a struggle. The lack of knobs on the top were not finding traction in the slick peanut butter. 

Taking that into account I figured it wouldn’t really matter. If the tires were only bad on that one spot it would probably not be an issue. I figured I could minimize the damage and the lack of tread would help me on the rest of the course. As it turns out, I was sadly mistaken.

The gun went off and Tobin had a rocket start. I slotted in behind him for the first half a lap or more. It became apparent on lap one that I didn’t have the best tires in that mud bog. But oh lord the files were so money everywhere else. 

I was getting gapped by 2-3 seconds every lap on the short climb after the mud bog but when I would lead into it I could keep everyone behind me and it wasn’t an issue. 

The same group stayed together for the first half of the race. Then MVdH came off, then Bolo, and it was Curtis and I. Then Curtis made a mistake and I was solo off the front with 2 laps to go. I had a solid 5 seconds on Curtis and Jamey, who latched on. 

I held the gap but Jamey bridged on the mud bog that I was struggling on. Then with 1 to go Jamey got to the front and started throwing hay makers. I was on the limit trying to hold his wheel. He would gap me, then I would close it, then he would gap me and I would close it. 

I hesitated for a split second and missed an opportunity to get in front before the mud bog and that was the end of the race. He opened up a 2-3 second gap coming out of it and there was no time and not enough left in the tank to close it. I sent a hail mary over the planter, jumping in and out trying to make up some time, but it had been a wash. I was gassed and didn’t jump the exit fast enough to make up ground. 

We hit the last corner and he still had 2 bike lengths on me. I don’t think I could have sprinted him with that gap, but then I slipped my rear wheel on the entrance to the pavement. I rolled it in for second.

That one hurt, not just physically but mentally. I wanted the sweep and felt like I had the legs to do it but one too many efforts to cover ground from my tire choice left me with a match or two short at the end of the race. 

 

I guess that is the silver lining though. I had the legs and felt good all weekend. It is also cool that the racing is so tight. Both Saturday and Sunday weren’t decided until the last lap and we weren’t group racing. We were trying to kill each other all race. It’s cool to see that on a given day 4-5 guys could come out on top. 

Charm city is the first two races of a 4 race series called the Parkway CX Trophy Series. The promoters of Charm City and DCCX have teamed up to make a series, based on time. With the win Saturday and 2nd on Sunday I have a lead in the overall, hence the white jersey in Sunday’s pictures. 

There is a grand up for prize money for the overall win. So after taking the next weekend off all focus will be on hitting DCCX and holding on to that. I have managed to sweep DCCX the last 2 years so I am hoping to keep the streak alive.