Kerry Werner

Waterloo Cyclocross World Cup Round #1

Here is the play by play taken from both Kerry and Rebecca’s point of view (POV)

Kerry: After arriving Thursday at noon Becca picked me up at the Madison airport (the only flight I will take this year besides heading overseas) and we headed straight for the course. Mark and Kerm were already there and had the tents set up. Mark had his afternoon cut out for him as he was going over my handy work.

I had to build up Becca’s bikes the previous week so that they would be close to ready to ride when we arrived on Thursday afternoon. Rather then her showing up to blank frames that needed completely outfitted. 

I promptly found my dude, Eric Thompson, and we headed out on the road for some efforts because the course wasn’t set up completely and there were too many people burning in lines. 

All weekend was to be spent at the Dettmer’s. I met Connie and Peter two years ago after getting set up with the from the race director. This was the 3rd year of them hosting me and as always, I was excited. They are awesome people, Connie knows how to make a mean pumpkin pie and Peter can crank out an Old Fashioned faster then most mechanics can swap a wheel in the pit.

Friday morning was race morning. It wasn’t a huge priority for me. I was looking forward to it to test my self against the majority of Sunday’s World Cup field. However, it proved to be more of an opener. I hadn’t gone hard since last Saturday’s Nittany CX, then I spent the week going easy to recover from training and racing. So my engine was running a little cool.

I finished up 18th without too much concern. I felt like I was riding sluggishly so I focused on keeping a cool head for Saturday’s rest day. Besides Connie and Peter had to show us the hot spot in Sun Prairie to have pizza, it was worth it!

Becca: I was so close to being ready for the world cup in Iowa. So close. And then, I took a day off the Monday before and my body responded with a seized up lower back. Is it because my racing age is 30? Am I secretly a Greek Goddess suffering from hubris? Or maybe it is the world’s way of saying that I am wasting my time doing yoga and stretching because I am going to end up in pain anyway. For whatever reason, it happened. Despite not doing any efforts leading up to the race, it was still stiff and painful for the C2 on Friday. I didn’t want to start, but I was in such a funk: hurt back, bad attitude, that I decided I had to race just to clear my system. Unable to do any real “opening” efforts before the race, I started slow, and my legs felt like they were full of wet cotton until nearly my last half lap.

My result and performance on Friday did not phase me, because a lot of us did not approach it as a race, but instead, an opener for the big show on Sunday. I was still optimistic. But the car ride back to our host house on Friday even proved to be too much, and I was hardly able to pull my socks on before dinner. I was devastated. But, with the help of a network of friends, google, and some understanding people, I got some last-minute appointments for a chiropractor and acupuncture on Saturday. Between those treatments and some easy laps where I focused on some skills, I was feeling prepared for Sunday’s world cup.

Kerry: Saturday we headed to the course to check out the world cup track. All the “pro only” lines were added in for a specific UCI only pre ride time. The new lines were an off camber, a run up, and one punchy climb. It added some spice to a otherwise pretty mellow track. 

The temps were steadily staying in the high 60’s and low 70’s, which was a welcomed change from last year’s 90ºF and humidity. The forecast was showing no ice socks for Sunday’s showdown. 

During Sunday morning’s warm up I was feeling much better and looking forward to heading into battle. I stole the last spot on the 2nd row and used it to my advantage. 

I had a great start, slotting into 15th. Just taking notes…

I stayed there for the first 3 laps, but that effort caught up with me. I started to fade through the middle of the race. I went back to 16, then 19 and back to 24 before finding my group battling for a 21st place spot. 

I kept trying to recover and maintain contact with the group. I came around the last two laps and was able to finish 22nd.

I was unbelievably appreciative of the crowds. They carried me through the middle of that race and kept me in it mentally when I was on the edge of shutting down. 

While sending it for the first couple of laps lead me to fade, it had to be done. You aren’t going to make time up on the guys at the front of the race. So I aimed to put work in early, establish a good start, and hold on for dear life. My hope is that if I can manage to do that enough, eventually I will fight off the fade and stay up there. If you throw yourself at the wall enough times, eventually something will stick!

Becca: Once again, on Sunday, the schedule was flipped and women were racing after the men. We had so much course time available I wasn’t even sure what to do with myself! It was great to be able to see Kerry and the other pros take some good lines in prep for my own choices. For many, it was a file tread day, but I chose Maxxis All Terranes for some bite in the steep off-cambers and in the event there was some dust or debris build-up through the turns. I was happy with my choice because the course was a mix of smooth pavement-like dirt ruts and loose gravel-like soil. Traction was not a big worry.

I was happy with my start – I didn’t fight too hard but I sure didn’t go backwards like I could have. The first lap was the typical World Cup fight, and it took well into the lap before anyone even started to settle. I made a few good passes and smart decisions, gaining me 5 spots at a time. I was climbing up.

As I worked to pick off groups and riders, I came up behind a group going into the steep off-camber. I went for the same pass I made in lap 1, but what I did not anticipate was Helen Wyman sticking her leg out (also known as dog pissing). I could have just hit the leg, but my instincts made me grab brake, and I immediately slid out on the steep slope. CRAP! I scrambled to the bottom and around the corner and up. I heard the announcer say I was down. My chain had dropped between my cassette and my wheel. I pull it out. I go to get on. It drops again. UGH I forget to shift to move my derailleur away from the wheel. When I dig it out again I shift and see my cage is at way too steep and angle. Going to need to pit. Crap. But the race was away from me. The group I was chasing was lost with the initial mistake. More people passed me during my chain re-set. And even more passed when I had to take a second pass. 

I am frustrated that I went down. I don’t regret the pass, but I do regret how I reacted. The crash sucks, obviously, but what sucked more was that I wasn’t calm enough to go through all of the steps to fix it. I could have made up more spots if I would have shifted up the first time.

I was able to chase down only a few people after that incident. The gaps ahead of me were so big, they weren’t even within sight, and it was hard to channel the fight to go and get them. The only thing driving me was knowing that I only had 2 more people pass to tie Kerry on the day – but somehow even that didn’t push me into the pain cave. 

I ended up 24th, which is the same place I ended up last year. Perhaps this means I am geared up for another 15th at Jingle Cross, but hopefully I’ll end up a bit higher!

Kerry: After the race, I cleaned up and got to watch the women’s race, which was a nice role change. The Trek CX Cup and World Cup weekend is a great opportunity for women in the sport. The organizers are leaders in racing equality by being the only world cup to offer equal world cup pay. The women’s racing has been proven to put on one hell of a show, based on last season, which was cemented after this past weekend’s battle between Ellen Noble and Marianne Vos.

After the racing, we packed up the trailer and headed to Sun Prairie for old fashioneds and pumpkin pie at Peter and Connie’s. What a great way to end a great weekend and kick off the first few days of fall. 

The stoke is high heading into Iowa and I am looking forward to flexing on Mt Krumpit and a course I feel suits me more so then the Trek track. Onwards and upwards! Until then the Super Jakes need a brake… 

 

Kerry’s Vlog 17: One of the best yet! Give it a watch!

The Road To The World Cups

After a satisfactory weekend last weekend in Rochester I was really motivated to put some solid training in this week. I am not a guy who likes to rest on my laurels. Racing is good and really gets the high end revved up, however, by racing, resting, and repeating weekend after weekend it is often hard to build fitness and work on specific things. So Jim Lehman, my coach, and I decided that this week and into Nittany Lion Cyclocross this weekend was going to be part of a training block. The race was only 45min from my house and my family was pumped to watch me race close to home so I had to include it.

I put two good days of intervals in on Wednesday and Thursday, some longer, over-under intervals to be exact (this is where you spend some time at threshold then some time over then back down then back up and you do this throughout the whole interval). I was feeling good, but those days were hard so I had my doubts going into the weekend.

When I showed up to the race on Saturday I discovered that I was leading the ProCX series, which really isn’t a series because it is literally every race on the calendar, but I guess it is still something. This didn’t really add any pressure to my situation, because the “series” was never part of my season goals, but oddly enough it made me want to win just that little bit more and gave me a new focus for the day. Full “series” calendar and standings found here.

After some course laps I was pretty pumped because it wasn’t going to be a dry, dusty, bumpy, crit race like it had been in years past. We had a decent amount of rain off and on all week and the sun never really came out so the ground was saturated. The amateur races earlier in the day cleared off all the grass and thus the afternoon races were left with a nice line of moist, sometimes slick, sometimes velcro, dirt/mud. 

I decided to run an aggressive tire up front (Maxxis All Terrane) after Alex Ryan got in my head, so I could really push in the corners. Then I ran a pretty mellow mid in the back (Maxxis Raze) because there was some suction like sections on the course and I didn’t want to have all the resistance a double All Terrane set up would have brought. 

I had a good start and led the whole first lap. Right at the end of the lap, there was an off camber that was at a low point in a field so it was extremely muddy. It was possible to ride but challenging and even harder when you came into it gassed or under pressure. I knew that would be a crucial spot later in the race if you were trying to shake an opponent or trying to maintain a gap. 

A group of three of us separated ourselves from the field by the end of the first lap. We all took turns on lap two then I decided to put pressure on Curits White and Matthieu Bolo (a Frenchman) in the corners. I was feeling really confident in the the turny bits and was hoping a little pressure would start to open up some cracks so that the race wouldn’t come down to a sprint. 

It worked and I gapped the two. Curtis was swinging a leg over his CX bike for the first time this season and it showed he was a little rusty. Normally, a move like what I pulled wouldn’t have worked like it did. 

 

I pulled away for a lap until Matthieu started to pull up to me. I kept making mistakes in the muddy off camber at the end of the lap. I was struggling to find the line then when I found it I was struggling to execute. Regardless, Matthieu caught me and I was pleased. I didn’t want to do the last 6 laps of the race off the front by myself.

We worked together to widen our gap and I started to pick apart his riding style. He was strong physically but I had him on the skill part. So again, with 2  laps to go, I put pressure on and a gap opened up. I kept it on through the first half of the lap and had 7 seconds. With him not being able to see my lines in the corners I exploited his weakness and expanded on my gap at the start of the last lap, then kept the pressure on to finish the race.

I was pumped on the W, especially after training hard through the week. It was great to win at home and put on a show for my family too. Sherman was pumped with his first UCI podium top step appearance too.

It was Emily’s birthday on Friday so we all went to my Aunt and Uncle’s house after the race to have cake and celebrate. A surprising number of my friends showed up to race or cheer on Emily and I so we had quite the crew over for the post-race party. It was a great ending to a good day.

I had planned all along to not race Sunday. This is the third weekend of the race season and the world cups are on the horizon. I wanted to get the Saturday effort in as a high-intensity workout without having the mental strain of gearing up for a workout. However, but doing both days on top of the training I did earlier in the week could have dug a hole I may not have been able to climb out of before next weekend’s Waterloo World Cup. 

So I opted for a nice endurance ride from my house to the race, which was awesome. I have done similar rides before, but usually around Thanksgiving time as we usually do Thanksgiving at my, aforementioned, aunt and uncle’s house. However, getting to do the ride in the sunny warm air of September rather than the frigid, crisp, often wet air of late November, was a treat. 

All back roads, farm roads, little cars on a Sunday morning. It was just what I needed after being focused for the last couple days. I listened to some good tunes and just pedaled. I rarely looked at my GPS unit for anything other than turn by turn directions, it was choice.

I got to the race in time to watch Em crush and take pictures, which I wish I could do more of. Photography is hard and watching Bruce Buckley trod around course, profusely sweating, hauling 20-30lbs of camera gear, really put that into perspective. Not to mention the difficulty in framing shots, getting from one side of the course to another, and shooting all the unique sections. Bruce said he lays out a logistics plan on paper so he can know with certainty how he can get from a to b to c and back to a. There is more to it then you think.

The focus this week is rest and then get opened up. I leave Thursday for Madison, WI. Rebecca will meet me there and then we will dominate Waterloo. Rebecca will finally be on board her new Super Jakes and thus the final pieces of the Kona- Maxxis- Shimano CX team are complete. 

All race photos Bruce Buckley @bruce_buckley

Bike Racing In The Land Of Maple Syrup

With CX season coming into view on the horizon Kerry thought it would be good prep to fit one last MTB race in before it’s all curly bars and skinnier tires. So he headed north, with his wife of course, and didn’t stop until he hit Vermont, home of the legendary North East Kingdom Trails and The VT3 Bike Race.

“After spending some time in BC and Washington state this summer I had encountered quite a bit of the lush green, coveted single track, big rock rolls, and dense forest the PNW was known for. It was cool to see that those kinds of trails exist on the east coast. The VT3 Bike Race claims to be “modeled after races like BC Bike Race”, which I found to be true. The race took us to a few different areas, which offered unique but awesome trails. From maple tapped forests to an enduro-specific mountain and finally fast, flowy berm-riddled woods. ”

 

Arriving in VT on Thursday he quickly settled in with the guys at Bicycle Express, a Kona dealer in Waterbury, VT. They took him out on the backyard trails for an evening spin to give Kerry a little taste of what was to come. Thus, the fire was lit.

The racing structure was this: Friday night TT, Saturday 24 mile xc race, Sunday 20 mile XC race. Kerry wasted no time in setting the pace high. He came out on top Friday night but only by a second with a local ripper, Cooper Willsey, hot on his tail.

Saturday’s course had a good bit of climbing and to give himself some breathing room going into Sunday Kerry tried to push the pace and create some separation on the hills but could only muster 22 seconds more on Coop.

Sunday, being flat and fast came down to a sprint finish. Cooper had pushed hard all race trying to lose Kerry on the tight, fast sweeping, single track, putting Kerry on the limit more than once. However, it wasn’t quite enough and the finish was decided by less than 1 bike length.

You can catch his vlog below to see what happened off the bike. He and his fellow racers spent their downtime hanging at the well known Craftsbury Outdoor Center, an Olympic ski and rowing development center.

From here out it is all about CX as the first race of the season kicks off the first weekend of September and Kerry has high hopes and big goals for the months to come.

Werner Hits US Mountain Bike Nationals

Three days after BC Bike Race ended Kerry took a “red eye” home to the east coast. He spent Tuesday being a zombie. On Wednesday he drove 5hrs to Snowshoe, WV for the 2018 USA Cycling Mountain Bike Nationals.

He spent the week watching sunsets from high up on Snowshoe Mountain, scoping out the course, and trying to catch up on sleep.

 

You can watch how it all played out on Kerry’s Vlog!

Next up for Kery is a cyclocross camp. He will be hosting a skills camp in the mountains of western NC to help those who are aware that #crossiscoming and want to get a jump on sharpening the axes!

Kona Adventure Team Pedal Packs to Whiskey 50

The Kona Adventure Team congregated in Phoenix on Tuesday night. When the sun came up on Wednesday morning they loaded up their HEI HEI‘s with the bike packing bags and headed north west to Prescott, AZ.

The goal was to get out of the PHX sprawl ASAP and take the Black Canyon Trail north to Prescott. The unrelenting heat took a toll on the boys and they had to alter their plans from mostly single track to mostly gravel roads. With no water out in the desert, the choice was an obvious one, if they wanted to survive.

Kerry Werner will be posting up a 3 Vlog series on this mission. The first is up below…

The next two will be posted as the team navigates the Fat tire crit on Friday night, off day Saturday, racing the Whiskey 50 on Sunday, then riding back to PHX (on more single track) over the course of Monday- Tuesday. Laughs will be had and suffering will be felt, but it’s always more enjoyable amongst friends.

Pisgah Punishment: 5 Days of the Pisgah Stage Race

This is year 4 for me and there is an obvious reason why I keep coming back. At least It’s obvious to me and, I am sure, all the others that take the plunge into the Rhododendron covered, bench cut, old school woods of Pisgah. Over the course of 5 days you get to ride the most iconic single track the Ranger District of Pisgah has to offer. You can do it at pace or you can tour it. You can stop for snacks or blow right past the aid stations looking for new PR’s. Either way, everyone has FUN and this year was no exception. 

We all congregated for stage 0 on Monday night. Dinner and packet pick-up was followed by an intro into the first stage, what was expected, and thus the initial injection of butterflies/nerves.

From years passed, I knew that stage 1 was the fastest. Having Spencer Paxson in town for the race last year saw a new course record of about 1:45 for 24.7 miles and 4130’ of climbing. The competition was a little deeper this year so I was expecting the pace to be pushed even harder.

Sure enough, by the time we hit the first single track selection the lead group had dwindled down to 5 riders and the gaps were already wide open. I didn’t give enough thought to my positioning into the single track and got stuck behind some bobbles and then held up on the descent. 

Tristan Cowie got away early, which had Travis Livermon, Tristan Uhl (TEX), and I chasing the rest of the day. 

After stage 1, It was obvious that Tristan C. and Trav were on another fitness level. Therefore, I pushed aside my hopes of GC glory and settled in for the task of maintenance. 

Stage 2 started much the same way. Trav was on a mission early and Tristan C. was forced to join in. In the wake, Tex, Stephano, and I were stuck playing our own game. Tex and I separated ourselves from Stephano on Squirrel Gap and kept the pace high in hopes of staying ahead of Stephano for the enduro section at the end of the stage. 

This is when I consciously decided to go for the Enduro overall. After a second day of watching Tristan and Trav ride away, I knew I wasn’t going to put a dent in their time gap so I shifted perspective and decided that getting pitted on the enduro sections was my best card to play. 

I managed to go into first in the enduro overall after stage 2 and was excited to push the pace over stage 3 and 4, as they are some of my favorite trails in the forest. 

Stage 3 is dubbed the queen stage. The most climbing and the most technical climbing throughout the race. Heart rates surged early, as we started uphill right off the line. We ascended Black Mountain, which was built for going downhill, not up… and hit Buckhorn to Club gap and into the enduro section of the day, Avery Creek. 

By this time the gaps were big enough to land an airplane in so there wasn’t much concern about getting held up on the enduro. Thus, it was throttle wide open and smiles from ear to ear. 

I got 1st on the stage and extended my lead in the enduro to 30 seconds over Tex. However, stage 3 wasn’t all peaches. I did lose time to Stephano, cutting the time gap from 4:20 to 2min between 3rd and 4th in overall. That’s the difference between one mistake!

I was dreading stage 4 from the start of the week… The climb up Laurel Mtn is a 50 min+ grunt, at pace. That meant I needed to come into that climb with a big buffer to hold off the climbers and hope for a clean run on the enduro, which dropped off the top of Laurel and turned into Pilot Mt trail.

Stephano pushed the pace from the gun and I was forced to follow. He gapped me some but I gritted my teeth and kept it manageable to the point where I was able to pass him just as we hit Squirrel Gap. 

I pushed the pace on the narrow single track opening up a gap and hit the gravel climb up to Laurel mtn seeing red and on a mission. 

The next 1:15 was a struggle but it passed soon enough, at least looking back on it. I crested the top and held on as my Hei Hei bounced down the chunkiest of the descents that Pisgah has to offer. 

The top of Pilot is comprised of big massive rock slabs with tight loose switchbacks. The trail opens up halfway through but the rocks become smaller and they seem to multiply like bacteria in a public bathroom. The speeds get higher and the arm pump becomes a real issue. By the bottom, my arms were the limiting factor. I struggled to pull up over some curb sized water bar obstacles but pushed on through to the finish. 

I missed out on the enduro stage win by 5 seconds to another Kona mate on a Process. Understandable, Kona’s are the bike of choice when trying to fight the signs and symptoms Pisgah punishment. 

Going into stage 5 I had 1 min on the Enduro overall and a solid gap to 4th in the GC overall. The theme for stage 5 was smooth sailing, which is easier said than done when Farlow Gap is looming in the near future. 

I held my own pace up the 20 min + climb to the Farlow descent. The boys at the front were on fire and I was trying not to blow up. The enduro section was at the end of the day so I needed to save some matches. T. Cowie, who had second in the enduro knew the section much better than I. A fewslip-upss could cost me the top step. The enduro was the longest of all the others at 22 min and the most pedally, more like a super d. (do ya’ll remember those?)

After ripping down Farlow and rejoining the lead group, we ran into a cheer squad handing out bacon feeds, which really elevated my mood. Then I missed a bacon feed, which was the biggest bummer of the whole week.

The lead group split apart on the climb up to the back of Bracken. T. Cowie and I sat back and enjoyed a nice party pace into the enduro while the others traded blows. 

I was gassed pushing my way through that final enduro. It was obvious as Tristan put 20 seconds into me closing down the gap from 1st to 2nd in the overall to only 45 seconds. 

Wiping sweat from my brow I was all smiles, but even the muscles to help me smile were sore. After 5 days of pushing the pace with my comrades, I was feeling it. I hadn’t done any efforts prior to the race except for training races. It’s crazy to look back and think that I just got back from the Euorpean CX racing scene 2 months ago. 

A few beers were had to celebrate… 

My little dude came into town with Emily to check out the end of the race and explore Pisgah Forest. He even helped me look good on the podium.

We capped off the night with s’mores and passing out before 10pm. Until, next year. Cheers!

Vlogging His Way Through The Pisgah Stage Race

Kerry Werner of the Kona Pro Cross Team and Adventure Mountain Bike Team is taking on two new challenges this week. One, the Pisgah Stage Race. This will be his 4th time competing in the event, which is held in Brevard, NC and is comprised of 5 stages baring 140 miles of the most iconic trails in the area.

The second challenge is vlogging! A longtime contributor to the Kona Cog via typing blog entries Kerry is trying something new in hopes to of engaging with ya’ll a little bit more and give a more personal look into the life of a racer and what it’s like. Mostly showing that it isn’t all serious and it’s really fun!

Check out the first episode below and give him a follow on Instagram (@KerryW24) for updates the rest of the week as today is stage 1! Good luck Duder!

Birthday Bikepacking

What would do you like to do for your birthday? Kona Pro cross racer Kerry Werner is all about adventure. Yesterday was his 27th birthday, and to celebrate he is going on a mini 2-day bike packing trip from central North Carolina to Western North Carolina.

He will be pedaling the Kona Super Jake. After a great CX season domestic and abroad, Kerry is showing just how versatile this bike is by strapping some bike packing gear to it and saying, “say0nara” to the status quo for what an elite-level CX bike can do.

“I have some friends getting married just west of Asheville, NC. The whole family is going to be going and bringing mountain bikes fpre-weddingdding ride, so I figured, why not kill two birds with one stone? I’ll be riding down on Wednesday and Thursday. Thursday evening my crew arrives and the weekend will resume per usual. I like to do these mini-adventures, especially during structured training, which I am just getting back into. These kinds of things help keep my mind fresh and ease the stress of having a regime to follow every day. I like a mix-up,” Werner said.

His route is just shy of 200mi with 15,000ft of climbing. There will be plenty of dirt/gravel roads along the way, scenic rivers, and hopefully lots of blue skies.

Godspeed, and happy birthday Kerry!

 

 

Cyclocross World Championships: Valkenburg, NL

After a very successful 2016-2017 cyclocross season Kerry Werner has raised the bar again this season stacking up 6 UCI wins, locking in his best UCI world ranking (25), and a handful more podiums including his 3rd place at the 2018 Cyclocross National Championships. This culmination of results has no doubt lead to his nomination to the USA Cycling World Champs team for this Sunday’s race in Valkenburg, Netherlands (located in the Limburg providence).

If you missed out on cyclocross nationals a few weekends back in Reno, NV you can catch the race reply here.

 

Or you can watch a condensed version… Kerry spent a few weeks in December and through nationals collaborating with Bikeflights.com, a sponsor providing great shipping rates for bikes, on a video and story to be released solely to increase the hype for World Champs. We think it did just that!

Kerry got on the Worlds course yesterday and had some things to say about it.

“The course is heavy and is going to require a lot of mental strength in addition to physical fitness. It’s fitting that this course will be the hardest course I have ridden all year, I mean it is World Champs. The ruts are already getting derailleur cage deep after only 2hrs of pre-ride. More rain is in the forecast before Sunday not to mention a few races and more pre-ride time. The biggest challenge is going to be trying to hold yourself together when you’re pinned and bleeding out of your eyes. You couple that with the difficulty of trying to nail a rut/ any line 2 feet off of someones rear wheel and you get a race where you have to be aware all the time not just on how hard you are going and how you’re body feels but also how to react when someone in front of you messes up or what lines to take next lap because the old ones are no good anymore.”

The course preview video below should put Kerry’s words into context.

The junior men, U23 women, and Elite women race Saturday. The u23 men and Elite men go off Sunday.

 

The schedule and live streams can be found here (if you have the NBC gold access, otherwise look into VPN browsing options to get around geo cached feeds).

Don’t forget to send Kerry and the whole USAC crew all the good vibes this weekend!

Kerry Werner takes Bronze at the 2018 USA Cyclocross National Champs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Snowy Sweep At Hendo NCGP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PC Heather Angel

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

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

PC Heather Angel

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

Podium time!

PC Heather Angel

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

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

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

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

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

PC Heather Angel

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

PC Zeb King

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

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

PC Heather Angel

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

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

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

Tulsa Tango

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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