Kerry Werner Doubles Down at Cyclocross Season Opener

Something to note about CX season is that cyclocross Nationals has been moved from January to the second weekend in December (Louisville, Ky). Thus, the season has been condensed. It started this past weekend in Roanoke, VA at a community park, Fallon Park, and as you may guess it was hot.

In reality, there is a UCI race every weekend from the first weekend in September until Nationals in December with the only break in the schedule being Thanksgiving weekend. The Kona crew will not be racing all those races. That would be ludicrous. They have hand picked a bunch of racing that allows a few breaks here and there while still hitting some of the best and biggest races on the calendar. Their schedule is posted at the bottom of this post.

As you may have read, Rebecca Fahringer is joining Kerry Werner for the Kona-Maxxis-Shimano CX team this year. If you haven’t read about the update click here.

Kerry: ” With the start of CX being one week earlier then last year we were left scrambling the week before Go Cross to get things together. I had frames, Becca’s were still on a boat, I got Shimano wheels and our new Maxxis tires arrived Monday before the race. The rest of our Shimano order was running a little late and didn’t show up until Thursday before the race. Therefore, We were both stuck running last year’s frames, which is fine. The old stallions had been holding up just fine through the training sessions at my local park. So Thursday when Becca flew into NC they spent the afternoon loading the trailer with gobs of parts still in boxes and plastic.

Kerry: “We hired Alex Jerome, a mechanic from Brevard, NC to come help us out for the Roanoke weekend. I am so glad we did. He rocked it. He handled building frames and helping us with race prep. He will potentially be on board full time for the second half of the season. Becca and I both hope it works out, as he is a rad guy who fits into the team dynamic nicely, and knows his way around a bicycle.”

Becca: “We arrived in Roanoke on Friday in order to do some tire testing for Maxxis. This is my second year riding Maxxis tires, and the first time I had been asked to partake in testing. Whether or not they wanted me to help test tires or if they wanted Kerry to and I just happened to show up is beside the point. We were testing some treads set up tubeless, so I was right at home after the past two years racing on tubeless tires. It was a great experience, and something I have always wanted to do. But it was also unfortunate for the timing, because, I was so anxious about riding too much in the heat the day before my first race that I had a hard time concentrating on the task. In addition, this year I am racing Maxxis tubulars and I hadn’t ridden tubulars in over two years. But it was a good chance to do some laps on the course.

Speaking of tires, we were damn sure it was a file-tread weekend. Knowing that, I had my files mounted up for my pre-ride on Saturday. Right before I went out, the sky darkened and started dropping some precipitation. It was raining on the open 1/2/3 women’s field pretty good at this point! I still went out on my Speed Terranes just to see. Without pushing the pace too much, I slid out a few times on the slick grass. With the rain stopping and the men yet to hit the course, I was unsure if the course would get drier or churned up and muddy. I was pretty torn on what decision to make, but I decided that I would ride the All Terranes for the sake of confidence. The last thing a racer should do is doubt their tire choice during a race, and maybe holding back because of it. An option could have been to have different tires on my pit bike, but, again, my pit bike was for emergency use only in this early-season equipment purgatory.”

Kerry: “As Becca just explained it started raining and my smile started growing. Seems like a dream come true to have rain on the opening weekend of the CX season. I swapped over from Speed Terranes tires to All Terranes and headed to the line.

The nerves were certainly there. There is always an unknown at the first CX race. However, after racing these guys for a couple years you develop relationships and cope with start line stress by poking fun and exchanging careless banter. I mostly talk shit, haha.  And mostly to Tobin, because he dishes it right back.

After a lackluster start due to missing my pedal off the line, I settled into the front of the race. It took about 3 laps for 4 of us to get away from the rest of the field. The rain had caused some corners to be slick and it was causing the gaps to open slowly but surely. The four of us kept exchanging turns at the front pretty evenly. While we had dropped the group behind us they kept yo-yo’ing closer to us then further away so a steady pace was key to keep more people out of the finishing mix.

With 1.5 laps to go I got on the front. I knew I needed to be up in the front by the final stair step feature to go for the win. After the stairs the turns were just too tight and the speeds too high to make any kinds of passing. The finish straight was short enough that even a gasses effort could hold up if you were first out of the final corner.

So I kept the tempo high, I knew these guys didn’t want to do any work they didn’t have to do. Then with 1/2 lap to go, we hit the one bigger climb on course out of a dead stop u-turn and I punched it. It was a long way to send an effort but if I could keep these guys behind me they couldn’t pass in the next tight turn feature. After that, it was one more huge push up over the final climb and into the steps. I was constantly checking over my shoulder and had to do a few accelerations and block people out over the course of the effort but I hit the steps first. All was good and smooth with my remount and so I thought I was home free.

I held the dudes off over the fly over, through a few chicanes and into the final corner I felt my rear get a little loose. I preemptively unclipped but kept my foot on the pedal. Jack K. was behind me and managed a clean corner. He got that half a pedal stroke on me and came up on me to a point where his front wheel was at my bottom bracket. I panicked and dropped the last bit of gas into the piston cylinder. It was close but I came out on top!

Now, I am not sure how you all feel about this but I fell on the ground and laid there gasping for breath for a solid 60-90 sec. I could not get my heart rate back under control. I did feel a little dramatic but I honestly don’t think I could have sat up. I know falling on the ground is dramatic but I tend to reserve it for the truly extreme efforts, which turns out this was one of them. I hit a new max heart rate at 200bpm!

 

Next up was Becca!

Becca: “Front row call up, I slotted up right next to Caroline Mani, and Crystal Anthony came next to me. The rain had stopped and the temps had really dropped. We were ready. At the whistle, I pushed off and got my pedal. Not a bad start! Crystal missed her pedal and was dropped hard. Everyone kept charging forward, fighting for the daylight at the front. My racing edge was not sharp and I wasn’t sure how to fight back. I slipped back a few spots. Once we settled in I was happy to feel that the pace felt slow. I didn’t charge forward immediately, instead, I took a moment to gather myself and lower my heart rate. Then I charged. I tucked into third. Eventually, Crystal found the front end of the race and she and I battled a little. She is great at being assertive in passing – I could learn a lot from her. I was able to gap her off and I was in a steady third place, with Van Dessel riders Caroline and Sunny charging in 1st and 2nd.”

 

Kerry: “Sunday was all smiles. I was really happy to come out with the season opening win. We stopped for ice on the way to the venue so we could make ice socks by filling panty hose with ice to stuff down our jerseys and places where the sun don’t shine. It was gonna be a hot one. 90 Fº and humidity on up higher than that!

After a warm up I was feeling good and looking forward to racing the Maxxis Speed Terrane, which we didn’t get to run yesterday but is a fast, yet very confident cornering tire.

After another lackluster start I settled in around 7. 1/4 of the way through the lap I got a little tangled with a Belgian racer who came across the pond for the early season race. He slipped a pedal at the bottom of the stair steps ride up and I was coming up his inside with momentum. He saw me coming and pinched me in the corner at the top of the climb, forcing me to unclip. I said something unsavory I am sure, but it wasn’t a big deal. The next thing I know he is sprinting to get up beside me and then throws a shoulder check! I definitely did not say anything about his mom but he must have thought I did.

Before I knew it my wheels were in the air, I was on the ground, and my bike was tangled in the tape. I cussed, spit, and yelled. I grabbed my bike hoping someone saw it to DQ his ass. It was a flagrantly violent maneuver. In my opinion, the video doesn’t do the act justice. It just makes me look like I need to hit the gym harder.

I got up quickly but lost a lot of ground. I saw him in the next u-turn straight and told him he was an asshole and that he was going to be disqualified… I really had no idea if he would have been but in my mind, he should have been. That must have gotten in his head. I spent the next 1.5 laps clawing my way up through the group to the front. As I pass this guy I told him “you might as well pull out because you are f%$king DQ’d,” I think he eventually did.

After connecting with the front group I tried to save energy. I sat on for the middle of the race not showing my face at the front until 3 or 4 to go. Troy Wells was flexing at the front and split our group into 3, Tobin, Troy, and myself. From there it was 1 to go and Tobin was on the same program I was on yesterday. I sat on waiting to attack on the final climb just before the stairs. Tobin put in a big effort over the climb and shut me down though. I got back behind him and hung my head thinking I couldn’t get the win unless I put him in the tape, which isn’t really my style.

We rolled up on the bottom of the stair case, and I saw an opportunity to go around him and over him up the stairs. I hit the ground running with feet moving like the road runner, cartoon clattering noises could have easily been a sound effect coupled with a cloud of dust.

I managed to get around him, have a smooth remount and clip in and after one more effort I was home free as long as I didn’t duff it in the corners. Just like that, I was 2 for 2! Unbelievable.

I fell on the ground again… This time my excuse was it was hot AF and the race was a stressful one. I also managed to surpass yesterday heart rate max and hit 202bpm. Ouch!

Becca was next.

Becca: “Feeling very relaxed at the start, I went quick from the gun, charging up and sitting in the front three towards the middle of the lap. But this is when we hit the freshly tilled fluffy sand, and there was a bit of a pile-up. Combined with my slow-motion running, I exited the sand back in the teens placing. Not ideal. After a few turns, the pace was settled and I was waiting to make my move. With all of the riders very close and riding single file along the fast track, it took me close to the end of the second lap to finally start moving up the ranks. I went from deep within the field to the top 5 again. Then, I found myself in 2nd. Crystal was way up and I didn’t see anyone catching her, but, I could totally hang on to 2nd. I could feel myself getting goosebumps; not because I was excited, but because I felt cold. I was not ready to push my body to the limit. Maybe I shouldn’t admit that, but, I think it’s fair to say no one is capable of murdering themselves 100% of the time. Even if there was a chance I had the mental ability, I am not sure my body would have held out. I was passed and slipped into 5th and it was all I could do to maintain that. My back. My legs. My arms. Everything was feeling it.

I felt the same about my race on Sunday as Saturday – disappointed but also a bit optimistic. I had what it took to get from deep within the field up to 2nd, but not the staying power quite yet. Plus, I was sliding across the dusty ground on my Maxxis Speed Terranes, which is exactly what they are made to do – limit the friction for faster rolling and have the side knobs catch you when the time comes. I rarely enter turns fast enough to get a slide going, but I did it and was comfortable with it-a good omen for things to come.

Despite this not being my strongest placing for an opening weekend, it is the first time I have been able to identify weaknesses and come up with a plan of action to strengthen them, or, in the event of fitness, already understood the potential lack of world domination.

After the race on Sunday, we packed up the camps, and rolled out of town – the whole shebang like a circus caravan rolling up the tents to go to the next sleepy little town. In this case, Rochester, NY.”

To catch all the behind the scenes debauchery check out Kerry’s  Vlog recap of the weekend…