cyclocross

Belgium 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

Ivan Gallego Wins Jr Men 15/16 CX National Championship!

Ivan Gallego, 16, of Missoula, Montana took the nation by storm as he brought home the gold at US Cyclocross Nationals! Here is the recap from the champ himself. Congrats Ivan! Way to make us proud!

Overall, this season of cyclocross racing has been a glorious and unexpected success.  I came into the season feeling pretty inexperienced yet eager to be challenged and excited to focus on my favorite sport. I spent my entire year training and analyzing cyclocross racing. It never crossed my mind that a win at the USA National Cyclocross Championship in Louisville would be within my grasp.

This fall I maintained a packed schedule of school and travel and racing outside of my home state of Montana. My coach (aka my dad Alex) and I decided that it would be worthwhile for me to get more experience by attending big events such as Jingle Cross in Iowa, the US Open of Cross in Colorado, and the races for NECXS in Massachusetts. From these events, I witnessed first-hand the level of riders from across the country in my age category. I was impressed to see them riding at a level that I had not yet achieved. I was determined to reach my ultimate form to stay competitive with these guys.

It is hard for me to know when I am feeling ready to go, but a few weeks before Nationals, I convinced myself to be more confident given my months of training and preparation. After arriving in Louisville, I had a loss of hope because the course seemed completely daunting. Muddy, slick, unpredictable and very much a physical course. In my mind, my strengths seemed to be dwarfed by the colossal presence of my known weaknesses. Alas, we had made the long trip to Kentucky, and I knew deep down that I had put in the effort. Therefore, I had no excuses that would allow me to quietly retire into a hole with my pre-race “demons.”

Fast forward to the start line. The light turned green and we took off, or rather, they did. I weighted myself far too heavy over the front my bike, which in turn left the rear wheel attempting to grip the pavement without the added friction of my weight on top of it. I spun out. The mishap at the start did not end up playing as big a role in my positioning as I had feared that it would. Yet, it still left me to scramble back to the front of the pack. I say scramble because, after the upper section of the course, it was a matter of getting on the bike only to slide out or fall over again. Given the conditions, I was surprised to find myself quickly making up lost ground. I met up with the leaders coming into the downhill chicane after the limestone steps and ended up finding a lucky line that moved me into second place. Around the next corner, I steadied myself in the slick mud and managed to take over the lead.

From that point, I was in awe as the laps flew by. My Kona Major Jake took care of all terrain very well. That was extra confidence when I needed it. I tried to keep my stops in the pit short and efficient. I focused my energy on staying balanced and consistent, especially when running – and there was a lot of running – in the heavy muck with what was at times a 35-pound mud-caked bike. The final lap was surreal- like I was in a dream. The weight of my bike seemed to vanish. My steps followed one after another in a comfortable rhythm. Finally, I completed the last round of barriers and rolled into the straight-away to cross the finish line. The realization that I had just won hadn’t soaked in yet, and the win didn’t feel real at that point. I did an on-camera interview (my first one ever!) and congratulated some friends before going to the tent to wash off and warm up. I felt a rush of excitement. I asked my dad, “Did I really just win?” He nodded. I was suddenly overjoyed and spirited. It was awesome!

 

You can read more about Ivan’s victory on CX Magazine’s site too!

Photos courtesy of  Gabriel Shipley.

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:

It’s CX Nationals Weekend!

It’s been a wild ride for the cyclocross teams this year. Crazy, unpredictable weather has made gear selection and maintenance extra critical. In spite of the curve balls from mother nature, we’ve seen top results from our in-house Kona Shimano Maxxis CX Team of Kerry Werner and Rebecca Fahringer, as well as incredible results from our sister crew, Team S&M CX! This is the weekend they’ve all been waiting for. The Super Jakes and Major Jakes are tuned up and ready to slide around some Louisville dirt!

Kerry Werner testing out the latest in muddy facial technology

We’ve handed the keys to our Instagram stories over to Kerry and Becca for the weekend so be sure to follow along with their shenanigans. If we’re lucky Kerry’s dog Sherman will make an appearance too! CX Magazine will also be streaming the races live on Sunday, so you can watch all the action live online!

Team S&M CX’s Clara Honsinger is one to watch for the weekend! She’s been grabbing the top step all season in the U23 category. Photo by Adam Koble

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:

Team S&M CX Earns UCI CX Victories!

Team S&M CX had a killer double header at the US Open of Cyclocross a couple weeks ago and saw racer Clara Honsinger take two victories in a row – big wins in the UCI categorized race.

From Clara: “On Saturday in Boulder we prepared for 60 degrees and bountiful sunshine. We arrived in time to pre-ride the course, slip into our race kits and roll around a moment before the race. I rode a paced race and studied where I could take advantages over other riders. Ultimately, I found myself with a solid gap and carried it in for my first UCI win. Then Sunday morning, we awoke to frigid temperatures and 5 inches of heavy snow—not the squeaky fluff typical of the Southwest, but the damp and sloppy crud more closely associated with Oregon. Thoughtfully, Brenna took cool action, reaching out to our solid sponsor and fantastic hosts, Stages Cycling, to edit the race day plan. In the meantime, I frantically repacked my race bag. Through the kindness of Stages, Brenna was able to secure us a warm place to dress, access to an entire studio of Stages’ indoor cycling bikes, and a hot spigot to rinse the mud off our shoes after the race. During this time, I was able to determine that I would need to wear my thick wool socks over the standard-thickness wool socks. When it came to the racing, there were still adjustments to be made: lines in the course froze and thawed, ruts gained depth, and our solid team of support kept bikes clean and shifting in the pits. Through the majority of the race, I carried momentum and focus, even with a few bobbles. Eventually, with a lap and a half to go, I found myself with a delicate lead. In those last few minutes of the race, I charged on while trying to keep as clean as possible as the frozen mud accumulated to my bike. In the end, I got my second win and we left Boulder feeling even greater gratitude to our friends at Stages.”

Team S&M CX have written a great race report with contributions from both Honsinger and teammate Beth Anne Orton. The post is well worth a read and teaches a thing or two about being prepared for the unprepared. Congrats to both racers on a steller weekend.  Thanks to  Adam Koble for the incredible photos!

The State of Cyclocross

Coming soon: The State of Cyclocross! Join Kona bikes at The Kona Bike Shop on Thursday, November 8th at 6:30pm for a screening of LCN-PDX film’s production about all things Cyclocross. We’ll have beer courtesy of Fremont Brewing, a Q&A, and a raffle! Tickets are $5 with 100% of the proceeds going to Cascade Cross.

You’ll be able to check out the latest CX bikes from Kona too!

For full event info, please check out the link on Facebook.

 

 

“State of Cyclocross is about making something that lasts. In an age of mass photography, and an era of select, process, post and forget, we wanted something tangible and lasting. To shoot on film is to be fully present, to evaluate, to prepare, to be patient and to be right. At its heart, this film is a meditation on the sport of cyclocross. It explores its counter-cultural past, its existence today and what needs to be done to sustain it moving forward. As the rapidly growing sport drifts away from its counter-culture roots and begins to become more mainstream, it is developing a bit of an identity crisis: does it stay fringe and true to its roots or does it accept the movement towards professionalism and a more sustainable economic model? Even in the space of time since the film was shot and completed, the ever-changing landscape of Cyclocross has already shifted. Incorporating voiceover by multiple current and former professionals and national champions, it was filmed in Super 8 in a single day in January at the United States Cyclocross National Championships in Reno. Additionally, the film also incorporates still photography as interludes which were also shot that same day using vintage film cameras and legacy lenses.”

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.