cyclocross

CX Magazine Interview with Rebecca Fahringer

Rebecca Fahringer’s first season as a Kona cyclocross racer saw steady improvement from race to race. She ended the season with a strong showing in her European leg of the season and finished a personal-best 16th at World Championships in Bogonse.

CX Magazine recently conducted an in depth interview with Fahringer and discussed everything from her segue into CX from triathalons, her rise in the domestic rankings, and her years-long contest with Kerry Werner to see who had the better season. Do you know who won? Be sure to check out the article for the results and a lot more about Fahringer.

Revisiting World Champs with Clara Honsinger

Lacy Kemp | KONA COG Photo by Patrick Means

Team S&M CX’s Clara Honsinger has had a pretty incredible season. In her final year as a U23 rider, Honsinger wrapped up the US National Championship, a World Cup podium, and was named to the World Championship Team. Racing CX across the pond is a whole different ball of wax, as attested by our Kona Maxxis Shimano team of Kerry Werner and Rebecca Fahringer. The level is extremely high, strategy is paramount, and preparation is everything.

With the wind in her sails from her stellar 2018, Honsinger had a strong race at Worlds and finished in 10th place—something to be extremely proud of.

Team S&M CX has two great recaps of worlds on their website, including some great photos by Patrick Means. Congrats, Clara and Team S&M!

Cyclocross World Championships

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Belgian Beer to Spanish Tapas

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Exploring the winding climbs and ripping descents.

Heading for the mountains or pedaling up the coast.

Canyon floors and switchbacking dirt climbs back to the ridgeline.

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

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

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

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

Euro CX Campaign Youtube Playlist

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.”