Kerry Werner

Bikepacking: The White Rim Trail

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

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

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

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

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

So. Many. Switchbacks!

Kerry Werner | KONA COG

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

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

Kerry Werner | KONA COG

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

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

Kerry Werner | KONA COG

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

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

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

Kerry Werner | KONA COG

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

Kerry Werner | KONA COG

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

Kerry Werner | KONA COG

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

Kerry Werner | KONA COG

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

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

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

Kerry Werner | KONA COG

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

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

Kerry Werner | KONA COG

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

Kerry Werner | KONA COG

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

Kerry Werner | KONA COG

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

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

Kerry Werner | KONA COG

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Cyclocross World Championships

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Belgian Beer to Spanish Tapas

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Exploring the winding climbs and ripping descents.

Heading for the mountains or pedaling up the coast.

Canyon floors and switchbacking dirt climbs back to the ridgeline.

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

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

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

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

Euro CX Campaign Youtube Playlist

Louisville Sluggin: CX Nationals 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We go on the green light.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Catch up on the last vlog:

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

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:

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. 

 

Christmas Cross in September: Jingle Cross and UCI Cyclocross World Cup Round #2

After the Waterloo world cup, Rebecca and I headed three hours south-west to Iowa City. We had host housing just a 10min bike ride from the venue. In fact, you could see the lights of the Johnson County Fairgrounds just over the hill from the house. 

Even though there was racing on Friday night Rebecca and I skipped it to focus on Saturday’s world cup. That meant we could treat the weekend like a normal weekend, i.e. openers Friday, race Saturday and Sunday. The added bonus was that we got to watch the racing on Friday night. We only stuck around for the Women’s race though because they didn’t start until 7:45 and the Men went at 9! Have fun getting to sleep before 2am after racing that late.

Becca: Pre-riding on Saturday I had everything dialed, from tires to line choices. I even decided that I was going to play it by ear if I was going to ride or run the last two turns of the descent of Krumpit, but I was nailing the turns at the top.

Kerry: I got to go first! I always like when they switch up the order because I like to watch the women’s race. It’s always cool to check out a race after you have emptied the tank yourself. It’s also a bummer when you see other people have already raced and you are just getting warmed up on the trainer. Though I have gotten used to it. 

I was poised for a good start on Saturday but only managed to hold my position. I came through the first lap in 20th or so then no matter how hard I tried I stayed there. For some reason, I was missing the ability to go into the red. I couldn’t wind up into that extra gear when small gaps were closing in front of me. I only packed the diesel motor and had one speed. 

Granted, it wasn’t a terrible speed but I missed out on a group early for 17th then the last three laps Gage Hecht was a stone’s throw in front of me, down to three seconds at times. For some reason, I just couldn’t close it. A part of me thinks it was my subconscious holding me back saying, “Woah buddy, easy partner, don’t dig too deep. You’ll be too gassed to hit this super technical section.”

So I ended up 22nd. That’s two world cups in a row I landed 22nd. It isn’t a terrible race but I felt like I was capable of better. I had gotten 19th last year and felt like a top 20 was in my grasp but was ultimately going for 15th. 

Anyway, I grabbed some hot chocolate and a few of my friend’s mom’s famous cookies and watched the women’s race.

Becca: My start was great, until halfway down the start straight the fencing forces a zig-zag and the riders ahead of me are braking so heavily that they lock up their wheels. I sit up. Losing ground despite no crashes happening, I charge forward, into the mud pit before the first turn. A crash. I go wide. Luckily I go clear but I have lost more spots (I am only ahead of those who hit the deck it seems). I pass when I can and am patient when I cant. Then we get to the descent of Mt. Krumpit, and people are dismounting before the tricky turns, forcing me to as well. As I run I figure out why – the rain has turned the grass and clay-rich soil to ice. It is an awkward scramble to the bottom. I keep passing groups until I find myself into the teens – right where I want to be. Another run-up and a quick mount with our feet full of mud. A rider goes down on an off-camber and I can do nothing but lay the bike down and slide into them instead of running them over (was that an option? Not worth the risk of hurting another person or myself if you ask me). Losing a few spots. The next lap shows me picking off even more riders, but also losing a few spots in the tougher climbs. I just couldn’t run any faster.

That same off-camber that I laid it down on in lap one has a large sweeping turn afterward, and in lap 2 I decided to check my speed right as I entered, and it sent me into a solid 200-foot slide, dropping my bike and sliding on my hip. I actually slid about as fast as I would have ridden, so no time was lost. But when I picked my bike up, I noticed my chain had dropped. Remembering last race, I was very careful at trying to get it back on and checking the full drivetrain, making sure I wasn’t going to make matters worse by riding. Maybe my check was too thorough because I could have pedaled it back on but I had already lost precious spots and time. I chased hard and caught a few riders, but we were only racing for 4 laps so I didn’t have much time left.

Despite the short race (40 minutes for the winner), I was so cracked by the last lap that I was making sloppy mistakes on the slick runs, and for every spot I gained I lost 2 to riders who were more careful. But that is the toll a slick course can take – these conditions require more than skill, but also patience. I crossed the line in 21st. Again not what I was hoping for, but at least beating Kerry.

It was back to the normal routine, Women racing prior to the Men on Sunday…

Becca: The result left me hungry in the C1, but also exhausted. The officials didn’t have the UCI course set up when I went out to preride, and I didn’t have the gumption to go out a second time when half of the course was a walk through thick mud. Kerry gave me the intel on the course changes and I felt confident in my choice to rest the legs until race time.

I had another acceptable start and rode an aggressive 1st lap, making great passes and even blocking when I could. Luckily we were only going up Mt. Krumpit once per lap, but unfortunately, it was the much harder way up – the run. The top of the run was where they changed the course for the C1, adding a few turns before routing us to the descent. I was prepared for a slight incline at the top when we remounted, but because I didn’t preride I didn’t realize it was a “be in your easiest gear” type of incline.

I hop on, and even midway through my cassette and in my little ring I stand on the pedal and go nowhere. Not your typical hero-type, I get off the bike and air-shift into my 30 tooth cog before hopping back on and spinning (lol jk slogging heavily) to the top. I lost a lot of spots doing that, but it was the only way. I charged hard, and eventually found myself in 7th, clawing towards 6th. But for every inch I gained on the flats and downhills, I lost 2 in the steep run-up to the tall and long-legged Sunny Gilbert. I couldn’t close the gap. And my legs were so shot from the day prior that I lost the battle for 7th to Clara Honsinger and ended up 8th. I know I left it all out there on Sunday, so I am happy with the ride despite some very rookie mistakes (like not pre-riding!).

Kerry: I have adopted a motto: Sunday’s are for sending! It stems from the idea behind a usual weekend in the US where there is a C1 Saturday race and C2 Sunday. So C1’s I play the game and do everything possible to go for the win. Sit in, play it smart, really watch the other dudes, find flaws, etc. Those races there are more points up for grabs and more money. Then Sunday, I have decided just to go for it. Send attacks really focus on pushing the pace instead of sitting in and saving myself for the win. We only get to count our 8 best C2 race’s points towards our overall UCI point total. I am hoping I can get enough good C2’s that even if I botch a few because of this method I’ll still be ok. 

So with a front row call up I decided to go for the holeshot, then settle in and see what happens. The top guys from the world cup decided to sit out Sunday’s race but there were still a few guys there to keep things spicy. 

I damn near hole shotted and then kept going. I lead some on the first lap, tried to breathe and tell myself to just ride smooth. The running up Mt. Krumpit was killing me. I managed the first half of the race and was in the running for the final podium spot until the wheels started coming off. I couldn’t hold the Euro’s pace up the 1min climb and I started making small mistakes that caused gaps to form with 3 laps to go. From there I put my head down and brought it in for 6th. 

I was truly pumped with the ride. The conditions were just right and racing with those guys for the first half of the race was a real learning experience and confidence booster. Those guys, Boroè , Thijs Aerts, Jim Aernouts, Wouters, and Cleppe are top 20 and top 10 world cup racers. So I was happy to hang with them as long as I did. Baby steps. 

Becca: Charm City in Baltimore is up next – and I am pumped. Last year was my first time to the race, and this year I am excited to see how I stack up.

Waterloo Cyclocross World Cup Round #1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

The Road To The World Cups

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All race photos Bruce Buckley @bruce_buckley