Kerry Werner

Pisgah Punishment: 5 Days of the Pisgah Stage Race

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A few beers were had to celebrate… 

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

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

Vlogging His Way Through The Pisgah Stage Race

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

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

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

Birthday Bikepacking

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

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

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

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

Godspeed, and happy birthday Kerry!

 

 

Kerry Werner’s Road to Bronze

Kona cyclocross racer Kerry Werner had a stellar cross season finishing 28th at the World Championships last weekend in the Netherlands. Prior to that race, he landed on the podium in third place at US Cyclocross National Championships in Reno, Nevada. BikeFlights.com put together an incredible video of Kerry’s prep for his bid at US Nationals. If you’re a fan of storytelling and getting to know the athletes, this is a great watch.

Cyclocross World Championships: Valkenburg, NL

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

US Cyclocross Nationals is This Weekend!

Kerry Werner (Kona) is on pace for his best-ever cyclocross season of his young professional career. photo: Jingle Cross Day 3, Werner’s top 10 finish. © A. Yee / Cyclocross Magazine

It all comes down to this. After a long season of slogging through mud, snow, over obstacles, and navigating sand pits, Cyclocross Nationals will be held this weekend in Reno, Nevada. Kona’s Kerry Werner has had a strong season and is looking to punctuate his success with a victory by taking the coveted top step of the podium aboard his Super Jake.

The course isn’t terribly technical, according to Werner. “So far I have only seen pics/ video of the “off camber”, which seems to be the only glorified feature on Course. No rain is in the forecast for the rest of the week so the rain Reno got on Tuesday will likely have zero impact on Sunday’s race.”

His training and preparation seem to have served him well, though. “I am feeling good, though, there is always an element of uncertainty when you haven’t raced a UCI race in over 4 weeks,” he said. “I have spent the time since Hendersonville NCGP putting in a lot of solid training. I am confident in my fitness going into the weekend. It’s just a matter of managing stresses, wondering if my engine is revved up and ready for the intensity of a really hard race. You can never be sure of how altitude will affect you. Reno is at 4500 feet and the science claims the real detrimental effects take place at 5000+.”

Until race day, he’s going to be resting up, inspecting the course, and doing the mental preparation needed to go into Sunday’s race in the best possible state. “My plan is to play it cool all week. I’ll check out the Course tomorrow and Saturday and get a feel for things and try not to think too much about the race,” he said. “Stagnation is not good for me. Boredom puts my body in a lackadaisical state but obviously, I don’t want to be busy doing things and end up on my feet too much before Sunday. The name of the game from now until I wake up Sunday morning is to have fun and be cool like a cucumber.”

And his goal? “WIN!” he responded.

From all of us at Kona, Kerry, we wish you strong legs, smart racing, and are pulling for you!

Tulsa Tango

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Velonews Highlights Kerry Werner’s Rising Star

 

Velonews has released a profile on Kona cyclocross rider Kerry Werner that tells of Werner’s big goal: to dominate the CX field. Werner has had strong results this season and continues to improve each year. Check out the full story on Velonews.

And, just in case you’re looking for a little motivation today, check out Kerry in our video, Cross/Roads.

Loo-vull Sluggin: Kerry Werner’s weekend of two halves

After a week of Airbnb’ing in Louisville (pronounced like you have a mouth full of jelly beans, hence my title), I was eager to get after racing. We stayed about two miles from the course and a lot of my rides went by the venue so I was checking out the stakes and walking through the park all week.

This race had been happening for a number of years closer to downtown and right off of the river at Eva Badman Park. However, with Louisville hosting CX Nationals next year, USAC didn’t want to chance a potential repeat of the flood in 2013 that effected the World Championships.

Friday the tape got put up and we went over to set up the tents and ride the course. The top section of the course, around the start finish area, was flat as a pancake and didn’t have much in the way of technical or defining sections. The bottom half was all set on a gradually sloping field. The course designers utilized a steeper section of the field, in front of a historic house on property, to add in the technical bits, which played the biggest role in the races. There was a tricky, when wet, off camber and ride out, followed by a set of stairs, and ending with a steep downhill with a tight 90º degree corner at the bottom. Rain on Friday night left these sections slick and challenging. Needless to say, the race was going to be a fun one. You know that when you are having a blast in pre-ride, trying to dial in sections.

5:30pm Saturday was go time. Therefore, there was a lot of time to kill all day. Luckily, Emily and Kermy Shields came to the race and brought the RV so venue time wasn’t too much of a drag.

Off the line I found myself to have a good start, slotted in to the top three. After the first lap, the gaps were formed and our group of five at the front had a gap. There were never and huge attacks but small gaps would open on the technical sections and eventually the group was whittled down. Stephen and Gage got away from Tobin and I three laps in when I missed a pedal after putting an outrigger out through a tight turn. The gap never got out of hand, Gage and Stephen were having their battle while Tobin and I lingered just 10-15 seconds back. Eventually, Stephen got away from Gage while Tobin and I ended up taking it to the line.

No one was riding the little off camber before the finish, the whole race and I knew that if Tobin came into me ahead of it riding I was going to immediately commit to running and try to pinch him out before the pavement. This exact thing happened as Tobin came into it with me on his wheel. I jumped off while he got hung up and then I managed to get around him and completely gut myself to hold on to third.

My cheeky little move…

What a day! Rounded out the podium with this cheeky little move but Tobin made me hurt so bad to keep it (@horsteng…). Also, locked down 2nd in the #uscupcx overall. Can’t thank my @konabikes squad enough. 🙌🏾 @shoaircg for funding and putting @rtrebon in charge of running the series. It turned out to be a just what we needed. – – – @rideshimano @clifbar @julbousa @jakroousa @donnelly_cycling @girocycling @wildernesstrailbikes @crankbrothers @lizardskinscycling @cts_trainright @tenspeedhero #konabikes #superjake #rideshimano #duraace #di2 #feedyouradventure #ridedonnelly #jakrooapparel #girosynth #wtb #crankbrothers #weridecb #dspbartape #lizardskinscycling #touchitfeelitloveit #ctsathlete #horstspikes #horstengineering #cxismydisco #fieldwrench

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This was the first time I felt the need to completely lay out on the ground after a bike race. I had, on many occasions, leaned over my bike using it as a support but this time not even that would suffice.

Stephen won, while Gage was 10-15 seconds down, while Tobin and I were another 10-15 seconds. Some real dicey racing and I was happy to end up 3rd.

That meant I held on to 2nd in the US Cup Overall! And I got to take home my first “big” check, which I still can’t get anyone to cash.

Sunday was more or less the same schedule except there was way less time to ride the course because of all the different Pan Am Champ categories.

Upon first inspection, I was really pumped to be out on file treads, Donnelly LAS. The course had tacked up so much that the ground was a soft and intensely grippy power suck in spots. Though this was not everyone’s impression. Most were on intermediate tires.

 

I had another good start and slotted into the front of the race, which quickly became another group of 5-6. Micheal van den Ham, Canadian National Champ, was riding really aggressively early on and even got a small gap with Tobin, but it came back.

Half way through the race Stephen had gotten away and the small gaps in the group were starting to take their toll on me. Tobin and MvD gapped me a little off on a slog of a climb and I couldn’t bring it back. This was when the pin was pulled and the grenade went off. Fernando came by me like I was standing still.

I managed to do some dirt sampling whilst trusting a soft “rut berm” with three to go but I held it together and shook it off in a second.

Luckily, we had a big gap before this happened so I took a lap to get my wits about me and then attempted to rally. Jamey Driscoll was behind me and I had just enough in the tank to hold him off for fifth.

One more lap and I may have pulled the plug on the whole thing. This was not uncommon for the day as many found themselves at their limit for too long, without realizing it. Yesterday’s race effort and the culmination of the physically demanding course were no doubt the cause of my detonation.

While I wasn’t happy with fifth in the Pan Am Champs race I was happy with the weekend as a whole. I managed to hold down 2nd place in the US Cup CX overall as well as come out with one podium.

Now it’s time for a weekend off. Kerm is having his race as a part of the NCCX in Salisbury, NC, which is always a fun course. Plus, this year, he is going to let me give my two cents in the layout. Watch out NCCX’ers, you’re in for a treat this year.

Then its up to NY for the Supercross Cup and another weekend off before the final C1 of the season in Tulsa, Ok. My last chance for a C1 win this season, unless I magically rise to Van Der Poel and Wout’s level by the time Worlds come around.