Kona Maxxis Shimano

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:

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