Time Flies When You’re Racing Cross: Kerry Werner on the Podium Again

Words by Kerry Werner. Photos by Meg McMahon.

Holy cow! It’s already November!

The last two weekends were great. In my opinion the only thing that would have made them better is a little bit of rain. It has just been too dry lately. CX is mud, ruts, and bike changes! Not dust, roots, rocks, and teeth covered in a thin film of sludge from filtering out the dust-nado that ensues from 60+ racers running sub 8 min lap times. However, I can’t complain. I had solid finishes for both weekends, solidifying my 2nd place in the ProCX overall and pushing me further up into the World UCI ranking. And besides, the warm, dry weather certainly makes for some easy prep and clean up, which is nice.

The Ohio Valley puts on the Cincy Cyclocross weekend, comprised of Pan American Championships on Saturday and a C1 race on Sunday. Those are two YOUGE! opportunities to obtain UCI points. The Cincy weekend is followed by the iconic Derby City Cup race weekend at a venue where 2013 worlds were held. These two races are a big deal in the overall scheme of CX racing in America and have historically been big races for spectator turnout.

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Photo courtesy Dave McElwaine.

The Pan Ams course is always one of my favorites. It plays to the hand of a MTB riders skills as it contains lots of technical corners and even a large rooty shoot dubbed the “Pan Am Plunge”. Coming of the double win at DCCX I was feeling confident and ready to rally and that certainly shined through as I found myself in the top 5 early and stayed there.

I am not a huge fan of group racing. Coming from an MTB racing background the only tactics I am used to are “go hard then go harder”. The Pan Am course provides plenty of elevation change and therefore groups tend to be small and break up quickly. Halfway through the race there were 4 riders, including myself at the front battling for the podium.

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While I say that, the race still came down to a sprint between Danny Summerhill and I for the final podium spot, which he nabbed from me. I hung my head in disappointment at missing out on the podium but internally I was reveling in the fact that last year in this same race with the same competition I ended up 10th, nowhere near the podium.

Sunday turned out to be interesting. The course was very flat, lots of corners, and super dry/grassy. Everyone lined up with file treads because of the aforementioned conditions, though rain was in the forecast. In fact, on the line with less than 3min to go we felt rain drops. Tobin Ortinblad swapped to an intermediate tire immediately and I followed suit. We were the only ones to do this and received some heckles from fellow racers but it proved wise. 2 laps in the rain came down for real and everyone hit the pit. We, however, just kept on rallying.

Again, the race came down to a sprint for 2-4 and I ended up not playing my cards right. We all came into the final corner together but there was no room to sprint around anyone and I brought up the tail end for 4th. Again, I was disappointed but still happy because I got 10th last year on the same course with the same competition. This year I was on the front taking pulls and mixing it up for the top spots. This has been huge for my confidence this year and I have a lot of people to thank but my coach Jim Lehman at CTS is certainly high on the list.

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After a solid weekend and a boost in UCI points Doug and I drove 1.5 hrs southwest to Louisville to hang out for the week before the Derby City Cup. During this time I found Louisville to be a pretty cool city with lots of activities to do in order to skirt the constant tug of boredom. For instance, distillery tours, restaurant discovery, coffee shop frequenting, movies, and cool bike path cruising.

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The race weekend came faster than expected and I was amped up for Saturday’s C1. I was hungry for the podium after, narrowly, missing out twice in Cincy.

The Louisville course is pretty flat, though surprisingly technical. There is a large sand pit that we were routed through three times, lots of loose corners and two off the bike stair runs, unless you are Cody Kaiser (#codyrodeit).

A video posted by konabikes (@konabikes) on

The start is a flat as pancake road section then a drop into a flat as pancake grass section before the first important corner. I managed to set myself up welll for this and found myself in the front group when the separations started to occur. Once Stephen Hyde distanced himself from the front group the battle for the podium was on between four of us. Curtis flatted, which meant one down, two to go. I was looking towards the end of the last lap and positioning before the last corner as there was no hope of sprinting around anyone coming into the finish.

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I found myself second wheel into that corner and brought it home for 3rd. Podium acquired!

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That was the goal for the weekend and with that accomplished the motivation for Sunday waned somewhat. Mentally I just wanted to get it over with so I could take a little break and ramp it back up for the end of the season. This showed by lack of aggressive positioning off the start and I found myself back in 20th or so.

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From there I fought my way up to the front group but by that time I burnt quite a few matches and didn’t have the gusto to be in the right place when the separations started to happen. Three riders went of the front so our chase group of five was fighting for 4th-8th and I got 6th. I was disappointed because I made a mental mistake, though I focused on the silver lining, which was now I could take a break and reset so that doesn’t happen again. Plus, 6th isn’t terrible…

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All in all the last two weeks were awesome. Good quality, high level racing, with good spectator turn out, and lots of good vibes moving forward. Dave Toll asked me if I had gotten on the podium yet this year in a C1 and explained that I had at the KMC Cross Fest back at the end of September, which now feels like last season. Hence, the title of my post.

The anticipation for cross season in July and August make it seem like the racing will never start. However, when it does get going it feels like time travel. With such a heavy loaded front end I have a hard time distinguishing which race was when, they all seem to blur together. Hopefully, over the rest of the season, as the schedule settles down I’ll be able to slow down with it and enjoy the rest of the racing like a slowly simmering crock pot building of flavor overtime. Where the beginning of the season was more like a searing, quick and painless, but now that it’s past I wish it was still happening…