Saturday, October 8, 2011

At The Crossroads

This morning I went into the Grafton PumpkinCross race with plenty of confidence.  I had seen the race as a spectator in 2009 and 2010, so I knew the course wouldn’t be as technically challenging as last weekend’s courses.  Taking two practice laps before the start of the juniors race only served as further confirmation.  The outstanding feature of the course is one steep grinder of a hill at mid-lap, a real problem for many riders but not for me.

Just like last Sunday, I lined up with the series numbers of my main rivals taped to my stem.  But despite a decent start, I would not stay with them for long.  Lap 1 was congested as the fast men of my category caught the slower riders from Master 35+ Cat 4 who had started in the wave before us.  Several crashes slowed the overall progress of the race, allowing a handful of riders to break away.  As I reached the sand pit I dismounted and ran with the bike—I had ridden the sand pit in practice and would ride it cleanly on the remaining laps, but on Lap 1 there were too many riders stalling ahead of me.  At the big hill I climbed past a couple of slower riders and by the end of the lap I had moved up nicely.

Positions stabilized as riders settled in on Lap 2, now knowing that it would be a 4-lap race.  I had stayed close to George Brophy for much of the lap, but he was faster through the last barrier section.  In my haste to get back to his wheel before the end of the lap I took too much speed into a slightly-wet, off-camber, 180-degree corner and down I went.  Fortunately it was a tall grass surface so the bike and I escaped any real damage.  I remounted, but not before Jeff Wren and John Norman slipped by.

Very early in Lap 3 I retook my position from John, then I passed Jeff before we got to the sand pit.  By the top of the big hill I had firmly reestablished myself but Brophy was gone.  For the remainder of the race I followed a Masters 35+ guy, but there was little incentive to pass him as no other Masters 45+ guy appeared to be within my reach.  So, I finished 7th out of 18 in my category, one spot behind Brophy, one spot ahead of Jeff Wren, and two spots ahead of West Bend’s Troy Sable, who had finished just ahead of me last Saturday at Mitchell Park.

My approach to the big hill—into which only a little momentum could be taken—was different from that of most riders.  I remained seated on all four trips to the top, while most riders got out of the saddle.  Plenty of riders got off the bike altogether.  I didn’t lose any positions on the hill, but I gained a few.  And I was strong on the asphalt section, shifting into the big chainring and hammering a part of the course that some riders used to catch their breath.

But, it is what it is: 7th place today is a third-consecutive mid-pack finish.  I’m racing well enough to have fun, hard enough to put a little edge on my fitness that otherwise might not be there this late in the year.  I’m not racing well enough to contemplate a Top 3 overall finish in the series.  Tomorrow I will not be racing at Cam-Rock.  In fact, I probably will pass on all of the Madison-area races and concentrate only on the events that are close to home.  That still makes for a nice schedule, and with a mix of cyclocross, mountain biking and road bike time trials I have already done more racing this year than ever before.  It’s OK if I don’t race again until Kletzsch Park on Oct. 22.


  1. Awsome job, keep it up. Myabe join us for the Loberg Century Oct. 16th? If you need more information let me know.

  2. I did the Loberg Century last year ( It was a nice ride and a great group of guys--I'm tempted to return to the ride on Sunday just to hear about Brian Petted's experiences at last weekend's cyclocross races in Fort Collins--but I'm probably going to do something a little less ambitious. It has been a month since my last metric century and I think I'd find the distance a problem in such swift-moving company.