|After the Masters Cat 4 race, Jeff Wren readies himself for additional punishment in the Elite Cat 4 field.|
On Saturday I placed 7th in Cat 4 Masters 45+ at Twilight Cross in East Troy. Going into the race I was in 3rd place on series points, so I got a valuable call-up and started from the front row. The first lap was a prologue … really just half a lap to create some separation in the field. I had a good start and avoided some crashes and nonsense, but on the first full lap a rider went down right in front of me. I didn’t crash but I also didn’t have anywhere to go, so I lost precious momentum. By Lap 3 I had settled into a nice rhythm, but I had also settled into 7th place and there was no prospect of retaking 6th from John Grosz, whose speed I was merely matching after he passed me and created a 15- to 20-second gap. In the dying moments of the race I picked off a few stragglers from the 35+ group as I stretched out my lead over the guys who were chasing me. The course featured a fair amount of off-camber cornering and I handled the bike well, I just wasn’t as fast as the guys who beat me. Series points leader Dave Dineen claimed the victory and looks like the man to beat this season. Jeff Wren was 12th in the 18-man field. Mike Bown represented West Bend in the Cat 4 Masters 55+ race and took a very impressive 2nd place.
Getting home from East Troy at about 7:30 p.m., I quickly unpacked all the cyclocross stuff and then packed up all the mountain bike stuff for this morning’s WORS race, the Bear Paw Rock & Roll. I went to bed early but that did me no good; I couldn’t turn off my brain and at about 1 a.m. I was seriously considering just abandoning any hope of sleep. I got a few minutes here and there, then the alarm went off at 4:30 a.m. and I grabbed some cereal and a Coke. By 5:30 a.m. I was on the road to White Lake, about 150 miles from home. I arrived at the race venue at 8 a.m., then quickly checked in at the registration table and hopped on the bike for a practice lap.
I didn’t like what I saw. The singletrack sections were more difficult than anything I had yet seen on a Citizens (Cat 3) course, and some of the fire roads—on which I normally would be free to fly—were a dangerous mix of sand and loose, deep gravel. On the other hand, there were some sections that I knew would be better for me than for my rivals, including a pair of long climbs.
The first of the long climbs is the steepest and it presents a test of bike handling and aerobic fitness. I was content to follow Paul Baltus to the summit on Lap 1, then I took the lead with a burst on the two-track that followed. Reaching the first section of singletrack, I was able to dictate the pace and pick my own line. Things were going well until the midpoint of Lap 1 when a rider I didn’t recognize passed me and rode away. I was disappointed that I couldn’t stay with him, but my main objective was to keep Brad Jorsch from overtaking me. So far, so good.
Jorsch began the day in 3rd place on series points and still had a chance to catch me for 2nd overall. If I could finish ahead of him, then I would secure my final position in the series. Points leader Jim Steig—who locked up the Cat 3 Men’s 40-49 title weeks ago—opted for the Cat 2 “Sport” race today.
In the very technical singletrack near the end of Lap 1, Jorsch fought his way back to me. We went toe-to-toe on the big climb to begin Lap 2, then I pulled away from him as I had from Baltus earlier. I hammered the open sections, taking risks I wouldn’t have in practice and feeling the bike floating around under me on the sand and gravel. But the time gaps I pulled out there all went quickly away once we got back into the singletrack. Jorsch and I passed each other a few times and even joked that neither of us could shake the other. With Jorsch in front of me on a particularly nasty section of the trail, my frustration with myself grew as I hacked my way between large, closely-spaced boulders. It was getting late, and Jorsch now had about 15-20 seconds on me.
But this was not to be a repeat of the cyclocross race in which John Grosz was always just out of reach. I knew that if I still had Jorsch in sight on the long climb near the end of the lap, then I had a good chance. I overtook him on the hill, went first into the final little section of singletrack, then locked out the front fork and shifted into the big chainring for a high-speed dash to the finish. I hit the line in 1:04:30.6, followed 1 second later by Jorsch. Baltus came in at 1:05:06.6, and John Norman at 1:09:40.4. The winner was Rick Johnson of Woodstock IL in 1:01:50.9. By taking 2nd place today I extended my series points advantage over Jorsch to 1,349-1,304, so I will finish in 2nd place overall no matter what happens in Sheboygan on Oct. 14.
And that’s important to me, because I haven’t decided whether I will race at Sheboygan. I might be doing the cyclocross race in Verona that morning … or I might still be catching up on my sleep.