Saturday, August 10, 2013

Going All-In … Maybe

The cyclocross season begins just four weeks from today and my enthusiasm for it is not what it should be. That could begin to change next Tuesday when practices resume at Royal Oaks Park, but unless something dramatic happens I am probably looking at a limited schedule this year.

Arguing against going all-in for cyclocross is the schedule itself. The Wisconsin Cycling Association plans a 16-race series, ending with the state championships on Dec. 7. In 2011, I got as far as Nov. 5 before pulling the plug. Last year, I was done on Oct. 27. My enthusiasm drops with the temperature, and this year the Cat 4 Masters races have been moved to 9 a.m., the first timeslot of the day. That puts me on the course for reconnaissance and warmups at about 8 a.m., and it will be damned cold. Even if I can dress for it, I can’t be sure the cold air won’t trigger my asthma. I don’t talk much about that. In fact, in the history of this blog I can find only one other reference but it’s something with which I have to contend. And then there’s the travel time and expense. I’m not yet sure where the state championship will be held, but to attend each of the other 15 races would mean 1,562 miles in the car, round-trip. That’s about 26 hours in the car for about 7.5 hours of racing, and it includes some really early mornings to reach places like Verona and Lake Geneva by 8 a.m. If the state championships are in Verona—where the sun will rise at 7:16 on Dec. 7—I would literally have to be on the road in the dark to get there on time!

So, for now, there are just three cyclocross races to which I feel committed: Grafton (Oct. 12), Doyne Park (Oct. 20) and Washington Park (Oct. 26). They are close to home, they are courses I have enjoyed in the past, and they are in a scheduling “sweet spot” between the end of the mountain bike racing season and the onset of winter. I’m betting on doing more than those three, but mountain biking is going to be the top priority.

Surprised? Me too, but something switched on during the Sunburst Showdown and now I have renewed energy for mountain biking. I’m tempted to go all-in for the five remaining WORS events:
  • Alterra Coffee Bean Classic (Aug. 18)—From what I have been able to gather, the new course will feature additional climbing and I seem to be getting up the hills better than many of my opponents.
  • Reforestation Ramble (Aug. 25)—All of those cross-country skiing trails give me a chance to hammer in the big ring. I was good there last year, winning my age group as a Cat 3. An extra lap isn’t going to bother me.
  • Treadfest (Sep. 8)—It’s another ski hill race where being able to climb is valuable … and it’s the only WORS course I missed in 2012.
  • Cascade CX For Kids (Sep. 29)—Brand new trails on yet another ski hill.
  • Wigwam MTB Challenge (Oct. 6)—With more doubletrack and, presumably, less flooding than in 2012, this could be an OK course for me.

By the end of the Sunburst Showdown, I had beaten several guys who usually beat me. In a couple of cases, I beat guys I had never beaten before. I am now in 15th place on series points. At Sunburst I beat the guys who occupy positions 5 through 9. Each of them has competed in 7 races already, while I have done only 4. Remember: 7 is the magic number in WORS. Once you have done 7 races, you can replace an earlier result with a better one, but otherwise you can accumulate only a handful of participation points for each additional race. I still have cards to play. Project my average finish over 7 races and I would be in 6th place. Finishing in the Top 10 would be a good showing for my first Sport campaign.

I am in for the Alterra Coffee Bean Classic. I am in for the Reforestation Ramble. Then let the chips fall where they may. It won’t be too late to recommit to larger cyclocross ambitions if my plans for WORS don’t work out.

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