|Harder than it looks: Jeff Wren and I took different lines on the course's toughest hill. (Cindy Petted photo)|
Historically, the WCA cyclocross series has been dominated by events in Wisconsin’s largest cities: Milwaukee and Madison. But this year the series has stretched its boundaries a bit. We opened the season last month in Manitowoc, and today the good folks in Oshkosh treated us to The People’s Cross, a race that will be remembered for its succession of steep hills.
Pre-riding the course early in the morning, my attempt at the first hill was unsuccessful. Picking a good line was important and I didn’t get it right until my second attempt about an hour later. I was able to ride everything else, so conquering the first hill gave me confidence that I would be able to ride it during the race. The “feel” of that first hill was very similar to the top of the sledding hill at Royal Oaks Park in West Bend, a summit I reached again and again during Tuesday practice sessions.
When the Masters 45+ Cat 1/2/3/4 race began, I got an unimpressive start from the front row. Most of the guys who eventually finished ahead of me reached the first turn ahead of me. And just as I was starting to settle in, Quentin Gniot (Gryphon Velo Racing) shot past. John Lichtenberg (Diablo Cycling) came around next and quickly rode away. But approaching that first tough hill, Christopher St. Clair (Milwaukee Bicycle Company) crashed and interrupted Gniot’s momentum. For the next couple of laps, Gniot and I rode together and I was encouraged to be matching so strong a rider.
Then Gniot had his own miscue: a tiny bobble on the last hill of the lap. It was all I needed to get by him. As I began to pull out a comfortable advantage, Jeff Wren (Team Extreme) jumped into the gap. And Wren was bad news for me for a couple of laps. He went ahead of me for a little while but when I retook the position from him I was confident I would keep it. I had just a small lead when we saw the 2 laps to go sign, and I was sure the race leader would soon pass us. That would mean we really had just 1 lap to go, so I increased my effort to get rid of Wren as quickly as possible. But the leader never lapped us, so in fact we did complete 2 more laps and my advantage over Wren grew all the while. In the end I was 9th of 17 overall, 7th of the 11 Cat 3 racers. John Lirette (unattached) took the win, followed by Greg Ferguson (Trek Midwest Team) and Ted Schaff (Diablo Cycling).
The Trek CXC Cup—a 2-day, non-series event that will attract some of the top domestic professionals from across the US—will take place in Waterloo next weekend but I won’t be there. My next race will be Belgianwerkx’s PumpkinCross in Grafton on Oct. 17. It’s the closest race to home and it always features an interesting course.