Sunday, September 11, 2016

The 2016 CX Season Begins

Suyko killer, qu'est-ce que c'est?

This was the opening weekend of the Wisconsin Cycling Association’s 2016 cyclocross season and for me it was a humbling but useful experience. I did three races and got the result I deserved in each. On Saturday I felt pretty good about that; today I’m looking for the silver lining.


We’ve had a lot of rain recently and even more threatened on Saturday. But I knew a damp morning would turn into a dry afternoon at Kosciuszko Park in Milwaukee. I previewed the course about an hour before my 2:15 start time and found it slick but rideable. The course was a well-balanced mix of fast straightaways, meandering hill climbs, and off-camber sections with multiple lines but no consensus “best” way around. I was a little worried that a rideable course would become crash-filled at race speed. The sun and wind did their job, however, and the course was in excellent shape as I lined up for the Masters 1/2/3 race.

I didn’t merit a spot on the front row, but that’s where I found myself when nobody else seemed to want it. Immediately to my right was John Lirette (Ben’s Cycle / Milwaukee Bicycle Co.), who would go on to win. I let him know that I wouldn’t contest the holeshot. Whatever advantage being in the front row gave me, it wouldn’t have been right for me to impede the heavy hitters in my age group. I got a decent start but it didn’t take long for the faster guys to pull away. In the first minute of the race, I lost almost every spot I was going to lose. I was left with a very fun fight with age group rivals Jon Suyko (BELGIANWERKX), John Young (Hollander Benelux Racing), and West Bend’s Troy Sable (unattached). Suyko wanted to be in the lead of the group and I couldn’t stop him from taking it. He never really pulled away, but I never really threatened to pass once he got around me. Young seemed content to follow. Sable passed me on Lap 2 but couldn’t get a gap. I retook that position at about the time we ran into the back of the 35+ age group that had started 1 minute ahead of us, and Sable dropped back, eventually finishing in 15th place. Suyko, Young and I worked with 55+ age grouper John Lichtenberg (Diablo Cycling) to get clear of any pursuers by the midpoint of the race.

Young then went around me but I kept him close and felt sure I could out-climb him late in the final lap. Lichtenberg and I gapped him before the uphill barriers and then made a last-ditch effort to overtake Suyko, but ran out of racecourse. Suyko was 11th of 17 racers in the 45+ age group while I took 12th and Young took 13th. I would have liked one more lap, as I had really settled into a nice rhythm. The deep endurance I enjoy at this time of year was there for me on Saturday … and would be tested again today.

Cross Of The North

I’ve written before about the reluctance of Milwaukee-area racers to travel outside of southeastern Wisconsin, and today’s race in Wausau was way outside of southeastern Wisconsin. For me it was 320 miles, round-trip, and as long as I was going to invest that much time I was going to get my money’s worth in the suffering department.

I entered my first-ever Elite Cat 3 race and found myself in a field of only 6 competitors. The other guys were all from Dane County and ranged in age from 25 to 35. I didn’t have a prayer, but I did the race as a warmup for the Masters race that would follow. Cross Of The North ran over a really interesting and imaginative course, featuring several very technical sections. I was dead last in the Elite Cat 3 race, but it was a good warmup that gave me a lot of familiarity with the course.

In the Masters 1/2/3 race that began just 15 minutes after the end of Elite Cat 3, I actually finished 3rd out of the 5 Cat 3s, benefiting from that deep endurance. My average speed was the same as it had been in the earlier race; I didn’t suffer any performance dropoff from accumulating fatigue. But that really is looking for the silver lining, because I was 11th out of 13 overall in the 45+ age group, taking a serious beat-down from a strong group of Cat 2s. Minnesotans took 1st, 3rd and 4th. The top Wisconsin guy was Appleton’s Jeff Abitz (Diablo Cycling) in 2nd place.

There were 254 pre-registered racers at Cross-Shooshko, a SuperCup race in the heart of Milwaukee. There were only 56 pre-registered racers at Cross Of The North, only 1 of whom was from Milwaukee County. But I understand not wanting to drive 400 miles. (For the Dane County guys, it was still about 300!) Needless to say, fields were small in every category. That’s too bad. The course was cool and the weather was beautiful.

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