Sunday, May 7, 2017

2017 Englewood Opener

Team Extreme’s Stuart Shelton and Jeff Wren took the top spots.
The 2017 Wisconsin Off-Road Series began in Fall River on Saturday and I was there, using the occasion to begin my own racing season. In fact, I started the race from the front row and was solidly in the Top 5 on a long, uphill leadout into a stiff wind. But the ambitious start was too much, too soon: halfway through the first lap, I had dropped back to the middle of the pack. And that’s where I would finish, 8th place out of 16 in the Sport (Cat 2) 50-54 age group at the Englewood Opener.

Lap 1 was considered a prologue: a shorter lap that omitted most of the technical sections of the course. The idea was to create separation between riders and thereby prevent bottlenecks at the rock gardens and other tricky spots. The strategy worked for the most part, but with a big field of riders there was always someone for me to chase and always someone just behind. I was 91st out of 166 overall.

On Lap 2, feeling a little ragged from the aerobic challenge of the prologue, I ran through a couple of technical sections rather than risk a crash. If I still had been in the Top 5, then I would have accepted the risk, but I didn’t lose much time in the bargain. By the midpoint of Lap 2 I had settled down and my handling skills were feeling sharper. That helped me to recapture a couple of positions. I had ridden singletrack just 5 times this year prior to Saturday. Some of Englewood’s technical sections were at the limit of my ability, but I rode them all on Lap 3 with growing confidence. I spent the entirety of Lap 3 with teammate Larry Hipps, and together we picked off a few stragglers while defending ourselves from pursuers. The podium spots were out of reach but we did well to consolidate our positions. In the end, it was a Washington County 1-2: Stuart Shelton of Hubertus took the win, followed by West Bend’s Jeff Wren.

I’m OK with my result. During Friday’s pre-ride, I knew the technical sections would be a problem for me. But I also knew that I would do well on the open areas of the course, including the many climbing sections. Englewood was a must-do because it was new and because it was just 56 miles from home. That makes it the second-closest venue in a series that includes dates in Eau Claire and La Crosse. I haven’t committed to all 10 races, but I am glad to have opened my series points account. In the week to come I will spend more time on singletrack and more time on hills in preparation for the next WORS race, the Iola Bump & Jump on May 21. Whether that means I will line up for next Saturday’s WEMS race remains to be seen, though there may be no better preparation for Iola than the course at Alpine Valley.

No comments:

Post a Comment