Tuesday, July 11, 2017

2017 WORS Cup

STXC: More to my liking than the technical stuff. (Lynne Senkerik photo)

The WORS Cup is an unusual event. It’s the only weekend of the Wisconsin Off-Road Series season that includes cross-country, short track, and enduro races. It’s the only WORS weekend on which Cat 2 is not divided into Comp and Sport, distinctions not recognized by USA Cycling. Aside from its importance within the series, the WORS Cup is also the USA Cycling Midwest Regional Mountain Bike Championships, so there’s a big contingent of racers from other states. The visitors have no interest in WORS points. The series guys, for the most part, are more interested in WORS points than in regional championship medals. In a big field of riders with very different ambitions, it can be hard to know exactly against whom you are competing.

I didn’t imagine we would be competing against the race organization itself.

On Saturday I lined up for what was supposed to be 3 laps of the Alpine Valley cross-country course. The WORS Cup runs on a tight schedule, so we knew there was a time cut for the start of Lap 3. We didn’t know that the clock was already ticking as we sat on the starting grid. The race began in waves by age group, youngest to oldest. That’s normal for WORS, but in this instance it meant that only the first and youngest wave had the full allotment of time to begin Lap 3. Each successive wave had to be a minute faster than the one before it. That’s unfair already; making matters worse was the total length of the race. Even without the time lost on the starting grid, the vast majority of racers would have been unable to complete Lap 2 before the cutoff. Combining those factors led to an unceremonious conclusion for more than 80 percent of the field. Only the fastest racers from the earliest waves got to see Lap 3. For myself and my rivals in the 50-54 age group, nobody did the whole race.

Confusion and anger reigned in the 2.5-hour wait between the end of Lap 2 and the posting of results. Stuart Shelton (Team Extreme) wasn’t even on the initial draft, though we knew that he had finished first in our group. Racers clamored for the attention of the USA Cycling officials and eventually settled on an order that bore some resemblance to the actual results.

I placed 13th out of 19 in my age group. Forget about the overall; it’s meaningless under the circumstances. Every finisher got a “time” but those times are accurate only for the 3-lap guys. Of more importance to me was my placing among series finishers: 8th out of 10. That’s still not impressive, but I’d rather get 8th-place points than 13th-place points. Saturday’s trip to Alpine Valley was my third this year. I first saw it in May for the WEMS race, then returned on July 2 for a pre-WORS Cup training session. And in training I crashed pretty hard in a rock garden. That section was in my head as the race began. I had a good start, climbed strongly, handled the technical descents reasonably well, and lost no time running through the rock garden. I had found a bit of rhythm in the final moments of Lap 2, felt like I was closing on some riders in front of me, and was looking forward to the tough climb that would begin Lap 3. Oh, well.


Sunday was a better day. The short track course was fast, relatively flat, and not very technical. It was a little too rough to allow me to use my cyclocross bike, but the effort would be much like a short cyclocross race: 18-20 minutes in the red zone. I got a really strong start from Row 2, blowing past front-row starters who had no business there. Lap 1 was a blur. Early in Lap 2, eventual race winner Tom Wendland (Team Extreme) roared into the lead with Stuart Shelton in tow. I matched them for a little while, using that momentum to overtake my main rival, Jeff Wren (Team Extreme). Wendland is in a different age group, so I didn’t trouble myself much about him, but I would have liked to hang with Shelton. For a couple of laps I was running 2nd among the Sport 50-54 guys, then Chip Way (Milwaukee Bicycle Co.) slipped by. In the last couple of laps I held off a hard-chasing Wren and finished 9th out of 22 in the race but 3rd out of 5 rivals in the series. With that 186-point bump I have overtaken a couple of guys in the standings, and that gets me a better spot in the starting grid on July 23 at Minooka Park in Waukesha.

And …

Sunday was a good day to sell an old road bike. I found a new owner for my 2007 Raleigh Competition, a bike that I guess I just never fell in love with and that had fallen into disuse as soon as I bought my BMC. I want to replace my existing mountain bike, a hardtail, with a full-suspension model. That won’t be cheap and I don’t have a firm timeline, but selling the Raleigh brings me a bit closer to making the purchase.

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