Sunday, October 14, 2012

2012 Wigwam MTB Challenge

Will you love me tomorrow after what I did to you today?
The traditional finale of each WORS season, the Wigwam MTB Challenge is always a highly-anticipated event.  I went to Sheboygan this morning with a vague notion of going after an age group win in my last Cat 3 (Citizens) race, but it wasn’t the right course for me … especially not in such rainy weather.  I finished 6th out of 27 in my age group, 26th out of 121 overall.

Yesterday’s rain led the race organizers to cancel the pre-ride, and no pre-riding was permitted today as the rain continued to fall.  I did some course recon after work on Friday and that experience helped, but upon arriving in Sheboygan today I learned that the course had been altered significantly.  Its signature feature—a very steep hill known as the Equalizer—was removed from the course altogether.  I didn’t miss it, or the tricky descent that would have followed.  My race was reduced to 1 lap instead of 2, but some additional trail that I didn’t pre-ride was added to make the lap longer.  However, I can’t blame my sub-par result on a lack of familiarity with the course, as everyone was in the same boat (pun intended).

I got a good start and appeared to be heading for the prologue holeshot prime until my back tire slipped out on a tricky little hill that would be a source of trouble for riders throughout the day.  Mike Nass seized the lead and the top prize.  I was the second man across the line and later used my $10 winnings to buy lunch for myself and my carpool partner Jeff Wren.  With the prologue behind us we dropped into the singletrack and I quickly lost interest in the race.  The condition of the trails was abominable.  Nass was riding away and in rapid succession I lost a few more places to rivals in my age group.

When we crossed under State Highway 42 I relaxed a little and started picking my way through slower traffic from the earlier starting waves.  I knew that without the Equalizer I should be able to negotiate that part of the race with little difficulty.  Rain had swollen the lowlands along the Pigeon River and in a couple of places I rode through water higher than my crankset.  I shudder at the damage I may have done to my bike today.

Crossing back to the west side of the highway after too brief an interval on the east side, I dreaded the creek crossing and the slick roots that were to come.  But at least I knew to expect them.  I saw many crashes today and had many off-the-bike moments myself, some by design and some otherwise.  There were steep climbs over roots that would have challenged me on the best of days—today was anything but—and on a number of occasions I simply dismounted cyclocross-style and ran for all I was worth.  Running with the bike didn’t cost me any positions and surely saved me a lot of frustration, if not crashes.  I had stopped losing positions by that point but I no longer could see any rivals ahead.

I finished in 43:25.0, more than 4 minutes behind winner Rob Hoefert.  Nass was 2nd, followed by Rick Johnson, Brad Jorsch and John Norman.  Nass protested Hoefert’s victory, claiming that no one in our category had passed him after he got around me during the prologue.  For my part, I was certain that I had not been passed by five riders in our group.  After some discussion I think we’re all satisfied that Hoefert gained his advantage by taking the “A” line while Nass and I took the “B” line to get up a tricky hill.  In retrospect, the organizers probably shouldn’t have provided two lines, as riders on different lines no longer could be sure of each other’s position.  Nass finished less than 20 second behind Hoefert.  Would he have won if he had known a rival was just ahead?  We’ll never know.

So, the WORS season is done and it was a great one for me.  I finished in 2nd place on series points in the Citizens 40-49 age group and will move up to Cat 2 (Sport) for 2013.

Grafton PumpkinCross

This was supposed to be another back-to-back race weekend for me, but Saturday’s cyclocross race was canceled by the rain.  On Thursday the Village of Grafton pulled the plug on PumpkinCross, and I’m disappointed but I understand the village’s desire to protect its park from the damage that would resulted from the race.  (You should see the mess at Sheboygan!)

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