Saturday, October 4, 2014

2014 Cross-Shooshko Cyclocross

Scones and gift cards for the podium! (Troy Sable photo)

A new venue in the WCA series this fall, Milwaukee’s Kosciuszko Park turned out to be a great course for me. I took 3rd out of 19 this morning in the Cat 4 Masters 45+ race. It was fun from start to finish.

The race began in the parking lot of Ben’s Cycle. We staged in the alley and then shot across 10th Street into the park. As the series points leader, I started from the most advantageous spot in the front row. But Andrew Stevens (Rat City Racers) quickly overtook me, followed by Jeff Gantz (Big Ring Flyers). Mark Badger (Brazen Dropouts) and West Bend’s Troy Sable (unattached) also started well. In the early moments it looked like things were sorting out and the winner would come from our group. But just before the halfway point of Lap 1, Anthony James (Team Extreme) shot around me and went straight to the front. It was an impressive move: James won the season opener at Sheboygan but had been sidelined ever since by back pain. I expected him to struggle with the very bumpy course surface at Kosciuszko Park, but when he went to the front he quickly gapped his pursuers. Gantz then crashed on a tight left-hand turn, effectively ending his podium bid. Badger was delayed by the crash and I moved into 3rd behind Stevens.

Badger recovered quickly, though, and made it back to my wheel. He eventually passed me when I had trouble clipping into my left pedal after dismounting for a barrier. Sable was still there, and Jeff Wandschneider (Belgianwerkx) was coming up fast. As Lap 3 began, James was long gone and Stevens was comfortably in 2nd place. In the fight for the last podium spot, Wandschneider turned up the heat. Sable faded but Wandschneider couldn’t shake Badger and me. Wandschneider later admitted he had miscalculated, expecting the race to be only 3 laps. As Lap 4 began, he was out of gas. I had been content to follow Badger and I thought I could take him in a sprint on the last straightaway if necessary, but my tactics changed when I saw him struggle with the first hill on the final lap. A few minutes later when we hit the base of the last hill, I attacked. Badger picked up the pursuit gamely and handled the remaining technical sections at least as well as I did, but I accelerated hard on the last two straightaways to open a clear gap before the finish line.

Today’s course rewarded steady, powerful pedaling. I can do that! The hills weren’t too long or too steep, but they became important to the race as rider fatigue accumulated. Barriers were placed in such a way that everyone took them slowly. There was no mud, no sand, and even the grass was dry. The air temperature was a chilly 39 degrees but I dressed well and was surprisingly comfortable throughout the race.

With 49 points each, Stevens and I now share the top spot in the series after 4 events. Badger is 3rd with 45 points, then James with 40, Gantz with 39, Sable with 38 and West Bend’s Jeff Wren (Team Extreme) with 36. In the Cat 4 Masters 55+ race today, Slinger’s Steve Cummins (Team Pedal Moraine) placed 2nd to retain his overall series lead.

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