Sunday, October 25, 2015

Heckle, Jekyll & Hyde

Gray skies are gonna clear up … (Nicki Lock photo)

It’s hard to believe, but the end of this year’s WCA cyclocross season is already in sight. In just four weeks we will crown our state champions. I won’t be one of them. But at least I feel like a Cat 3 again. Yesterday I was just a rolling roadblock.

Sun Prairie Cup

Saturday was weird. It was very warm early in the morning and then got progressively colder. That’s opposite of our normal weather pattern. It also was overcast and very windy, which is sadly common. I worked overnight on Friday, then hurried home to find carpool partner Jeff Wren (Team Extreme) already waiting in my driveway. We got to Sun Prairie and pre-rode the course. Standard stuff. When the Masters 45+ Cat 1/2/3/4 race began, I got a decent start and was pretty happy with my position at the end of the first two laps.

And then it rained. It wasn’t a downpour by any means, but a persistent heavy mist that quickly changed the nature of the course. With so many off-camber features in play, racers soon discovered that they no longer could ride certain sections that they had ridden before. I fared worse than most, and with each position I lost I was less motivated to push on. The finish line couldn’t come soon enough. I took 21st out of 24 overall and was dead last among the 13 Category 3 racers. JW Miller (Erik’s) took the win, followed by Jeff Melcher (Team Pedal Moraine) and Arlen Spicer (Belgianwerkx). I can grind it out in the rain on level ground, but not on the sides of hills. It was just a bad race for me. In the parking lot, Timm Jacobson (KS Energy Services / MOSH / Team Wisconsin) said I looked skinny. It was the only compliment I got all day, and I wasn’t sure I deserved even that small kindness.

Celtic Cross

As it turns out, Timm was right. Today began with a weigh-in: 186 pounds, my lowest since … I literally don’t know. I bought a new bathroom scale in May 2014, replacing one that I knew was extremely inaccurate. I was 202 pounds at that time. So, I had a big bowl of cereal and two donuts for breakfast before heading to Fitchburg. And just before the Masters 45+ Cat 1/2/3/4 race started I had a Coke and not one but two packets of GU. I wouldn’t want to leave myself under-nourished.

Racing in brilliant sunshine on a dry, flat course, I made a strong start. But early in Lap 1 my front wheel washed out on a deep bed of pine needles and down I went. That may have been the moment that ultimately cost me a Top 10 finish, though I recovered quickly. The rest of the race was bobble free. I rode strongly and confidently on a course that was more technical when it came into the WCA series last year. This year’s version was perfect for a hammer-down rider of modest bike handling skills. And there was something to play for all the way to the finish line. Close rival Mark Badger (Brazen Dropouts) pressed me hard on the final lap but couldn’t out-sprint me on the short straightaway after the final turn. I took 11th out of 20 overall and 6th out of the 10 Cat 3s. John Lirette (unattached) was today’s winner, followed by Miller and Spicer.

Up Next

On Saturday I plan to be at Milwaukee’s Washington Park for the annual Halloween Cross race. The atmosphere is always fun even if I don’t usually race well on that course. The last Milwaukee-area race of the season will be at Estabrook Park on Nov. 7, then we do a Dane County double on Nov. 14 and 15 with races at CamRock and at Madison’s Hiestand Park, respectively. The state championships will be held on Nov. 21 at Waterloo, the course on which I had my highest finish in 2014.

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