Saturday, September 29, 2018

2018 LAPT Lion Cross

Here’s the Cat 3 Masters 35+ podium. No, I’m not on it!
It’s now a theme: 3 cyclocross races, 3 bad starts. And I’m left wondering where I would be if I could sort out those first 30 seconds. I rode really well today, but I could manage only a 15th Place finish in the Cat 3 Masters 35+ race at LAPT Lion Cross. The official results show 18 riders. I know that behind me there was at least 1 more guy whose name doesn’t appear, but that’s splitting hairs. I need to worry more about who’s ahead of me. For the most part, though, they’re simply faster.

Held at Waterford Town Park in western Racine County, Lion Cross was a new event on this year’s schedule. The organizers staked out a fast, flowy, fun course on a field with no natural features to exploit, and they made excellent use of a manmade sledding hill that seemed to grow taller with each lap. I really enjoyed my race, largely because I could stay on the gas for almost the whole course. I didn’t hear a single brake squeal from anybody. And I had people to chase and to evade for the entire race; I wasn’t on another lonely solo ride after Lap 1.

Scott Hoyer (Great Dane Velo Club) was today’s winner, followed by David Studner (Trek Midwest Team) and John Orlikowski (unattached). With that trio well out of reach, my race came down to a spirited duel with Mike Roth (Team Wheel & Sprocket). I closed a big gap and overtook him on the penultimate lap, but I couldn’t drop him. In the closing moments of the final lap, he outran me on the sand volleyball court and there just wasn’t enough racecourse left for me to retake the position.

So, now I’m on weather watch. I want to saddle up again next Saturday at PumpkinCross in Grafton, but the forecast shows almost nothing but rain. I might be training in the home gym a few times in the week to come.

Congratulations, Little Badger!

Racine native Kaitie Keough conquered a star-studded field today to win Jingle Cross, the Telenet UCI World Cup cyclocross race in Iowa. And it didn’t come down to a sprint; Keough finished a comfortable 31 seconds ahead of her closest chaser. At 26, Keough is now a veteran racer at the top level of the sport, but today’s victory was her first in a World Cup event.

Jingle Cross attracted some of Wisconsin’s amateur racers too. Nevertheless, turnout was good for today’s WCA event. In prior seasons the WCA was reluctant to schedule an event on the same weekend as Jingle Cross. Today I was grateful for an opportunity to race close to home.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

BMX In Fond du Lac

That’s a great value at $129! If your kids are looking for something to do when the NICA mountain biking season ends, then make the short drive to Fond du Lac. And, by the way, BMX is an Olympic sport. Champions have to come from somewhere, so why not from here?

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

More Saving, More Doing, More ... Cowbell?

The Home Depot probably isn't the first place you would look for a new cyclocross bike, and it probably shouldn't be the last. The price is right, though, let's give 'em that.

Support your local bike shop, folks!

Sunday, September 23, 2018

2018 Telenet UCI World Cup Waterloo

What a gorgeous day for the start of the 2018-2019 Telenet UCI World Cup cyclocross season! Trek’s backyard course in Waterloo was the site and I was there ... along with something like 10,000 other fans. I had intended to do a photo essay, but my camera failed and I got only a handful of usable shots.

It’s hard to believe that someone actually could ride these “stairs,” but a few of the riders did:

Here’s Toon Aerts, already getting a gap on Wout Van Aert and on his way to the victory in the elite men’s race:

World champion Sanne Cant and American champion Katie Compton didn’t fare very well in the elite women’s race, but they were relaxed on the starting grid:

Cant was wearing an ice vest to stay cool before the start. Other riders took shelter beneath umbrellas, but the sun wasn’t that hot. (Remember last year?) Marianne Vos took the win today, fighting off a determined Ellen Noble.

Just like last year, the race brought out the Who’s Who of Wisconsin bike racers. I had a great time shaking hands and catching up with friends. Attending the race did keep me off the bike today, though, so I’ll challenge myself tomorrow in atonement. I plan to return to racing on Saturday in Waterford, but I need a good week of training and good weather on raceday.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

2018 Humboldt Park CX

Something’s missing. Today I did my second cyclocross race of 2018 and I’m now 2-for-2 in getting blown away in the first minute. The Humboldt Park race in Milwaukee’s Bay View neighborhood is one of my favorite races each season, so I was motivated today but I couldn’t deliver a good result. I placed 13th out of 16 in the Cat 3 Masters 35+ division. Lance Johnson (Ben’s Cycle / Milwaukee Bicycle Co.) took the win, followed by Jeffrey Bopp (Revolution Cycles), who won last Sunday in Manitowoc.

I didn’t ride badly. By the start of Lap 2 I had settled into a strong, sustainable pace. But by then the damage was done. I warmed up for almost an hour prior to the race, so I don’t know why I started so poorly. Hopefully I can work on my start next Tuesday at the season finale of our Royal Oaks practice series. This week’s practice went well for me, but the confidence I took out of it didn’t count for much today.

I won’t be going to Wausau tomorrow for Cross Of The North. I made that decision back on Tuesday and it looks like a really good one in the aftermath of today’s drubbing. So, my next race will be LAPT Lion Cross in Waterford on September 29. That’s two weeks from today … enough time, I hope, to figure out my start. Maybe I can find some inspiration next Sunday at the UCI World Cup races in Waterloo, where I’ll be watching the top professional riders on a revamped course at Trek’s corporate headquarters.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

2018 Flyover Silver Creek CX

Braun Building Center puts the "Flyover" in Flyover Silver Creek CX.

In my 2018 cyclocross debut this afternoon at Manitowoc’s Silver Creek Park, I had to look for the silver lining around the big black cloud of a 15th Place finish in the 18-man Cat 3 Masters 35+ race.

I got off to a terrible start, instantly squandering my position on the first row of the starting grid. We were 8 riders wide in a space that didn’t really allow for it, and I got squeezed. By the halfway point of Lap 1, my race was effectively over. I overtook one of my rivals on Lap 2, but that was the last time I made a pass. And nobody caught me from behind after that point, so I was almost on a solo ride for the rest of the 6-lap race. I could see the Gryphon Velo Racing duo of Mike Lebeau and Nathan Phelps not too far ahead, but I couldn’t close on them. Curse that bad start!

So, let’s talk about the silver lining. In today’s race I …
  • Didn’t get lapped
  • Finished just high enough to earn 1 point for the series standings
  • Rode up Heckle Hill every lap
  • Enjoyed (believe it or not) getting splashed by Lake Michigan waves as I ran along the beach
  • Enjoyed even more the performance of my new bike, which shares none of the blame for my crappy result

Both in competition and out, today was a great opportunity to see many of my friends, so it was a good day overall. But I need to race better. I wasn’t good today, obviously. Madison’s Jeffrey Bopp (Revolution Cycles) took the victory. He had several podium appearances last season, so I will expect continuing success from him. As for my place in the pecking order … hopefully today wasn’t a sign of things to come.

Yesterday should have been Opening Day of the 2018 WCA cyclocross season, but an overabundance of rain in recent weeks has left many area parks in a delicate state. Milwaukee County shut down the race at Kosciuszko Park, saying the grounds were too wet. That race may be rescheduled on a Sunday in October. There were no concerns about the grounds today in Manitowoc. Conditions were perfect and the race organizers did an outstanding job with the course layout.

If you’re coming to cyclocross practice on Tuesday at Royal Oaks Park, then expect me to go hard. I need to find whatever was missing today. The week ahead looks dry—a nice change—so opportunities for training shouldn’t be limited by bad weather. I’m looking forward to Saturday’s race at Humboldt Park in Milwaukee and I’m hoping to travel to Wausau next Sunday for Cross Of The North … but not if the rain returns.

Today wasn’t the Season Opener that I wanted, but it’s the Season Opener with which I have to live. Maybe disappointment will prove to be motivating.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

How Great Is Our Kate!

Congratulations to Kate Courtney, who won the UCI cross-country mountain bike world championship today in Lenzerheide, Switzerland! Courtney took advantage of a last-lap mistake by Denmark’s Annika Langvad, made the pass and rode away to a convincing victory. It’s the first cross-country world title for an American since Alison Dunlap won in 2001.

Courtney’s victory could be a huge step forward for mountain biking in the United States, which in recent years has lagged behind other countries in international competitions. At only 22 years old, Courtney could be a star for another decade or more. She’s smart, at ease with the media, and just the sort of ambassador the sport needs to attract new fans and new riders … especially girls.

Courtney was the silver medalist in last year’s under-23 world championships. This year she stepped up to the elite level and had an outstanding UCI World Cup season. There was never a doubt that she was a special rider whose stock was rising, but even she must be a little surprised by so much success so soon. It’s a great day for the USA!