Saturday, September 28, 2019

2019 Humboldt Park CX

My preparation for today’s cyclocross race consisted of a 12-hour overnight shift at work in Brookfield, then a mad dash back to West Bend, then a hasty breakfast, then a somewhat-less-than-restorative 2 hours of sleep, then a trip down to Humboldt Park in the Bay View neighborhood of Milwaukee that was delayed by road construction, then registration, then a scant 20-minute warmup that included just 1 preview lap of the course. That’s not ideal, but what followed was one of the best times I have ever had in a cyclocross race.

Yesterday’s forecast promised an inch of rain, and there was some reluctance by Milwaukee County Parks to allow the race to run. Velocause Centraal Cycling, the host club, assured the parks department that it would remediate any damage to the grounds. I went to work last night knowing that the race would be held but not knowing whether it would be a mudder. Fortunately the rainfall total turned out to be much lower than anticipated. In fact, course conditions were pretty close to perfect and the Velocause folks adjusted the posts & tape throughout the day to ensure that the riders wouldn’t wear out any one line.

In the past I described the Humboldt Park race as something of a track meet. It was again today: this fifth edition of the race was the least technical, and the tacky surface made for quick acceleration, sure braking, and confident cornering. I made the most of a third row start by placing myself right behind John Lichtenberg (Diablo Cycling), with whom I’m pretty closely matched despite lopsided results in his favor: I had beaten John only once in 13 previous career matchups, but he had finished immediately ahead of me on 5 of those occasions. If I could follow him off the starting grid and at least hold his wheel through Lap 1, then I would have a chance at beating him and maybe grabbing a spot in the Top 10.

The start was chaotic and I soon found myself in front of John. I didn’t expect that to stick, but I took it as a good sign and went to work on a couple of guys who got out off the grid quicker but didn’t really belong in front of me. Lap 1 went by in a blur and I was pretty pleased with myself until Dave Eckel (MOSH / Team Wisconsin) roared past me on the final straightaway. I couldn’t let that stand, as I had beaten Dave at Manitowoc in our only other meeting this season. I quickly came back to his wheel and we spent the next few laps working almost as teammates. We chased down Sean Shields (Hampshire Cycle Club), then suddenly both Dave and Sean were comfortably behind me and I was going to be one-on-one with—drum roll, please—John Lichtenberg for the final lap.

I was up for it. I knew singlespeed superhero Carlos Casali (Franco Factory Racing p/b Brightleaf Homes) was about to overtake us, so I passed Lichtenberg on a little climb and hoped Casali would prove disruptive. On such a wide-open course, however, Casali’s arrival did nothing to impede Lichtenberg. John and I then spent the first half of the final lap locked together, vainly trying to hang on to Carlos. Lichtenberg was quick over the triple barrier and got a little gap on me, but he really pulled away as we played along the hill near the end of the lap. I just couldn’t match him there, and the finishing straight was too short for me to pull him back. Another consecutive finish! This time it was Lichtenberg in 15th and Yours Truly in 16th out of 25 in the Cat 1/2/3 Masters 50+ race. Arlen Spicer (BELGIANWERKX) was today’s winner, followed by Tim Hacker (unattached) and Christopher Berge (unattached). The 25-man field was the largest in Cat 1/2/3 Masters 50+ so far this year, and I really enjoyed having company for the entire race.

Up next is PumpkinCross in Grafton on Saturday, October 5 … I hope. The preliminary weather forecast is really unfavorable. I was good today on a hammer-down power course. In the mud I wouldn't expect to do well.

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