Sunday, September 8, 2019

The 2019 WCA Cyclocross Season Begins!

Manitowoc’s flyover: steep stairs up, steep ramp down. (Melissa Putzer photo)

Flyover Silver Creek CX

On Saturday the Wisconsin Cycling Association’s 2019 cyclocross season kicked off in Manitowoc with the 6th edition of Flyover Silver Creek CX. Lake Michigan’s uncommonly high water level kept us off the beach this year, so the only running was up the stairs of the eponymous flyover. All the other course elements that make this race special were still in play, and I had lots of fun even if I didn’t have a particularly good result.

I got a decent start from the second row of the grid and moved well through the Little Zolder woods and then over the flyover itself. But then Lap 1 turned on me. Hitting Jeckle Hill for the first time, there was a big KA-CHUNK from my bike and for a moment I thought I had broken the frame. I soon realized that I had merely knocked my saddle tilt off-level … not a good thing, but not fatal. My confidence was a little shaken for a while—I couldn’t be absolutely sure there wasn’t additional damage—and that slowed me down. I lost a couple of positions that I would never get back, but eventually I rallied and stopped the bleeding.

Well, the figurative bleeding. The literal bleeding began a couple of laps later when my front tire slipped out on a root during the singletrack descent down the back side of Heckle Hill. The scrapes on my leg were to become the least of my worries when I got home and discovered a bent derailleur hanger. More on that later; the important thing is that the bike held together for the duration of the race.

I wasn’t making any forward progress though, and I finished 16th out of 22 in the Cat 1/2/3 Masters 50+ race. Arlen Spicer (BELGIANWERKX) took the win ahead of Ted Schaff (Diablo Cycling) and Christopher Berge (unattached). I was hoping to be the first West Bend guy, at least, but that distinction was denied to me by Wade Loberger (Team Wheel & Sprocket), who finished in 10th place.


Neff Cycle Service, the good folks who provide neutral tech support for the series, fixed my bent derailleur hanger today in advance of the race at Kosciuszko Park in Milwaukee. Thanks, Isaac! Knowing that the bike was back in top condition gave me a lot of confidence I wouldn’t have had otherwise. I also drew confidence from my pre-ride, during which I significantly dialed down the tire pressure. Kosciuszko Park has a well-deserved reputation as a bumpy course. It’s not very technical though, and I knew I would enjoy the long power sections once I wasn’t bouncing over them.

It was another decent start for me … not stellar, but I was running with Greg Ferguson (Trek Midwest Team) for most of Lap 1. “The Tallest Man in Cyclocross” is one of my benchmark riders; staying with him for any length of time is an achievement. Greg got away from me when we caught the back of the singlespeed field that had started before us, and he would go on to an 8th place finish. If only I could have stayed on his wheel.

I ended up 20th out of 27 in the Cat 1/2/3 Masters 50+ race. Arlen Spicer (BELGIANWERKX) won again, Christopher Berge (unattached) took 2nd and Lance Johnson (Velocause Centraal Cycling) took 3rd place. I had Johnson’s teammate, Michael Daws, in my sights on the final lap and just ran out of racetrack. Daws and I were pulling back Michael McManus (Gryphon Velo Racing), who finished 18th overall but 10th among the Cat 3s. I would be very satisfied to get such a Top 10. That may seem like a modest goal, but I’m realistic about my chances against Cat 1 and Cat 2 guys. Gotta have something to chase.

For me, today’s race was more fun than Saturday’s and that’s all down to the competition between the guys. I was never more than a couple of seconds behind one or ahead of another. There was a great ebb and flow: someone would pass me on a part of the course that suited him, then I would surge back in front on a part of the course that suited me. And I left the park feeling good about next Sunday’s race, knowing that Waterford is another power course where I can expect another good performance. Yes, another. I didn’t race badly this weekend; I simply lost to faster guys. I’ll be fine if I keep living up to my expectations of myself.

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