This cross racing business has been like heroin. Wasn’t sure what I was getting into, but my friends were doing it, they pushed me to do it, they made it easy for me to do it, and once I tried it the high was exquisite and exquisitely painful. And now I’m addicted—can’t wait for my next fix.
I spent the whole day Saturday at Weber County Fairgrounds, so I’ll try to give a rundown of all the races (let me know in the comments if you like the full report of all races, because it takes a lot more time for me to write and for you to read). Weber is a great cross course, built around the firm sand horse racing track and utilizing the small rolling mounds (hard to even call them hills) on one side of the track. Portions of the track itself are featured, as well as the dry, grassy equestrian course in the infield, including a couple of the equestrian obstacles.
First off for the day were Masters 55 and Men’s C. Doug Cottle (Canyon) got the hole shot in the 55 race with Bob Walker: Texas Ranger (Contender) right on his wheel. Doug got a small gap in the rollers, but the two were back together on the track. Doug attacked again in the infield and was away for good. Bob finished second, reversing the order from last week. Lou Melini (Contender) rode a solid race and rounded out the podium.
The C race had a huge field with over 40 starters. The lead group stayed together for a good part of the race, but eventually Graham Greenlee (Contender) rode away from his competitors for the win, followed by Jeffrey Perry and Kevin Gardner.
Next up were the Masters 45 and my first race, the Men’s 35B (plus one woman). Daren was under pressure to come through again, considering his brother just won the 55 race, he won last week on a course he doesn’t like, and the Weber Fairgrounds course is his favorite. His teammate Jeff Clawson got the hole shot and led through the rollers and onto the track. Daren took the lead in the infield where he’s fast through the corners and smooth over the barriers. He forced himself to go as hard as he could on the track because he knew the chase wouldn’t make up time in the technical sections. It paid off, and he stood on the top step for the second week in a row, with Steve Briley (X-Men) in second, and Jeff (Canyon) in third.
I’m still trying to figure out tactics for cross racing and how to approach different courses. This week I decided to just drill it from the gun and hang on as long as I could. I got the hole shot and led through the rollers. On the track, I pushed it for all I was worth but had several racers right on my wheel. I led the group around and into the infield where I was passed momentarily before retaking the lead to complete lap one. I led through the rollers again, then on the track, Kathy Sherwin* (Hudz-Subaru) launched an attack and came around me with four racers on her wheel.
*Wondering why Kathy Sherwin was racing in our field? According to USA Cycling rules, “Women may enter any men’s race for which they are eligible by age, category, and any performance requirements. They may also enter categorized races for men that are up to one category lower than their women's category. For road, track, and cyclocross events, category 1 women may enter men’s races up to two categories lower.” In Kathy’s case, she’s over 35 and racing one category lower by racing in Men’s 35B. If anyone were checking, that is. But since the UTCX series isn’t USAC-sanctioned, nobody was checking.
I held on as long as I could, but I’d gone out too hard and couldn’t sustain it. I ended up in no man’s land with the lead group mostly staying together up ahead. I lost a couple more spots on the ensuing laps. Kathy duked it out up front with Travis Mickelson (Contender), with Travis eventually taking the win. Denny Kalar (Cole Sport) finished third. I wound up in eighth after outkicking Bill Gowski (Contender) over the final 50 meters.
Next up were the women. In the C race, AnneMarie White (Wasatch Pilates) won for the second week in a row. Which, if we were USAC sanctioned, would mean a mandatory upgrade. See you in the B race next week, Annie? Rachel Clayson (Spin Cycle) and Heather Richerson will probably be glad to see her go.
Robynn Masters (Contender) won the B race, followed by Kara Harris and Nancy Alcabes (both from Ski Utah). In the A race, Kelsey Bingham (Roosters) took the win, followed by Kris Walker: Mrs. Texas Ranger (Contender), and Kathy Sherwin, who was slowed by a crash but apparently not by having just finished on the men’s podium the hour before.
In the men’s A race, Bart Gillespie (Revolution) made an early move and was on his own the first several laps. Jason Sager (Jamis) wasn’t finished that easily, and eventually chased him down. The two rode together for several laps before Bart made a late move in the infield on the bell lap to put Jason away for good. Reed Wycoff (Contender) rounded out the podium. Eric Rasmussen (Kuhl-Specialized) has his sights firmly set on peaking in Bend in December, and gutted it out for fourth. Tanner looked solid throughout, finishing 10th—not a bad day for the Cottles. Bryce Young (Simply Mac) unfortunately had a bad crash and broke his collarbone (and an Edge, nay Enve, wheel). Between Bryce and Todd Taft (Ski Utah), that’s two broken clavicles in two weeks of racing at UTCX.
In the 35A race, the lead group of five stayed together throughout. Bo Pitkin (Big Ring) did most of the work on the front, with Matt Ohran (Cannondale) and Art O’Conner (Big Ring) also taking some digs. Sam Moore (Canyon) stayed comfortably in the middle of the group, with everyone aware he’d make a late move. He made it in the rollers of the last lap only to be caught on the track. Ever combative, Sam made another move in the infield, and this time it stuck. John McKone (Cole Sport) finished second, and Art came in third. Bart, Sam, and Daren are the only winners so far in their respective categories of A, 35A, and 45.
Joel Roberts won in Junior Men, Brock Holt (Bountiful Bikes) won the Masters 35C race, Alex Whitney (Canyon) won the Clydesdale race, though he may have had to eat a few hot dogs since road season ended to qualify for the 93kg minimum weight. Ryan Ashbridge (Revolution) won the singlespeed race, with Steve Wasmund (Cutthroat) and Jess Dear (RMCC) rounding out the podium.
After a waffle, a PBJ, and a Rock Star, I felt ready (enough) to throw down again in the B race in the afternoon. Having burned my matches early in the 35B race and paid for it, I held back on the first lap to try and conserve some energy. I was in the lead group on lap two when a move went, and I followed. I should’ve let it go, as it cost both of us. The chase group led by Nate Drozd (Salt Cycling) caught and passed us. I held onto that for a while but eventually lost contact. After a lap or two alone, I fell back to the group with Mike and Steve in it and rode with them until I burped a tire on the second last lap and lost a half dozen spots in the pit changing wheels.
Steve and I were talking on Sunday, and he said he felt like he packed five hours worth of intensity into a 50 minute race. I think I suffered less spending 185 kilometers in the break at Lotoja than I did in Saturday’s two cross races. It is a different, harder beast to be certain.
Ali Goulet, who hasn’t done much to train aside from riding his freeride bike, had this to say (via facebook) after the race: “5th today straight off the free ride couch, i'm thinking if you train more than 3hrs a week and you're outside of the top 5 its (sic) time to rethink your whole cycling life...”
Perhaps. Or perhaps if you have so much talent that you can place 5th in the A race “straight off the freeride couch,” it’s time to rethink your whole cycling life. To suggest people who haven’t been on the couch have something to rethink cheapens the effort of the four guys who beat you.
We all race for different reasons and with different expectations and different criteria for measuring success. On Saturday, I was impressed by Jonathan Lozon (Big Ring) cracking the top ten in the C race. Cody Haroldson (Ski Utah) buried himself for the full 60 minutes in the A race. Candace Hayden (Ski Utah) turned herself inside out not to be last in the B race when she probably could have contended in the C’s. Are these results any less impressive than a former multiple USGP winner taking fifth in his local series because he can't be bothered to train?
I’m bummed about my flat in the B race. But a flat when I’m already out of contention doesn’t take me out of contention. To pretend otherwise is a weak, tired excuse that everyone can see through. Once out of contention, the race is to not get caught by the guy behind me and to try to catch the guy in front. Success is to keep my head down and suffer so I’ll be stronger for the next race, regardless of whether I place eighth or 14th or DFL. A flat tire is nothing more than an interruption in the suffering and a new set of guys to chase and be chased by.
I still have a lot to figure out in terms of training, pacing, and bike handling. But one talent I do possess is an ability to suffer—hopefully that enables the remaining pieces to fall into place.
Photo credit: Utah Cyclocross.