This weekend’s race brought us to the Ranch complex in Loveland, site of last year’s State Championship. This is a great venue, since it has plenty of parking, good roads for warmup/cooldown, and decent terrain. It also marked the first races to be heavily affected by weather this season! It was definitely a tale of two days, as Friday brought snow and rain, so the predominantly clay course was wet and greasy in the morning, but dried up for fast racing in the afternoon. Sunday morning’s course was even faster before the skies opened around 1pm creating epic conditions for the afternoon! We’ll start off with Rob catching up from the past two weekends:
My last two races were on courses that required the ability to push through long sections of sand and tight turns on loose dirt, in the case of the Colorado Cross Classic, and a track at Cross of the North that required good off-road skills and slippery mud riding skills, none of which I have.
In the Colorado Cross Classic at the Boulder Reservoir, I started in the back and that’s where I stayed. The bumpy, twisting layout made it difficult to move up through the field, but I finished without incident in the form of a crash or mechanical, and I avoided getting lapped.
Last Sunday’s Cross of the North was a different story. I was clumsy on the off-camber rolling dirt stuff, and had trouble gaining momentum on the bumpy straight sections. At two laps things were going merely bad, but when the rain started my poor bike handling turned to pathetic. A minor face-plant in the mud and a dropped chain later, I was glad when they put me out of my misery by declaring me done a lap early.
The upside of those races is that I feel my legs are good if I can get on a course that is compatible with my limited skill set. Plenty of racing left on the calendar, so there’s always next week.
Kristal’s race was loaded with talent, as the purse was considerable. The course was greasy mud, due to snow from the previous night. She got a good start, which was key, since the course quickly funneled into a twisty section and would invariably bottleneck behind the first few riders. Nonetheless, she emerged with the chase group and looked solid on the initial laps. As the race went on, she faded slightly, eventually ending up in 7th overall—still a top 10 and in the money! All in all a solid race with good technical handling and fitness still coming.
Carl’s race went off in the afternoon on a dry fast track. He was riding solidly inside the top 20 when his rear wheel pulled out on a steep, punchy climb (total user error, not tightening it enough). Quite a few riders got past while he fixed it, and although he got back some spaces by the end, he rolled in 25th. However, he felt good about his ride and took away a lot of confidence from it for Sunday’s tilt.
I arrived to watch the tail end of some sloppy, greasy racing in the morning. By the time I got out to warm up and preview, the course had dried out substantially, and the surface was tacky, fast and bumpy. I didn't get a great start, but felt pretty good for the first half of the race, and pulled my way from the back of the pack into the top 20 by the mid-point of the race. As I headed into the fourth lap, my lungs started to give out, and I faded a bit the last two laps. I ended up 25th, which was a bit disappointing given how good I felt early, but still took a lot of positives from the day, which was great since I was getting ready for my first two-race weekend tomorrow.
Sunday morning dawned clear, but with a forecast of rain or snow in the afternoon. Kristal’s race went off with a strong contingent again, and Kristal was right in the mix. Her legs were feeling the previous day’s efforts a little and she drifted in the final laps to finish 7th again. Of special mention is the fact that 16-yr old Ksenia Lepikhina and 12-yr old Katie Clouse both finished ahead of Kristal. They are both really great kids and represent a bright future for Women’s Cross!
Carl’s race was probably the most fun of the day—the first 3 laps were ripping fast on a dry track, then the rain started and things got greasy as heck! The low speed sections were still fine, but on any high speed turns the bike wanted to just slip out from under you. Fortunately, Carl loves technical conditions, so although his solid top 10 start was ruined when another rider took him down, he was still able to ride his way back to 17th place by the finish. It was the most fun race of the season, but the conditions were about to deteriorate fast…
What a difference a day makes. When I arrived and warmed up, the course was basically dry, and in great shape. About an hour before my race, the rain started. I knew it would get a bit messy, but I had no idea what I was about to get myself into. I had the best start I've ever managed, moving from third row up into 6th or 7th place by the time we hit the first berm. I made it down the initial sketchy descent in 9th place, and passed a couple guys who'd crashed at the bottom. I exited the first technical section covered in mud, but in a really strong position.
Unfortunately that was as good as it got. The rain kept coming, the mud turned to grease, and I was quickly in conditions I'd never seen before on a bike. The longer descents and barriers that made up the back side of the course were more than I could handle, and I spent the rest of the first lap getting passed. I easily ran 30 - 40% of the course. Conditions were so slow that only 1/4 of the field finished on the lead lap. I ended up pulled along with most of the field after three laps, finishing 29th.
Definitely an eye-opening weekend on the bike. The results weren't great, but I took the opportunity to work on some skills that I'd never tested before. Thanks to my teammates for sticking it out in the cold and wet on Sunday to cheer me on. Wouldn't have got through it without them!
We also have to mention our teammate, Errin. She was still on the shelf this weekend with 5 stitches in her knee from her Boulder Cup crash, but that didn’t prevent her from being part of the Men’s Open race winning pit crew for her brother (and our good friend) Ken Benesh.
Conditions for that race featured slick mud that built up like adobe on the bikes. Ken ended up pitting every half lap for a total of 10 times during his race. Errin and her husband Colin made sure Ken had a (mostly) clean bike to take each time by the pits and in those conditions, that’s a huge advantage! Ken is a great guy and a super strong rider who deserved the win, but Errin and Colin definitely merit some praise as well. One of the things we love about ‘cross is how in the worst conditions, it is truly a team effort!