2017 NBX Gran Prix of Cyclocross

This weekend’s NBX Gran Prix of Cyclocross was another fantastic adventure with family and friends. This was the final two races of the Northeast Cyclocross Series, and signals that the New England season is winding down.

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All that remains are the CT Series of CX finals at Elm City CX on 19 December in New Haven, and a smattering of other local races in Massachusetts over the new few weeks. A lot of riders will hang up their wheels after NBX.

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I didn’t leave anything in the tank after my efforts in the Masters 40+/Juniors 16-18 (combo) races yesterday and today. I was empty yesterday, but somehow rallied to push through another tough race today. I didn’t have good legs either day, but persevered. Today, I was literally cross-eyed as I pushed to limit my losses after a costly series of early race mistakes.

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One of the great challenges of cyclocross is executing a “clean race.” Even if you have the best legs, you can give up a lot of time with a bad start, poor bike handling, and mechanical issues. Fortunately, other than a bent brake lever or two, my mechanicals were minor. The very rooty and unforgiving Goddard Memorial State Park course is very hard on bicycles. There were lots of punctures, broken wheels, and broken bicycle frame. It was carnage for some folks. My legs weren’t good, so that meant that my self-inflicted mistakes had even greater consequences.

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My pain came from not having my A-game bike handling skills on a tough course that had a lot of mountain bike features. There were lots of loose sandy corners, lots of ups and downs, twists and turns, and lots of roots.

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This Warwick, Rhode Island seaside park and race course is one of my favorites, but it doesn’t suit my strengths, but it does have features that make me a better bike racer. This race will always be special since it was one of my first ever cross races back in 1995. I’ve done it many times over the years, but not since 2013. It always falls on the first weekend of December, which coincides with a holiday party that Debbie and I have attended every year since 2003. This year, the party was in Woodstock, Connecticut, so I was able to squeeze that in between Day 1 and Day 2.

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We had a great turnout from Team Horst Sports and the Team Horst Junior Squad. Shepard did the Juniors 9-14 year old races and had a good time with his teammates. We have watched our Junior Squad improve in so many ways since those early season races back in September. Thankfully, the weather was dry. It was cold, but tolerable. In addition to the junior race, we had good representation in the Masters 50+ race, and of course, in the Masters 40+.

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Yesterday turned out to be the better of my two races. I think the long beach run favored me, as did the extra few uphills. Today, there was less running and my legs were just blown, probably from racing yesterday, and dancing last night. There were some dance instructors at the party, and I actually learned both the Salsa and the Merengue, so all is not lost.

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Today, I had a rough start, recovered almost all the places I lost, and then promptly gave them back when I went down on a steep uphill and got my bike hopelessly tangled with another rider’s. We had to calm down and get them unhooked before jumping on and chasing the 15 or so guys that got by us. The trouble with losing time early in a race like this, is you can ride your butt off for the remainder of the race, turning laps even with the same guys that passed you, but still never make up the time. When you are flat-out, going 100%, you just can’t accelerate from there. One bright spot was the last lap of today’s race. I buried myself to make up ground. I caught up to teammate Arthur Roti, and felt bad passing him, but I was just giving it my all. If I rode that pace for the whole race, things would have been better, but I proved to myself that I could suffer.

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In the end, I was very happy with the race weekend. Having such a great team is a fantastic boost. The kids are loving the racing. This race has a great vibe. It’s even worth noting that Goddard Park is beautiful. The park has lovely stonework, including the infamous stone steps that we have to run up.

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I’m going to enjoy the recovery over the next few weeks. I’m going to skip racing next weekend and aim for a good day at Elm City. I’m working plans to be at the USA Cycling National Cyclocross Championships in Reno, Nevada next month. Punishing my legs this weekend will pay dividends provided that I get the proper “rest” and stay fit over the next month.

Race Results, Day 1

Race Results, Day 2

2017 March Farms Cyclo Madness

We returned to March Farms Cyclo  Madness for a special Black Friday cyclocross race. Last year’s March Farms event was a complete white out in an epic snowstorm. The organizers moved the date of the race from late December to late November, in hopes that the weather would be better.

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They made a good call. This is the third year that Shepard and I have done this race, and this is the best weather that we have had. It was cold in the morning, but brilliant sunshine made it feel warmer. There was a light breeze, but it was nothing like last year’s blizzard. The course was on the “other side of the street” from the 2015 race, and we finally got to see it properly.

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This is the most hilly race we do. The farm is in a picturesque setting in Bethlehem, Connecticut. This was penultimate race seven in The CT Series of Cross. The finals are at Elm City CX on 17 December. I made up some points on my friendly rival, Stan Lezon, who was holding third spot in the series behind Eneas Freyre, Travis Burleson, and Joe Kubisek. Stan finished two spots behind me today.

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I had a race-long battle with Travis. We were chasing Eneas, an out-of-state rider, and Joe. We shared the workload, alternating pulls for nearly an hour. It was slow going. This is what you call a “heavy course.” The rough grass and serious elevation gain with multiple sharp ups and downs made for a super hard track. There was a little mud, especially in the cornfield. There were no barriers. Some folks had to run numerous climbs, but I was able to ride everything but the long run-up after the stream crossing.

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I spent a lot of time in my little ring. Everyone did. Debbie and Dahlia joined us and after the race, we did some Christmas shopping at the farm store. Team Horst Sports had a strong turnout. Tom Ricardi, Keith Enderle, and Dave Geissert were in the Masters 50+ race. Wade Summers, John Meyerle, Brett Chenail, and Tim Rourke joined me in the Masters 40+ race. Cole Ricardi and Sean Rourke did the Juniors 13-15 year-old race. Shepard was joined by Lars Roti, Boden Chenail, Owen Lezon, and Ethan Lezon in the Juniors 9-12 year-old race. The Juniors races were full fields with 30 kids in each.

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Unfortunately, the 9-12 year olds only did one lap. This also happened at the Cheshire Cross. The organizers of the CT Series and the CCAP need to get together to agree on standard/minimum distances for these kids. For some of them, the race was over in seven minutes. They had already shortened the course to avoid some of the steepest hills, so they should have had them do at least two laps. Our boys were frustrated.

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Thankfully, my legs weren’t sore after yesterday’s Manchester Road Race. I ran with Shepard, so for me, it was like a tempo run. I had good power today, but it was still a hard effort. Our race was one lap too long. I would have gladly given one of our laps to the Juniors. My time was around 55 minutes, and I had to pedal the entire time. There was no coasting on this course.

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I heard a lot of complaints about the climbing, but people were generally smiling. I think most cyclists like to complain about hills. It’s part of the sport. The fact that this race was on Black Friday may have caused registration to be lighter than a weekend event, but I think it was a nice touch. Horst Engineering is closed today, so this was a great way to spend time outside.

Race Results (will be posted when online)

2017 Manchester Road Race

The weather for today’s 81st running of the Manchester Road Race was spectacular. It was cold at the start, but he brilliant sunshine warmed things up just enough to make it a great Thanksgiving Day on the roads of Manchester. This was my 28th MRR and my 23rd in a row.

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A few weeks back, Fox 61 News interviewed me as part of  a series that they did on longtime MRR runners. The premise was to share your favorite part of the course and talk about your MRR experiences. Naturally, the hill, near the top, is my favorite part of the course. It’s closest to my house in Bolton a few miles up the road and a pivotal point in every race.

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I really do love this race. Today, I shadowed my son, Shepard. It was only the third time that I haven’t “raced” Manchester. It was tough to hold back because I entered a new age group (45-49) this year, and my previous times would have had me on the podium (likely 2nd) for that division.

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That’s OK, the race has become a family affair for me. I’ll get a chance to run it again in the future. I’ve been doing a lot of cyclocross, but counting today, I’ve only run six times in the past month for a total of 25 miles. I would have had to race on guts today, which isn’t a problem for me, but it was smarter to keep an eye on Shep and save my legs for tomorrow’s (Black Friday) March Farm Cyclo Madness.

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Shep runs better on his own, so I started with him, but hung five seconds behind him the whole time, monitoring his progress and make sure he didn’t get tripped in the crowd of 12,000+ runners. I didn’t want to influence his race for better or worse. In the past, the presence of Debbie and I has resulted in meltdowns, especially when the effort got hard. Today, he ran a smart race, all on his own, with good pacing, and a strong finish. He had an Under 38 minutes seed card, and his goal was to break 35 minutes. He has improved every year and this year was no exception. He smashed his personal best, running 32:52 (gun time) for 8th in the 13 and under age group. He was very happy. He has two more years in this age group, so there is opportunity for improvement.

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He is into the stats, but I reminded him that the important thing is to continue to love to run. Right now, he is having a blast. I’ve seen a lot of kids burn out, but given our family passion for endurance sports, that is unlikely, especially if we balance the running with cycling, triathlon, hiking, and other fun activities. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t curious how much he and our daughter can improve.

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Debbie and Dahlia ran together and achieved their goal of breaking one hour for the event. They finished in 57:56. Dahlia’s legs hurt. Debbie taught her how to use a mantra, “strong and steady, strong and steady,” to get through the 4.748 mile course. I’ve heard that mantra a lot this year, and especially at the Hardrock 100 Mile Endurance Run and Cascade Crest 100 Mile Endurance Run.

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Shep’s legs are going to hurt too, so he has to relax before tomorrow’s cyclocross race. I think mine will be OK. I ran in Central Park in Manhattan on Tuesday, to soften them up a bit before today’s race. Early this morning, I went for a road bike ride and scouted the course in reverse. It was fun to see all the volunteers setting up the course and to see all the police involved with the pre-race security measures.

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We saw lots of friends, which isn’t hard to do in Manchester, and had a blast. Deb’s mother, Barbara Schieffer, is a superfan. She joined us to watch our bags and cheer us on. The Silk City Striders and Shenipsit Striders were out in force. I heard Shepard get some cheers from spectators and that motivated me too. It’s too soon to tell if I’ll run hard in 2018. I have to keep my streak going, and if I’m serious about running fast again, I’ll have to run more and ride less.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Race Results

2017 Supercross Cup

Team Horst Sports had a tremendous time at the Supercross Cup in Rockland County, New York. Both our Masters riders and the Team Horst Junior Squad did great rides on Day 1 (Saturday) and Day 2 (Sunday).

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The team behind Supercross Cup, led by Myles Romanow, deserve a lot of credit for putting on a fine event. My only wish is that more riders will pick this race weekend and put it on their calendar. The course is one of the best, if not the best, that we do in the Northeast.

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The crazy weather conditions (just like 2016) added to the epic nature of the event, but it has also made it hard on the organizers. With last year’s snow and wind, the course took a beating on Day 2. This year, Day 1 ended wet and muddy and it only got crazier from there. Today’s races actually got drier as the day went on, but the wind never let up. It was impossible to keep the course tape, stakes, and fencing from blowing away. Everything was blowing away, including our team tents, which got destroyed overnight when we left them unattended.

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Until today, I had never seen a garbage can blow across a cyclocross course, but there is always a first time for everything. The wind was nuts. It nearly blew some of the Junior riders off of their bikes. Speaking of Juniors, Myles and the team didn’t charge the Juniors a penny. At Supercross Cup, Juniors race free! That is a huge commitment to the future of our sports and that is another reason why we showed up with our squad.

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Sean, Shepard, and Lars raced the Junior 9-14 year old race both days. The girls and boys started a minute behind the Category 4/5 Women. It was great to see so many women on this course. They also had a Masters Women’s field and an Elite Women’s field. I knew it would be hard to draw the Massachusetts (and north) crowd, especially with the Shedd Park race in Lowell today; but I do wish they would travel south for a race at least once in a season! I also figured that the greater New York/New Jersey cross community was larger than it appears to be. With such a huge population center, we need more people to race cyclocross. Yesterday, there were 379 registered racers.

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I expected more for a Vittoria Northeast Cyclocross Series event (race five and six). Last week’s series race in Northampton drew 620 on Saturday and 572 on Sunday. With an 8:45 A.M. start for the Juniors on Saturday morning, we drove down after work on Friday night. That left me feeling a little tired. I pushed really hard at last weekend’s even in NoHo and was a bit under the weather this week. So, I came into the race with heavy legs and a scratchy throat. Arriving at the hotel 10:00 P.M. on Friday night didn’t do much to help me prepare for the race, but that’s how it goes.

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Saturday morning was freezing cold. Still, the kids did great. They course was mostly dry with a few slick spots. It is one of the hilliest courses in the Northeast, so you have to work for your result. The punchy climbs and steep descents are demanding. Yesterday’s course had beautiful flow, and you could really hammer some of the descents. A new expanded woods section added a nice section to the course.

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Our Masters team was well represented. Keith Enderle and Dave Geissert raced the Men’s 50+ event. Joining me in the Masters 40+, were Wade Summers, Art Roti, and John Meyerle. Tim Rourke raced the Men’s Category 4/5 race.

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I struggled the entire race. I never had any oomph. My legs literally felt like wood and the guys I normally stay with just rode away from me on the climbs. I hung tough, but spent the second half of the race in no man’s land. I was fairly frozen at the finish and just happy to have pushed hard.

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We hung out all afternoon. We had a heater in the tent, which took the edge off of the cold. Our tents were set up at the top of the hill by the only set of barriers on the course. We had a great vantage point and cheered for everyone loudly. By early afternoon, the rain had started to fall, turning the course into slippery muck. It was great to watch the Elite Women and Elite Men. We had many Cross Spikes™ ambassadors at the race. Cassie Maximenko had a great ride in the women’s event, finishing second. Horst Engineering’s toe spikes were all over the podium of the Elite Men’s race. Kerry Werner, Curtis White, and Cooper Wilsey were 1, 2, 3. It was great to see Jeremy Powers racing. He finished sixth. We had some inventory with us and helped out several riders who never used spikes before. They needed them today!

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Tim and Sean camped at the race venue, and they got to experience the wind storm as it rolled in. I awoke this morning to a texted photo of our mangled tents. We weighted them down before leaving the venue, but it wasn’t good enough. We should have known better and will have some work to do to repair them. That was a tough way to start the day, but at least it was warmer. We got back to Rockland Community College by 6:30 A.M. to help clean up the tent mess. The wind continued to roar, so we disassembled the remaining tents and stowed everything.

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It stopped raining by 8:00 A.M. when the first race went off, but the wind picked up. The course, which was being run in reverse, was waterlogged, and was very slippery. The thick mud was caking on gears, brakes, and tires. It was heavy too! The Juniors went at 8:45 A.M. again and they were super-heroes in the tough conditions. There were multiple off-camber sections that required a combination of delicate riding and intense running. It was great to watch them.

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Our same crew raced on Sunday, with one exception. Wade sat this one out. The rest of us were covered in mud, but everyone was smiling. Even Art, who thought about skipping, enjoyed the challenge. I had a better race, and felt that my legs were coming around by the last lap. The wind was fierce. In some spots, it threatened to blow me sideways. Even though I was going better than yesterday, I was still off the pace. I’m planning to rest a bit this week. I’m only going to jog the Manchester Road Race on Thanksgiving, because March Farm CX is on Black Friday.

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Cyclocross remains my favorite family friendly event. It was great to see both the Mattern and Grimm Families, who drove down from Rochester. When our boys weren’t racing, they were playing in the woods, building forts, jumping dirt piles, and playing games. The community college is a great venue. It was too bad that the organizers had to deal with today’s windstorm. The podium signage literally blew away. Everything blew away. If it wasn’t for the muddy track, you wouldn’t have been able to follow the course. The mud was a major factor, so navigation was a non-issue!

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We had a lot of cleanup. We first washed our bikes at the race, but then we really washed them at home. We decided to not stay for the afternoon races. We were home by 3:00 P.M. and it took a few hours to clean all our gear. We need to do laundry too.

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Race Results (Day 1)

Race Results (Day 2)

2017 Northampton International Cyclocross

We just wrapped up a hard weekend of racing at the 27th annual Northampton International Cyclocross in Massachusetts. This was the second back to back race weekend in the row. This was the second round of the Vittoria Northeast Cyclocross Series. The third round is next weekend, another double race weekend at the Supercross Cup in Rockland County, New York.

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Day 1

We drove up early in the morning to get to the Junior Boys and Girls 9-14 year old race. They were the second race of the day. Originally scheduled for 8:45 A.M., all of the races were pushed back 30  minutes because of the frigid temperatures. That helped us out because we drove from Bolton. It also helped the course soften up, a bit. Even still, the kids were frozen solid after 30 minutes on the Look Park course.

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The Team Horst Junior Squad was well represented. In addition to our son, Shepard, the field included Sean Rourke, Boden, Chenail, and Cole Ricardi. All of the boys had good races on the fast course.

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In the Masters 50+ race later in the morning, Team Horst Sports was represented by Dave Geissert, Keith Enderle, and Tom Ricardi. All three men rode strongly in the field of talented veteran racers.

I did the Masters 40+ race, which was combined with the 15-18 year old Juniors. This made for a very strong field. It was one of the most talented line-ups of the year. I had a good race, though it could have been better. I felt strong for a Saturday race, and after a good start, I pushed really hard. I was so close to breaking the Top 20, but couldn’t close the gap to a group of six riders who took places 15-21. I was pushing so hard on the last lap and felt like I was going to close the gap.

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I had attacked fellow Master Brian Girard and Junior Tommy Servetas and gotten a nice gap. It looked like I had a chance at getting on to the back of the group that was up ahead. I was counting the seconds and the gap to the last rider was between five and eight seconds. However, when I came into the fast twisty ball field section that had some muddy corners, I was definitely at my limit. I was taking a sharp right hand turn in the mud and cut it too close. My right shift/brake lever hooked a course stake and it jerked my handlebars to the right, which swept out my front wheel and sent me sliding in the mud. I had untangle my bike from the course tape, and get going again.

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In the process, Brian and Tommy shot past me. I worked hard for the rest of the lap to catch back up to them. There was no chance that we would catch the group in front of us, so I focused on staying with them. After I reconnected with Brian and Tommy, I went to the front and pulled them along. In the wide open field section that led to the finish, Tommy went past me and I grabbed his wheel to stay out of the wind. He led me into the last corner and then I came around him. It looked like I was going to take the sprint from them, but I didn’t shift up into a hard enough gear and Brian came up on my right and pipped me on the line. It was a photo finish. I was disappointed in my crash and then bummed about getting beat on the line, but 23rd was still a fantastic result.

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I was joined in the 40+ race by teammates Art Roti, Wade Summers, John Meyerle, Andris Skulte, and Brett Chenail. They all had fun on the classic course. We all went for a cool down on the rail trail and exchanged stories about our race. Afterwards, we spent the afternoon watching the rest of the races, including the kids race. Horst Engineering had two tents in the Race Expo and we met a lot of Cross Spikes™ customers.

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There was some great racing in the Elite Women and Elite Men’s races. The Juniors explored every corner of Look Park. Afterwards, several of us went to dinner in Northampton, before retiring for the night. Debbie, the kids, and I stayed at a local motel, which saved us the drive back to Bolton and set us up for a short commute this morning.

Day 2

Sunday was quite a bit warmer than Saturday. It was still a lot colder than it has been this fall, but it was better than yesterday. The race schedule was not altered, so the Cub Juniors went off at the scheduled 8:45 A.M. The course was reversed for Sunday’s races and it had a few more technical features, including a steeper run-up and a very steep (and gnarly) descent.

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Sean, Shepard, and Boden had good races. They were joined in the Junior 9-14 year old race by Team Horst Junior Squad members Lars Roti, Owen Lezon, and Ethan Lezon; who didn’t race on Saturday, but came out to battle on Sunday. The kids did great. It’s so much fun to watch them having fun before, during, and after the races. Look Park is such a great venue.

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Only Dave and Keith raced the 50+ race for us on Sunday. They improved on their Saturday results. Art, Wade, John, Brett, and I returned to do the 40+/15-18 Juniors on Sunday. I had a terrible start. 50 meters after the whistle blew, in an all out sprint, I “blew out” of both pedals. I’m not sure what happened, but I unclipped from both simultaneously, which resulted in my falling to my top tube. I nearly lost control of my bike, and came to a dead stop before getting my feet back on my pedals.

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More than 20 riders got past me, which was a real bummer. I lost more ground throughout the first lap as I pushed to make up ground. My heart rate skyrocketed and I was “all over my bike,” which means that I was not handling it well. Several other times, I was forced to get off my bike and navigate around downed riders. Being at the back of the field is a real disadvantage. I could have quit, and thought about it for a split second, before reminding myself that this is how some races go. I had an opportunity to recover from a bad start and still have a good race.

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Art had a strong start, so I marked him for most of the first lap, as I picked off one rider after another. Eventually, I settled down, got my heart rate under control, and started moving up through the field. Things opened up a bit more for me on lap two and I put on a huge charge, eventually passing another 15 riders between laps two and four. One of those riders was my friend and “nemesis,” Stan Lezon, who I always race hard. I was definitely exhausted from all of the effort, and nearly got into the top 30 with two laps to go, but on the steep technical descent, I took a bad line, grabbed too much brake, and went “cartwheeling” down the hill. I got some applause from spectators and compliments from Sean Goguen and Jaymz Lipinski, the two Junior riders who I was battling with.

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I had just passed Sean and Jaymz and was ready to put on one more charge, but the crash set me back. I had to work hard just to get back to them and I never made it. I stayed in front of the group behind me, but over the last half lap, I spent way too much time in the wind on my own. I didn’t get caught, and ended up 33rd, 10 spots behind yesterday. Tommy and Brian, my two foes from Saturday finished 17th and 25th respectively, so I was disappointed with my result, but still happy that I didn’t quit and made up a lot of ground after my awful start. What could have been!

I’ll get another shot at a clean race next weekend in New York. We hung out for most of the afternoon. It warmed up a bit under a strong (for November) sun. My Dad drove up to say hello, which was pretty cool. We had more Cross Spikes™  customers come by the tent. It took a while to pack everything up, but we were on the road by 3:00 P.M. This race deserves the attention it gets as the longest continuously running event in New England. Adam Myserson, Alec Donahue, J.D. Bilodeau, and all of their volunteers and crew hosted another excellent event.

The muddy course left me with a muddy bike, so when we got home tonight, Shepard and I cleaned our bikes. It’s always nice to go to bed knowing that you have a clean bike.

Race Results (Day 1)

Race Results (Day 2)

2017 Newtown Cyclocross p/b the CCAP and Team 26

Today’s Newtown Cyclocross p/b the CCAP and Team 26 was total radness. The new course at the Second Company Horse Guard Stables was short, but excellent. If they add a few more turns, this track will be even better. Just watch out for the horse poop!

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We had an awesome contingent from Team Horst Sports and the Team Horst Junior Squad. Since the race was co-promoted by The Connecticut Cycling Advancement Program (CCAP), there was a fantastic junior racer turnout. CCAP kids raced “free.” CCAP is an organization whose goal is to improve the lives of Connecticut’s youth and young adults through the sport of cycling. With the help of more experienced riders, the CCAP supports young people in cycling from our state’s high schools all the way to the top of the sport.

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Team 26 is another important part of this race. The team is a group of cyclists affected by the tragedy at Sandy Hook School who support common sense gun safety legislation. They inspired the Nation with their courageous ride from the Sandy Hook School to Washington D.C.

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In prior years, the race was held across the street at Fairfield Hills, but race promoter Monte Frank told me that the horse farm is the preferred venue for the future. I liked the course. “Undulating” would be a good description. It was also grassy, which in the constant drizzle, became a very challenging surface to navigate. I tasted a bit of that grass in my first head first slide on lap one of the Masters 40+ race.

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Once again, I had a super battle with my Bolton neighbor, Stan Lezon. I think he has 8 inches on me (height wise), but we are evenly matched when it comes to cyclocross. Yesterday’s battle at the Cheshire Cross was another classic in our long running series, and I came out on top. Today, he took advantage of my first lap fall, and held the gap to the finish. I nearly closed the gap with three laps to go, getting up to his rear wheel, only to see my chances go away with another fall on a hairpin turn. He pulled away again. I spent the last three laps chasing furiously and was wishing for one more lap because I was gaining on him. The race ended up short at 39 minutes, but after the first of six double race weekends over the next six weeks, I’m not complaining. I have to nurse my nose back to health!

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I wasn’t the only one to suffer a mishap. Joe Kubisek, was in the top three when he rolled his rear tire. I actually made a tire mistake today. I warmed up with my TUFO Flexus Cubus tires with are for muddy course. It wasn’t raining and I felt they were slow in the grass, so I switched to my TUFO Flexus Primus tires and I paid a steep price. They are OK in mud, but when the rain intensified, the course became treacherous and I was wishing for more grip. I ran relatively low pressure around 26 psi, but still had trouble. Thankfully, I didn’t have the problems that Joe had. I feel bad for him, but I’ve had my fair share of mechanical trouble this season. Hopefully that is behind me.

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Eneas Freyre took the win, just like yesterday. Travis Burleson made amends for yesterday’s crash, and took the second step on the podium in front of Stan. I ended up 4th. My teammates Wade Summers, Art Roti, and John Meyerle all had good races on a course that favored bike handlers. In the Masters 50+ race, Mike Wonderly was 2nd, just like yesterday. He was in the lead when he caught me (they started one minute behind us), but he bobbled and crashed, which allowed another rider to sneak past him. Mike is an amazing bike handler, so this course was made for him. I followed him until he crashed and marveled at his skills. I even noted to Wade as we chased that we needed to follow Mike’s lead. He is so good at turning his bike in slippery corners. Tom Ricardi also raced the 50+ and was strong. Even Tim Rourke got into the fun, racing in the Men’s 4/5 event.

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Shepard and the boys on the Team Horst Junior Squad had a blast. He was joined in the 9-12 year old race by Boden, Lars, Owen, and Ethan. In the 13-16 year old race, Cole and Sean represented the team.

 

The CT Series of Cross pauses until the day after Thanksgiving when we head to March Farms Cyclo Madness in the Litchfield Hills. Next week, is a big New England race, the Verge Northampton International Cyclocross. This is a classic and an A race for me. It is part of the Vittoria Northeast Cyclocross Series

Race Results

2017 Cheshire Cross

Yesterday was the Cheshire Cross, which has become a favorite race. The course is very challenging with a tricky woods section that includes lots of singletrack, sharp rocks, and roots. There is also a sizable hill, called Heckle Hill, which I like.

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I had a good race and a fun day with the family, but still left the event frustrated because of how the Junior 9-12 race went. I’ll start with the frustrating part of the day. The Juniors started at 10:00 A.M. and the race was advertised (on BikeReg) as 20 minutes, but there was a note that said, “All riders will finish in 20 minutes or less.” In my mind, that is a contradiction. The way cyclocross should work, is that the lead rider should finish in the targeted time for the field. The riders that follow take longer.

So, it’s typical for a Masters 40+ race to be advertised as 45 minutes. After two full laps, the officials calculate the average lap time and then estimate how many laps there are to go. The next time around, you are given a lap card countdown. Today, I finished in just under 50 minutes, and I was a few minutes behind the winner. We completed seven laps. It’s important to note that the start was about a 1/4 mile behind the finish line, so the first lap was bound to be longer.

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Then, prior to the start of the Junior’s race, when the head official was giving instructions, he said that anyone finishing the first lap in more than 10 minutes would be pulled. I gather that he was merely reiterating what the promoter had decided, and what had been posted on the Internet. He added that they would be scored according to their place and that their points would count towards the series. I heard this, but I didn’t think much about it at the time. With all of the noise and chaos of getting our kids ready to go, it never dawned on me that this would affect EVERY one of the riders on the Team Horst Junior Squad. Boden, Shepard, and Lars have all been finishing in the top 15 of CT Series of Cross races, so I just assumed they would make it two laps. Owen and Ethan are the youngest boys on the team, and they have been lapped by older riders on short courses, so I knew that this rule might impact them.

There were more than 35 girls and boys on the start line, which is awesome. The officials didn’t do a good job lining them up and there was a bit of a crush (overlapped wheels), which resulted in a start line crash. Still, most of the riders got off the line cleanly and it was a fast beginning to what turned out to be a short race. We watched the boys on several parts of the course before we rushed to the finish area to cheer them at the start of their second lap. Boden was somewhere around 9th place when he came through and the official told him to stop. He missed the 10 minute cut-off by 20 seconds or so. I wasn’t paying attention to the time, and there was no clock, so this caught me by surprise. After Boden finished and after I realized what was happening, I yelled to Shep to sprint because he was with two other riders, but I didn’t get the word to him in time and their positions didn’t change in the final 50 feet. Shepard was about 15 seconds behind Boden and ended up a few places back. He was also told to stop, which brought a mix of anger and tears, before he calmed down.

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All of the boys coming through the finish at around this time were furious. I don’t think they heard the announcement at the start, and even if they did, they didn’t understand. Every other race this season has been two or three laps and 20-30 minutes, which gives them time to ride and improve their cyclocross skills. I shared my frustration with the official, arguing a bit, but eventually I walked away. I didn’t want to be “that parent” yapping at the referee, and like the official said, he was just following the promoter’s instructions. It just made no sense to let eight riders through and then stop 30 other riders after one lap of this course.

10 minutes was an arbitrary number to choose and shouldn’t be considered “half of the race.” The first lap is always longer with the finish line 1/4 mile back, congestion, and the crash. Only 8 riders were allowed to continue for a second lap. That’s a joke, which gave riders in the 9th through 15th spots no chance of making up time on a faster second lap. Some parents drove two hours to the race and they were more mad than I was. These kids are the future of our sport and we need to let them ride more than 10 minutes. Every kid should have gotten to do two laps, regardless of their speed and regardless of what the BikeReg page said. I bet most of those parents didn’t even see the “fine print.”

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Despite the announcement at the start, most riders had no idea they would be pulled after one lap. They don’t wear watches or even pay attention to their pace. And if they did, they don’t know how to pace themselves. That’s why they are Cub Juniors! They are LEARNING how to do cyclocross and you can’t learn in 10 minutes. The race organizers, who are good volunteers and deserve support for a grassroots race, had so many other options. The Men’s 4/5 race ran long. The Masters races ran long. Later in the day, there were gaps between the races. It seemed like all the morning events were crammed together so tightly. I just don’t understand their position on this Junior 9-12 field. To be fair, a few other races have advertised one lap races and the parents have successfully petitioned to get at least two laps. Most of them also didn’t have any time to pre-ride the course because the 4/5 race ran so long. That meant that they were seeing the course for the first time on their first and only lap, which is another reason why first laps are often always slower than the remaining laps. One other option that race organizers have is to shorten the lap for the youngest Junior riders. It would have been easy to chop off a section or two of the course without much effort. A shorter lap would have been everyone a chance to at least do it twice. As it turns out, some of the adult riders in later races were riding NO faster than the Juniors who got pulled in the 10-12 minute mark.

I’m sure another important factor for parents is the cost of doing this sport. Between the gear, the travel, and the entry fees, it’s a big investment. One lap races are a very low return on investment. Four Livingston Family members raced today, so we were traveling to Cheshire anyway, but if you drove all that way just for just one race, I totally understand why you felt gypped. I think I said enough about this. It was frustrating for sure, and you can count on me and other parents to make sure that at the start of tomorrow’s Newtown Cyclocross, that we are clear about the rules. Tomorrow, I hope, and expect the kids get to ride at least two laps.

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Anyway, the rest of the day went better. My race, the Masters 40+ started a minute in front of the Masters 50+ and a few minutes in front of the Masters 60+. That made for a crowded course, but these are the same guys I race with every weekend, and we know how to ride with each other. The congestion is just part of cyclocross. We were catching some of the 60+ riders on the second lap. Knowing how to pass cleanly is an important skill and all of them were courteous. I did my best to call out what side I was going to pass on.

Within my race, there were some fun battles. It was unfortunate (for him) that the leader, David Hildebrand, punctured a little past the halfway point. That moved me up a spot. Then, Travis Burleson, who was one group in front of me, crashed on a technical descent. I came upon him just after he went down in the woods. He was fussing with his chain, trying to get it back on. I picked up another spot at his expense. That left four guys in front of my group, which included Stan Lezon, Laurence Merling, Joe Rodrigues, and at least one other rider who I didn’t know.

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I thought I was the strongest guy in the group, but didn’t want to wait for a sprint, so I didn’t show my cards until two to go. I pushed the pace in the first five laps, but the gap to the group in front of us was too big to get across without being chased by the group I was in. Late in the race, it was best for me to race smartly and at least finish in front of the guys I was with. I moved to the front after the last big descent on the penultimate lap and then attacked right after the barriers as we headed towards the upper field. I hammered through those hairpin turns, extending my gap. I held my gap, which was 5-10 seconds, through the start finish and into the woods. I rode the final climb of Heckle Hill cleanly, and kept my gap all the way to the finish. Each lap was 1.4 miles long.

The last time up Heckle Hill, I was within striking distance of third (Keith Gauvin) and fourth (Joe Kubisek) place. I got close, but not close enough. They held me off and I ended up fifth. The officials had a hard time with the results, which was another frustration. They were counting by hand, and with the mixed fields and all of the lapped riders, it was very difficult. I hate to say it, but for a $35 race, you really need to have some sort of timing and scoring system. A camera system costs money, but is necessary. Even chip timing would have worked today. Using our own GPS’s and Strava would at least capture the correct order and eliminate the risk of counting lapped riders. Every 5K road race with comparable registration fees, has chip timing. The results are usually flawless and they are published immediately. The mess that the officials were dealing with was reminiscent of the road bike races I did back in the early 1990’s where after the finish, there was always a scrum with every rider lobbying for his position. In 2017, every cyclocross race deserves to have good timing and scoring. Technology helps.

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Dahlia did the kids race, which was fun to watch. She had a good ride and got to stand on the podium. I’m looking forward to 2019, when she will be ready to compete in Cub Juniors. We got to see our cousin, Lucas Smallidge, race the Men’s 3/4 race. He had a great battle for second place with another rider and unleashed a powerful sprint at the finish to secure second. It was great to see him. He is in his second year at UCONN, so I hope to meet up with him for a ride. Debbie did the Women’s 4/5 race, which started with the Women’s 1/2/3 race. She was the only woman on a mountain bike, but she still had fun. She wasn’t last and learned a bit more about cyclocross. Hopefully she does another race and continues to improve. I bet that in 2018, she gets a cross bike.

I’m still a fan of Cheshire Cross, and thank the volunteers, but I hope that they iron out the issues next time.

Race Results (will be posted when online)


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