Today, I drove to Keene, New Hampshire for the 2nd annual Keene PumpkinCross at Surry Mountain Lake State Park. For many years in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, the Horst Engineering Cycling Team joined with Team Frank to promote the Frank-N-Horst Cyclocross in Keene. Earlier this week, when registering for the Cyclesmart International, I decided to register for PumpkinCross.
I traveled solo today. My family had a busy weekend and I couldn’t convince anyone to join me, so I drove solo while listening to the BBC, the Grateful Dead Channel, and mentally planning the work week ahead. My only teammate at the race was Andris Skulte, who happens to also be one of my colleagues at Horst Engineering. Andris’ in-law’s live near the race course, so it was an easy trip for his this morning. It was nice to see Andris and his wife, Kristen. It took me two hours to drive from Bolton, but I didn’t mind. I awoke to the coldest morning since last winter, with a temperature of 27 degrees Fahrenheit. Throughout New England today, we had very changeable weather with bright sun, puffy clouds, and then intermittent heavy snow showers. The air aloft was very cold.
The course at this Army Corps of Engineers property was really good. The foliage on along the lake was spectacular. The course had a mix of tight turns and straightaways where you could hammer. It was mostly flat, with a few sharp rises, and one stiff run-up on rough ground. There was a dismount over a large fallen tree, and another dismount over a set of barriers. The whole course could be ridden in the big ring, but I chose to ride the second of two deep sand sections in the little ring because you had to hang a left turn in the middle of the sand. The first sand section was a straightaway with a good line that you could hammer. The upper section of the course was more hillyand there was a bit of busted up asphalt and gravel. The grassy sections were slick at the start and there were some ruts in the turns, but overall, the surface was in good shape and you could take the corners fast.
In the 40+ race, I had a good start, but then I had a few bobbles during the rest of the first lap, including one in the second sand section that required me to clip out, but not dismount. I settled down on lap two, but let a gap go to the front group, that I never closed. That group included Keith Burgoyne, Matt Boobar, Craig Vettori, and Brian Whitcomb. It reshuffled, Keith ended up out front with Craig and Brian chasing. I’m not really sure how they sorted out their positions. Matt was chasing them with one or two riders, who eventually ended up behind me. I was chasing with Carl Ring (a fellow Team Seven Cycles rider) for a while before he dropped off the pace. With a lap and a half to go, Steve Arsenault, the winner of the 50+ race (which started right behind us), caught me and then bridged to Matt. I was just off the back of them on my own when I came through for the bell lap. I had a nice final lap and was able to catch them on the steep descent after the asphalt section at the top of the course.
I was gassed, but I hung in there on the potholed pavement before they gapped me again going into the grass chicane before the finish. I was proud of myself for not giving up because Steve pulled away, but Matt faded and I pipped him on the line with a big final kick and bike throw. We covered 9.5 miles in just over 42 minutes for a pretty high average speed for a cross race. This was a fun local race without a super strong field, but I was still happy with 4th. I was bummed to not get third, which would have paid some prize money. It would have been nice to cover or at least defray my $31 entry fee (plus http://www.bikereg.com fee). Cross races aren’t $15 like they were in the Frank-N-Horst days…
It was great to see so many old friends from New Hampshire, including Paul Rhodes, Chris Northcott, Kate Northcott, Chris Logan, and Jill Logan. The Northcott’s and Logan’s were very involved with our race when we hosted it in New Hampshire. I’ll see them all again the first Sunday in November at the West Hill Shop Cyclocross in Putney, Vermont, one of my favorite all time races.
My day took a turn for the worse when I realized that I lost my car keys out on the course. I had them in the back of my jacket. I figured that on my cool down lap, when I was taking pictures of the amazing venue, that they fell out of my pocket. Thankfully, that turned out to be the case. After bit of frantic searching, I got on the course after the finish of the 3/4 race and retraced my steps. I went to each spot where I stopped to take pictures, and sure enough, at my third stop, I found them. That as a huge sigh of relief, and my day was good again. It was cold, windy, and snowing lightly again, so I was happy to finally change out of my kit.
The West Point Cycling Team was at the race and I enjoyed chatting with the cadets. I told them that the West Point Criterium was one of my top-5 all-time favorite races. The campus course is spectacular with a steep descent, tight turns, and an uphill finish that even goes under a building. Seeing their trailer and vans brought back memories from my collegiate cycling days between 1991 and 1995. I wish we had collegiate cyclocross races back then; It was was only road and a little mountain.
I stopped for a snack in Brattleboro, before rejoining my family at a birthday party at Storrs Adventure Park, a ropes course not far from our house. It was a good day in New England.