We had a fantastic weekend of cyclocross racing in Massachusetts at the 25th annual Cycle-Smart Northampton International (NoHo) Cyclingnews.com has a nice overview of the race and its history from its early days when it was known as the UMASS Cyclocross. Like last weekend’s West Hill Shop Cyclocross in Putney, I’ve done NoHo/UMASS 12 times (years). I’ve actually done more races there because going back many years, it has been a two-race weekend and I’ve done the double at least four times.
Like Putney, I first raced this event back in 1995 in my first year of cyclocross racing. I raced UMASS five times when the event was held on the Amherst campus and have been back seven times over the years, to race the Cycle-Smart version of the race at Look Park in Northampton. Like Putney, it is one of my favorite events. For me, cyclocross season doesn’t really kick in until November and the first two weekends of this month have always been special because of Putney and NoHo. I missed them both in 2014 because of my broken shoulder, so I was really excited to be back this year.
Race Director, Adam Myerson, and his colleagues/friends/teammates/volunteers from Cycle-Smart Inc., Northampton Cycling Club, and JAM Fund put on a good show. This is the third largest cross race in New England behind Providence and Gloucester. Look Park is a great venue. It is a very fast course, which favors strong road cyclists who have time trial type power.
This year was unique for me because Horst Engineering got involved with the race as a sponsor for the very first time. For the past two years, we have supported Adam with our Horst Spikes cross spikes. We got to talking and agreed to sponsor the run-up, which is a rock strewn sandy slope that takes you from the grassy lower section of Look Park to the upper wooded section. Cross spikes are the ideal product sponsor for a course feature like this. We donated Horst Spikes for each category and participated in the Race Expo. It was a lot of fun for Team Horst Sports and we got great support from our team to man our booth and participate in the festivities.
Pat Cunningham, Matt Domnarski, Paul Nyberg, Wade Summers, Arthur Roti, Andris Skulte, and I raced Saturday and Sunday. We were joined on Saturday by Randall Dutton. Our “roadie” mates Erik Emanuele, Max Accaputo, Trent Sullivan, and A. Zane Wenzel helped us with the expo and Horst Spike sales. Arthur and I owe them a big “thank you” for pitching in. We had a blast with the event. In addition to our team, many other riders we support were at the event, including Cassie Maximenko, Ellen Noble, Kate Northcott, and Lizzy Gunsalus. It was great to see them along with so many other friends.
The weather was excellent both days. Yesterday, it was partly sunny and cool with a stiff breeze. Today, it was also cool, but the sky was blue and the sun was a bit warmer than yesterday. Thankfully, it wasn’t as windy. The conditions were ideal for cyclocross. We had some rain on Friday, so the course was damp yesterday morning, but by this afternoon it was dry and dusty.
Everyone on the team rode well against some of the best regional competition. I had two good races in the challenging Masters 35+/Juniors 15-18 field. I’m not a big fan of the combined Masters-Juniors races, but it makes for an extraordinarily fast race. Our pace is second only to the Elite Men. The challenge is that the race combines some of the most skilled Masters riders with the inexperienced, and generally poor bike handling, Juniors. The Juniors are like young colts. They are full of raw power and speed, but they lack the finesse required to ride clean lines around the tight turns and they often struggle with the technical features on the course. There is no point being frustrated; you just make the best of it, but I look forward to “aging up” next year when I can race with the Masters 45+/55+ men.
Both races were wicked hard. I definitely left it all out there and I’m pleased with how my cyclocross form is improving. Both days, I missed the opportunity to pick up several spots in the final 300 meters. Yesterday, we covered five laps, but the course was a bit quicker today and they had us do six. I was in a group of six, but didn’t have the kick at the finish and all five of my competitors beat me to the line. Drafting was critical for the long open stretches of the course. Today my laps were between 8:17 and 8:29 each and I averaged 14.9 miles per hour. Yesterday was only 0.1 mile per hour slower, so pretty much the same speed, which is fast for cyclocross. Today, I was in a group of three with another rider just ahead, but again, didn’t have the necessary kick, my right quad cramped in the final stretch, and I couldn’t improve my placing. Nevertheless, it was so much fun. The inter-race battles were excellent.
Normally, I would do my race, and then depart, but NoHo is an all day affair…and for two days in a row. We were there from early morning until the Elite Men finished at 4:00 P.M. on both days. There were food trucks, a beer tent, and lots of things to see and do. Look Park is very family friendly. It has multiple playgrounds, a zoo, and lots of places to ride and play. There was a kids race each day and attracted nearly 50 participants under the age of 10. The kids joined me both days and Debbie joined us today. Everyone had a lot of fun. We will all sleep well tonight.
This coming weekend, the Connecticut Series of CX continues with races five and six in Cheshire and Newtown. After a medium-sized production like NoHo, these little races will be a different experience, but I like them just the same.