This evening, it was bittersweet for me to put away all of my cyclocross gear. The season came to a satisfying end at today’s Elm City Cross in New Haven, Connecticut. This was the final race in the CT Series of Cross. I’ve seen social media posts from many of my friends from the New England cyclocross community, and they share my sentiment about the season coming to a close. There are a couple more races (late additions to the calendar) and some folks are heading south in January for the USA National Championships, but I’m going to end this sporting year on a high note.
I did seven of the eight CT Series races. This is the best little race series around, so thank you to all of the individual Race Directors, organizers, officials, sponsors, and volunteers. Thank you to all my fellow racers, particularly in the super-competitive 40+ field. Hats off to each of you for the battles during the four race weekends spread out over the last four months. The unseasonably warm fall weather was a big factor in making this season even more fun. I don’t mind mud, and we had a little, but we didn’t do any races in extreme cold or moisture. Conditions were just fine with me. Like the weather for yesterday’s March Farm CycloMadness, today was a very warm day. The venue at Edgewood Park in urban New Haven was really good. I had never been there, and it is a hidden gem. A real highlight was that it was super kid friendly (like March Farm), but in a totally different way. The skate park was really cool and the course went straight through it. It provided my son and his friends with hours of enjoyment. We went from the rural Litchfield Hills yesterday to the City of New Haven today.
After missing all of the 2014 cyclocross season with a broken shoulder (fractured scapula) suffered in a road crash on Labor Day Weekend last year, I was pumped to race a full season in 2015. Throughout the fall, I was knocking on the door of an age group podium in the smaller races, but came up short on several occasions. I blew several sprints, but was happy to be racing near the front, and my form was building. This weekend, I peaked and it felt good. I wasn’t first yesterday or today, but in my little groups, I was able to cover every attack, and it seemed like I could close any gap. I proved that today, when late in the race, my group of three got into lapped traffic. I was able to bide my time, get around the slower riders, and then bridge back up. Today, those riders were my Team Horst Sports mate, Wade Summers, and Robert Marcinko. We had a fierce battle in the last two laps. Wade and I worked together the entire race. He is coming on strong after being sidelined for a month with his own shoulder injury. Coming in to today’s race, I was third in the series points, trailing Chris Peck and Laurence Merling of the rival Expo Wheelman. Chris moved to California mid-season and fell short of the mandatory five races to qualify for the overall points. Right behind me was Joe Kubisek, yesterday’s winner. He was today’s favorite, and he lived up to the billing, beating Tim Ratta in a sprint, which nailed down the win for the series.
I had to pick up three spots on Laurence, which wasn’t easy. By the end of the first lap, Joe and Tim had separated themselves from the rest of us. Wade, Laurence, and I were chasing, with Laurence applying most of the pressure in the early going. I had a good start, but it took me a few laps to warm up. When I did, I took my turn applying the pressure. Wade pitched in, and we eventually gapped Laurence. We were hammering up the gravel climb in our little rings, and then bombing the descent. Wade and I rode very clean races. I skidded through several corners thanks to the abundant acorns and the loose gravel on parts of the course, but I was in control the whole time.
With 1.5 laps to go, Wade and I were slowed by several riders from the 50+ and 60+ fields. They started two and four minutes behind us respectively, so we were lapping them. When we got stuck behind them on some single track, Robert was able to close the gap, which surprised us a bit. We stayed together until the last lap, when Robert was very aggressive. He drove the pace from the front and attacked us on several occasions. Wade chased him hard and I followed. I didn’t plan to wait for a sprint, but I had no choice. I couldn’t close the gap. Robert was riding on the hairy edge, and I was banking on him making a mistake. That mistake came with three turns to go, and in the finish line in sight. He cut hard left, slid on the acorns, and clipped a tree with his shoulder and face. That sent him to the ground. I didn’t quite see if he came completely off of his bike. Wade was right behind him and I was about three seconds back. I seized the opportunity and jumped to get to Wade’s wheel. We took the last two turns off the grass and on to the asphalt finishing stretch. Robert was back on his bike quickly, but we had the advantage and it was a fast sprint to the finish. I ended up first in our group and third on the day. Wade followed, and then came Robert. Laurence came in next. The three spot spread gave me the points I needed to tie him for the series with today’s final the tiebreaker. It was good clean racing right until the end, and it was a satisfying conclusion to the season.
I never got my much training in this year, and all of my races have been short, but all of those races were intense interval sessions, which is very effective for me. This fall, I did get in some efficient workouts. Debbie’s Coach, Al Lyman, tailored a Pursuit Athletic Performance plan with a cross-specific version for me, and it was effective. I had a goal of racing 15 cyclocross races, and ended up doing 16. The eight Winding Trails Triathlon Series races that I did in July and August were perfect training because they were all 48-52 minutes long, which is the same as a cross race. I’ll probably run a couple of road races before the year is out, but all of my cyclocross, triathlon, trail running, road running, and mountain bike races have totaled 40 for the year to date. That’s awesome coming off a year when I had both a broken foot and a broken shoulder. I couldn’t ask for more given all of my family, work, and non-profit commitments. I also spend a lot of energy and time supporting Debbie with her trail running, ultrarunning, and triathlon; and we had some amazing race adventures together. She “shut it down” after September’s ULTRA-TRAIL Mt. FUJI, which gave me the opportunity to do a full cross campaign.
The Horst Engineering Cycling Team has had a fantastic cyclocross season, and our Horst Spikes have been a real hit. The successful sales have made cross even more fun. Pat Cunningham, my podium partner from yesterday’s race, closed out his CT Series with a second place finish today, which netted him the overall title. My colleague and teammate, Arthur Roti, crashed out of today’s race, but reports are that it was in dramatic fashion, which even brought a smile to Art’s face. Andris Skulte and Randall Dutton both raced the 4/5 race today. We were even visited by our roadie friends, Max Accaputo, Erik Emanuel, Trent Sullivan, and A. Zane Wenzel; who rode down to watch some of the races.
Today, there was another huge Juniors race. I’m already looking forward to the 2016 cyclocross season when our son, Shepard, is ready to graduate from the kid’s race to Juniors. Connecticut has one of the best kids cyclocross communities in the country. The CCAP deserves a lot of credit for that. Now, I just need to carry this form through the winter.
Race Results (will be posted when online)