Wow, what a race! Today, we had true New England cyclocross conditions at the Elm City CX in New Haven’s Edgewood Park. After yesterday’s white out, we the temperature warmed overnight, and we were rewarded with an absolute mud and slushfest at today’s race.
It was snowy. It was icy. It was wet. It was slippery. It was dirty. It was challenging. It was so much fun!
I know I have good legs, but I wasn’t able to use them to the best of my ability because of the technical nature of the course. The snow turned to mush and it went from white to brown after the first few races of the day.
The Team Horst Sports Cub Juniors were out in force today. Cole, Shepard and Sean, who both raced yesterday at March Farms, were joined by Lars and Nate. They started a bit late, around 10:00 A.M. By then, the Category 4/5 Men had turned the course to mush. As the temperature continued to climb, peaking around 53 degrees Fahrenheit, the course got softer and muddier as deep ruts were worn into the ground.
Several parts of the course had hot pockets of air. Other sections, there were cold pockets. It was weird. You would ride into the woods and hit a wall of warmth, which would instantly fog your glasses. Speaking of fog, it was hanging low over all of New Haven as the moisture from the cold ground evaporated.
After the deep freeze two days ago, then the snow, and now the unseasonably warmth today, we are headed for more arctic cold tonight. By the early afternoon, the weather was changing again. The wind started to blow and the temperature, which had risen so rapidly, was already starting to drop.
This sort of changeable weather is sort of normal for Connecticut, and it made for awesome cyclocross conditions. So, the Cub Juniors did really well. Sean scored 4th place again, securing a high-ranking in the CT Series of CX, since this was the final race.
We have a three-week break from cross. This was the last regular season race, and in any other year, it would be the last race of the season, at least in our region. Technically, it is the last race of the year, but not the last race of the season. In three weeks, we will welcome nearly 2,000 racers to compete in the USA Cycling Cyclocross National Championships at Riverside Park in Hartford.
There was a lot more riding today. Yesterday, the snow was dry and deep. Running in it was like running in sand. Today, the snow was like mashed potatoes. It stuck to your pedals, your wheels, and especially to your shoes.
I had a solid race, but couldn’t open it up as much as I would have liked. I’ve gotten better at these technical races, but I’m still not the best when the traction is as poor as it was today. I feel like I had something left when I finished, but I couldn’t go any faster.
For the first few laps, I was alone chasing the three leaders (Garth Schwellenbach, Brian Girard, and Joe Kubisek), but then I was joined by several other riders. Stan Lezon, who is one of my Bolton neighbors, has quickly become my new “nemesis.” We have been battling all season long. He has gotten stronger and we have had some good tactical races, trading positions on several occasions. Yesterday, he finished second, and I was third.
He was in the group that bridged up to me. My teammates, Wade Summers and Art Roti, were also at the tail end of the group. Karel Citroen and John Meyerle were also in the mix. I kept the pressure on and eventually the group blew apart. I know that several of those guys went down, a few of them multiple times. I was able to stay upright. Maybe I wasn’t pushing hard enough? Either way, I had my share of close calls. I slammed my right shoulder on a tree when I slid out in a corner, but I didn’t crash.
As the race went on, the course got even more slippery. Some sections, including the tricky descent were pretty dangerous. It was the kind of exciting riding that we love. The only drawback to a race like this is the damage it does to your gear. It takes time to clean all of your stuff, including your bikes, shoes, and clothing.
Stan and I changed places a few times with two to go. Then, we came into some lapped traffic. The 50+ riders had started a minute or two behind us. Stan got held up around a hairpin turn, so I dismounted, cut it hard on the inside, and ran past, taking the position. I didn’t hold it for long. He caught me and dropped the hammer. I closed the gap one more time, but then he was gone. He might have taken a few more risks and the gap grew.
The last time up the hill, Karel surged past me and we rubbed shoulders a bit, but I couldn’t hold his wheel and he got away. I was able to hold my spot and ended up 6th. Team Horst was also represented in the 50+ field with Matt Domnarski, Dave Geissert, Tom Ricardi, and Paul Nyberg all finishing in the top 15. It’s been a great season racing with all of these guys.
It’s sad for the Connecticut series to end, but we have Nats to look forward to. After that, there will be a long break from cross. Over the next few months, we will turn our attention to watching the big European elite races. There were two this weekend in Belgium. Yesterday, the top riders were at the Scheldecross, and today, at the UCI World Cup in Namur. It would be fun to see those top racers ride a course like Elm City. It would be fun to see how fast they really go. The crew from Amity Bike and the Laurel Bike Club did a great job with the race and deserve extra credit for putting on an event in such foul weather. Last year, the weather was spectacular. Today, it was spectacular in its own way. I heard several other riders proclaim that they are sad to see the season come to an end.
Race Results (will be posted when online)