2017 Mansfield Hollow Cyclocross

This past Saturday, I was back at the Mansfield Hollow Cyclocross for the 10th time since 1995. This race dates back farther than that. Race Director, Ron Manizza, is a longtime supporter of New England cyclocross, and he was promoting cross races in the 1980’s. The first few years that I did the race, back in the mid-1990’s, it was in December. I remember riding in cold rain, ice, and snow.

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This time, there was no snow. October cyclocross in New England in 2017 has been a hot and dusty affair. These aren’t my preferred conditions, but you take what you get. This race is now a family affair. The Team Horst Junior Squad was out in force. My son, Shepard, did the 9-12 year old Junior race. There was a total of 31 girls and boys in that race, which is awesome. There were 40 other Junior girls and boys between the ages of 13 and 18. The work of the Connecticut Cycling Advancement Program continues to pay dividends, especially at local CT Series of Cross events.

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I’ve been riding strong, but not executing well. I’ve had some frustrating mechanical problems, including at last week’s The Night Weasels Cometh, but that is part of the game. Saturday, I had good power, but fumbled several times. I never solved the steep hill. I tried to ride it, alternating the left and right lines, but it wasn’t working. I took a pedal to my right shin on one lap and it left a nice welt. I fell over two other times. By the last lap, I just decided to run it from the bottom, and even that wasn’t without incident.

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I struggled on some of the other dusty corners and had multiple “dabs.” Once I got out of synch and my heart rate spiked, it became a race of attrition. I held fifth spot for a while, had a good battle with Joe Rodrigues, Wade Summers, and Tim Ratta. We all swapped places in the last few laps, with Wade riding away from us as the race got longer. Joe was next, and Tim dropped back after a fast start. The Masters 50+ men started a few minutes after the 40’s, and the top guys were catching me by the end, which isn’t typical. I usually hold them off, but I was gassed. One of those fast Masters was teammate Mike Wonderly, who rode through the field to 2nd spot on the 50+ podium.

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The race was supposed to be 45 minutes, but there was an extra lap. The leaders did 55:38 and I crossed the line, exhausted, in 58:34. A three-minute gap in cross may not seem like a lot, but these were long laps, and it felt like an eternity. That put me back in 7th position. I’m going to use this week to rest up (actively) in advance of the Gran Prix of Gloucester. I haven’t done Gloucester (aka the New England World Championships) since 2007.  Over the last decade, it has frequently conflicted with the Vermont 50 on the last weekend of September. However, the cyclocross calendar got a makeover, and this A+ race is now in October.

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The volunteers, many from Thread City Cyclers, did a good job, and we appreciate the hard work that goes into putting on an event. I would have preferred a shorter lap. The start was in a new spot, but I like the old spot that gave you more open riding before funneling into the single track. This race course has always been “old school,” which is fine with me. There were three sets of barriers, plus the infamous telephone pole, which we took in the opposite direction this year. I chose to run it. The “sand pit” was also unrideable. So, with the steep hill, four dismounts, and the sand, I was off my bike a minimum of six times per lap, which is a lot. It was painful, but in an enjoyable kind of way.

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Between the Team Horst Junior Squad and our Masters racers, we had 15 riders participate in the event. That’s a great showing and indicates our support for this classic. In every category, the 2nd place finisher received a set of donated Horst Engineering Cross Spikes. Cross Spikes (I used Medium’s) helped in the sand and on the steep run-up, but we could still use some rain in New England to add some moisture to our “desert-like” landscape.

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Shepard and I had no time to linger after the race. It was the start of a busy weekend, and we had to get out of there, even before results were posted. Congratulations to all of the riders. I’ve seen some great photos from the race, including those by Steven Yau. When the next work week comes around, it’s always fun to look back on the prior weekend’s adventures. These images help carry you forward to the next weekend’s races. Cyclocross season is flying by; enjoy it while it lasts!

Race Results

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