2017 Elm City Cyclocross

This morning, we were back in New Haven’s Edgewood Park for the Elm City Cyclocross. The race was hosted by the gang from Amity Bike and was the finale of the CT Series of Cross. It doubled as the finals of the Connecticut Cycling Advancement Program (CCAP) Cyclocross Series.

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This is the third year that I’ve done Elm City and this course never fails to disappoint. We didn’t have the post-Nor’easter snow and mudfest like 2016, but we had enough snow and ice to make it challenging. Whereas last year’s post snowstorm race was wet and a mild, this year was frigid. We awoke to a morning temperature in the low teens (Fahrenheit) and it rose to the mid-20’s by the late morning. By early afternoon, the temperature had peaked around 30, and then it started to go down again.

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The Junior riders started at 9:30 A.M., and no one could blame them for having cold hands and feet. Unfortunately, not all of the 9-12 year old racers got to do two laps of the course. We are going to sort this out for 2018 because 10-14 minutes isn’t enough for these boys and girls. For all the preparation, travel, and investment, they deserve to do two laps (minimum) at every cross race in New England, and especially in Connecticut, where junior racing is championed.

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Boden, Shepard, and Lars were the Team Horst Junior Squad competitors in the Cub Juniors and then ended the season on a high note. Boden had a great race, finishing 4th, and Shepard cracked the Top 10 with his 9th place finish. In the 13-15 year old race, our riders were Cole and Sean. They both had strong rides on the technically demanding course.

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As usual, the Masters fields were fiercely competitive. The 40+, 50+, and 60+ riders were all on course at the same time. This track is narrower than most, so there were times when lapped traffic made it hard to pass. I heard my fair share of verbal battles, but everyone kept it civil. We all care about one thing, riding strong and being safe, but competitive spirits often result in “banter” especially when it includes the sayings, “rider back,” “on your left,” or “on your right.”

For the third race in a row, my legs were empty. My only explanation is that it is a long season and I need some rest. Training hard at this point of the year isn’t going make a difference, but I have to stay sharp for another month. I thought today would be the day that my legs would come around. I was motivated, but alas, they were weak.

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I had an OK start, but halfway through the first lap, Joe Kubisek and Brian Girard were already 20 seconds up the trail. I can’t match Joe’s power, but at several races this year, I was close to Brian. He does better on the technical tracks, and today’s snow, ice, and mud made for a challenge. I did the best I could. I ended up riding in third spot for most of the six lap race, occasionally trading a spot with another chasing rider, but I didn’t slip past fourth until the last lap.

There was a large group chasing me and on the narrow course, I was able to see them frequently. Despite pushing, I never got a gap, which was frustrating. Brian was way out of sight, but I kept pulling in an effort to stave off the guys that were trailing me. On the second to last time up the climb, Rob Stiles jumped me on the hill and I had no answer. I kept the gap manageable and figured I could close it down by the time we got to the short road section through the start/finish.

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I knew that my own teammates, Arthur Roti, and John Meyerle, were in the chase group because they were getting loud cheers. Both of them have come on strong late in the season and this may have been their best race of the season. As I chased Rob coming into the last lap, we hit some heavy lapped traffic. I got around a few guys, but a few more blocked me as I came on to the road.

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Once I got past them, there were two more to contend with and on an icy left hand turn, one of them laid it out on the ground. I had to stop to avoid ramming into him. I got off, and had to run around him, and in the chaos, one of the chasers jumped past me in pursuit of Rob. I had trouble clipping in after dismounting in the snow.

I was frustrated. In most any other race, I would have had no problem bridging to the guys in third and fourth, but today was different. I had nothing left and had to fight just to keep my own teammates at bay. In the end, that was cool that they were the ones chasing me. I figure that my effort helped drag them along to some of their best results of the year.

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John even made a move past me on the climb, which was really impressive. I got him back on the long stretch that led to the big descent. I held off John and Art in the windy final section and had to sprint giving it every last bit of effort to hold them off. We finished fifth, sixth, and seventh, but I was still disappointed that I squandered an opportunity for the podium.

John,, Art, and I were joined by Wade Summers, Andris Skulte, and Brett Chenail. We had a great showing in the 40’s. We had even better results in the 50’s, where Mike Wonderly took the win. This course is made for Mike and his skills. Tom Ricardi was also in the 50’s.

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After the race, I had two things that made me feel better. The first was lunch at Claire’s Corner Copia in downtown New Haven. Claire even stopped by our table to bus it and clean up. After 42 years in business, it’s great to see the founder out there doing the “dirty work.” I would expect nothing less. She welcomed us to her city and her cafe, and gave us a bunch of tips about the New Haven museums, but today wasn’t a day for museums. We needed to get home, if only to warm up.

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The second thing that made me feel better was a glass of SAP from Tree House Brewing Company. I stopped at Tree House on Friday evening during my nasty five-hour drive home from Sterling Machine. I assure you that the beer was worth the wait.

Thank you to the Elm City CX crew, the CCAP, and congratulations to all of my fellow riders for a fantastic 2017 CT Series of Cross.

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Race Results (will be posted when available)

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