2018 West Rock Superprestige MTB Finals

The West Rock Superprestige finals absolutely rocked. It was a full Team Horst Sports and family affair yesterday at West Rock Nature Center in Hamden, Connecticut.

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The event actually started with a 5K trail race, the first ever at this venue, which was great for Debbie and Dahlia. We got there in time for the 8:30 A.M. start so they could do the two lap (1.5 kilometers each) course.

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It was great to see some of our running friends at a mountain bike race. Like us, some of them are “blended” families and do both sports. Debbie was third woman finishing behind Kerry Arsenault, who was there with her partner (race timer Jerry Turk); and Grace Mattern. I shadowed Dahlia and ran with Rachel Mattern (Grace’s Mom), who were visiting with her family from Rochester, New York. We normally don’t see them until fall when the cyclocross season is in full swing, so it was fun to spend a summer day with them.

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Even Dahlia came home with swag, finishing second in her age group to Grace, who is a fine multisport athlete. There wasn’t a whole lot of under-18 females, which suited Dahlia just fine. The race organizers were very generous with their prizes. Grace’s Dad, Craig, and brother, Miles, finished on the podium in their mountain bike races too. Miles actually won the 9-12 year old boys race. Like us, they did scored some nice prizes.

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In that junior mountain bike race that Miles won, there were 32 boys and girls, which was a fantastic turnout. Shepard had his best ever race, finishing third, just behind Cade Fravel. They were several minutes behind Myles, but Cade and Shepard had a great battle. Shepard had a conservative start, but moved up from 8th to 3rd, and was challenging Cade by the end of the five lap race. Both boys wouldn’t give an inch and they hammered the final lap with Cade posting a 10 second advantage. It was fun to watch. They were toast at the finish, but it was a breakthrough race, at least for Shepard. I think he learned how to push past the pain point.

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We had several other CCAP Team Horst Junior Squad racers compete today. In the 9-12 field, Shepard was joined by Boden Chenail and Lars Roti. In the 13-14, Sean Rourke took second. He was joined in the field by Weston Winbourne, and by his sister, Molly Rourke, who was second place amongst the girls. In addition to the Team Horst Junior Squad kids, there were many other kids who are indirectly related to us including members of the Meyerle and Summers families. Their children are on different CCAP squads, but their parents are affiliated with Team Horst. They are all family to us!

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I did the Men’s A race at noon and was in the singlespeed category. We had a blistering fast start on the technical West Rock course. My first lap was kind of bumpy, but I settled in and eventually took the lead amongst the singlespeeders. The race was 10 laps, which was solid for the 1.2 mile short track loop. By the middle of the day, the temperature had risen to the high 80’s under a blazing hot sun, but fortunately, we were mostly in the shade on the heavily wooded course.

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I knew I was being tailed, and with three to go, one of my West Rock rivals, Marty Waters, made his bid, shooting past me on the most technical section of the course. There was a brutal rock garden and my Seven Sola SL is rigid, a distinct disadvantage on this section. At times, I felt like a pinball. He got a gap, but I kept him in sight. Over the next two laps, I closed in on the climbs, only to see him pull away on the rocky and rooty sections of the course. Still, I felt like I had managed my effort and had something left in the tank.

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In the second half of the second to last lap, Anthony Vecca caught us and moved to the front of our three-man group. I had a rough penultimate lap, bobbling several times and I even had to get off and push through the worst section of rocks when my wheel got jerked sideways, forcing me to lose all my momentum. Anthony took off and I wasn’t sure if we were going to stick with him, but Marty kept contact as I dangled off the back of the group. Once again, I closed down the gap on the final climb and almost made it back up to them by the start finish with one to go. We started the final lap pretty much all together.

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The first half of each lap was more technical, so I let it all hang out in an effort to keep them close, knowing that if I could, once we got to the more hilly second half of the loop, I had a shot at the win. When we got to a section where there were a series of three logs, I went left, and Marty went right. I cleared the final large log cleanly while he was slow to get over it. I heard him moan a bit as I accelerated away, and I thought I might have broken him.

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Anthony was only a handful of seconds up on me, but I thought that he also may have played his cards too soon. We crossed the small stream and then hit the long leg burning wooded climb that led to the grass climb before the big descent. I felt like this was the spot to make my move, so I came up on his left, called out the pass, and just buried myself to get by him. He yielded, which gave me confidence, but I still figured he would grab my wheel and hang on. This was the only lap I opted to not take a sip from my bottle. There were only two or three spots on the course where you could even get your bottle out of your cage, and this was one of them. I didn’t want to take the chance at a bobble and just pedaled as fast as I could on the gradual incline.

I never looked back, but pushed extremely hard all the way to the hairpin left at the top of the descent. We were hitting 30 miles per hour on this downhill. I wasn’t brave enough to stay off the brakes completely, and needed to tap them a few times towards the bottom where the trail dumped out into a field. There was one more steep descent and then a winding section through the woods with four tough wood bridges to navigate before the final climb.

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I thought I heard Anthony behind me, but still never looked. At this point, I didn’t know that we had cracked Marty, so I kept pushing. The big climb had a sharp left and then another sharp left before the final hairpin right, which was all gravel. All of the turns were loose dirt and it was hard to keep traction, especially while pushing such a big gear (singlespeeders have only one). I had to really stand and grind it out, but in each of the turns, I gave it my all, hoping to distance my rivals. I got to the crest of the hill as it turned right into the top of the grassy field by the team tents, and just hammered.

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I came through the final hairpin left hand turn, which had some sneaky gravel on it, and on to some broken pavement just before the finish line. I punched it one final time, sensing that I had to keep on the gas. That last effort was crucial because Anthony was right on my wheel, and I ended up crossing the finish line with less than a bike length lead. Our timing chips said we were separated by 1.00 seconds after 64 minutes of racing.

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We were 7th and 8th overall. Six guys with gears were in front of us. We had dropped Marty on the last climb, but he finished a valiant third. I thanked them both for the hard racing. It really was a great battle. With more thanย 1,200 feet of climbing in just under 11 miles of racing, this is a tough race. My heart rate averaged 174 beats per minutes, which is consistent with the hardest of my 45+ minute cyclocross races, but I had a peak heart rate of 196, which is 12 beats higher than I’ve seen in many years. 184 was the highest recorded rate in the 2017 cyclocross season. I don’t know if that is a good or bad sign, but that figure was posted right at the finish line, which highlights how hard that last lap was.

For my efforts, I was rewarded with the prestige of the top step of the podium, a six-pack of Yard Party Pale Ale, $25 (to reimburse a portion of my entry fee), and a Hammer products shaker bottle. That is more than enough swag to make a Masters racer very happy. I would have sprinted for the glory alone!

There were several other Team Horst Sports mate in the A race, including John Meyerle, Brett Chenail, Art Roti, and Joseph Dickerson.ย Tim Rourke (Sean and Molly’s Dad) won the Masters B Race.

There were many cheering throngs of spectators. The course is laid out perfectly for those who want to watch. You can get to four or five spots every lap. The yelps from Team Horst families was motivating.

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I only made two of the five series races this year, but Shepard made three of them. A big thanks goes to Kurt D’Aniello, Annalisa Paltauf, and the rest of the crew/volunteers from D’Aniello’s Amity Bicycles and the Laurel Bicycle Club. They were fantastic hosts and promoters. Their swag was generous, and the post race food/beverage was really appreciated. They did a fine job with the entire series.

Sadly, we couldn’t hang around long. We packed up and took Dahlia to summer camp. After Shepard, Debbie, and I unpacked and cleaned the gear, we headed to Flora Food + Drink for a celebratory meal. Debbie and I were there a week ago, and we were thrilled to return. We ended a Team Horst themed day by seeing our friends, Keith, Paula, and Erin Enderle at the restaurant. They were having a celebration of their own. Keith is a teammate and he is getting pumped for cyclocross season. So am I!

Race Results

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