2018 Secret Squirrel CX

Our first time racing at the Secret Squirrel CX in Raynham, MA was an absolute blast! Shepard and I made the day trip along with three teammates from Team Horst Sports and the Team Horst Junior Squad.

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We were joined by Tom and Cole Ricardi, and Brett Chenail. Cole did the Junior race with Shepard. Tom did the Masters/Sport race with Brett. Brett also did the Fat Bike race, which was held at the same time as the Zanconato Singlespeed race that I did. Then, he did the Donut Madison.

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This was a return trip to Borden Colony for me. It was also the site of Crosstobeerfest, which I raced last month. Rock Hard Racing, the masterminds behind these two races, and the others they promote, have an absolute love of cycling and they know how to promote an event. This was my first ever Secret Squirrel CX, but back in the spring, Shepard and I did the Secret Squirrel MTB, put on by the same folks.

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All of Rock Hard Racing’s events appear to have a vibe that is absent from so many other races. Cyclocross race is already irreverent and fun, but they make their low-key version of cross even better. Today’s race was not USA Cycling sanctioned, so that may have had something to do with it. There were no overt rules, other than to “not crash in the first corner” and have fun.

I think Crosstobeerfest and Secret Squirrel were the only two cross races I did this year that had chip timing, which is a nice touch. Instant results are common in the running and trail running world, and you don’t need chips to get instant results, but it does help.

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It was a long day for Shepard and me. We were out of the house by 6:15 A.M. and made the 100 minute drive to Raynham so that he could squeeze in a pre-ride of the course before his 8:45 A.M. start. It was cold in the morning, but nothing like the last two days. Thankfully, it warmed continuously throughout the day and by the time of my race at 2:30 P.M., it was in the low-40’s Fahrenheit.

Juniors were first and Singlespeed was second to last, so we spent all day at the bike race.  Like I said, it was mercifully warm compared to Thursday and Friday. Despite pushing hard at the Manchester Road Race on Thanksgiving Day, Shepard rode strong. He was disappointed to miss the podium by one spot (finishing 4th), but he took it in stride. He was able to hop the three log barriers and handle the steep drop-off.

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The course was modified from prior editions. Whereas Crosstobeerfest was at the opposite end of the park, Secret Squirrel was held exclusively in the pine tree grove. I think they have used some fields in prior years, but with the extraordinarily wet fall, the fields were soaked and off-limits.

The Rock Hard crew were able to make a fantastic course with very little real estate. The race was a mixture of singletrack, double track, a short chopped up section of asphalt, and a field sprint that lasted all of five seconds. Most of the race was in the woods, so there were lots of roots and a handful of rocks. It was dry, which was great. The sandy ground had drained nicely.

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I opted to skip the Masters 40+ race and did the singlespeed race instead. It was so much fun. I got a good start and then moved up. There were some great battles. It was hard to pass, so you had to time your efforts and maneuver your bike well if you were going to get by anyone. By the last lap, I was battling for 5th place, though I didn’t realize that. I was just pushing hard.

Thomas Echelberger and I kept trading places. I led him up the first of the two steep and sandy run-ups. That set me up to lead through the uphill log and into the “bowl” which was an awesome section of the course that inspired a lot of “hecklers.” There were three main lines in the bowl. You could go left, center, or right. Center was the best choice, but required the most momentum, power, and finesse to get up and over the “lip.” Even the center line had a few variations. There was  a tree in the middle of the approach. Most people opted to go to the right of the tree, but I was comfortable going left. Thomas was going right, so it was a race to the bottom of the hill.

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On the last lap, we came into some lapped traffic and there were at least three other riders approaching the bowl as we bore down on them. I recall that one of them was on a fat bike. I didn’t hesitate and raced to the left of the tree hoping to gain maximum speed. I came upon the lapped riders very quickly and made a snap judgment to alter my line and go slightly left of center which required me to launch over a series of roots. It was pure instinct, but when I successfully did it and shot past all of them, I was stoked. I let out a whoop and pumped my fist as the crowd cheered. If you could review all my highlights from the 2018 cyclocross season, this was at the top of the list.

The joy didn’t last long. Thomas passed me going into the second steep run-up and we knocked bikes as we fought for position. He took the lead through the upper section of the course. He was faster at jumping over the two logs. I worked hard to close the gap and by the downhill into the sand, I was back on his wheel. I made a move in the final left hand hairpin through the sandy section before the all out sprint into the final section of woods. I knew that the leader in the woods had the big advantage because the sprint to the finish was on chopped up pavement and only like 30 meters to the line.

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I watched several of the earlier races and no one was coming around. I made an effort to get past him, but he forced his way to the front going into the final section of twists. I thought I could still take him on one of the tight turns, but he slowed in the second corner and I ran into the back of his wheel. I rubbed tires and was forced to dab (putting my left foot on the ground) to steady myself. In that moment, the race for 5th was over. He got two seconds on my and I had no chance at closing it down, so I just soft-pedaled to the line, content with my effort.

We were happy to do Secret Squirrel CX, and it turned out to be my best performance of the cross season. I have four more races planned and hope to finish the year strong. We missed a few traditional events today. The first was the Shenipsit Striders Shenipsit Trail End-to-End Run. Debbie did the first half, so she was out of the house a full hour before we departed. That’s early! Dahlia spent the weekend at her grandparents’ house, so Debbie was able to have her own full day of adventure. I haven’t done the E2E since 2011, but the kids and I are usually part of the crew that helps out and cheers. The second event we missed (though Debbie made it), was the annual Bolton Land Trust Walk of Thanksgiving.

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We got home around 5:50 P.M. and after we washed up, the three of us dined at 21 Oak, which was a treat. In 2019, we will likely have some tough choices to make because Secret Squirrel was fantastic and just might be a new tradition.

Race Results

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My first ever The Ice Weasels Cometh was my 19th and final #cyclocross race of the season. I had a strong ride and was very happy considering that my second race of calendar 2018 (last race of last season) ended up with me breaking a leg. #iceweasels was a much better result and it’s great to finish with peak fitness. Doing most of the @zanksscx gave me a fresh reason to push through this cross season. Today’s race was a solo adventure but I saw lots of teammates and friends. #teamhorstsports #crossspikes #sevencycles @seven_cycles #zanksscx #horstengineering #crossisboss #lifedeathcyclocross
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#secretcx was really rad. The modified course (due to wicked wet fields) was “mountain bikey” and mint. They shouldn’t change a thing. #teamhorstjuniorsquad #teamhorstsports #crossspikes @horsteng @racerockhard #cyclocross
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Last night’s @lutzmuseum Children’s #Poetry Reading was lovely. Our little #poet thrives in environments like this.
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