2021 Keene Pumpkin Cross

Today I returned to the Pumpkin Cross in Surry, New Hampshire. Surry is just outside Keene, where I have fond memories of past bike races. I was last at the Keene Pumpkin Cross in 2015. Prior to that, the last time I raced cyclocross in the Keene area was when Team HORST Sports joined forces with Team Frank to host the Frank-N-Horst Cross at Jonathan Daniels Elementary School. I raced Frank-N-Horst in 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, and 2004.

We had a lot of cycling friends in the Keene area, which is a lovely community. On the road, I did the Keene Road Race/Optical Ave. Criterium (race weekend) in 1996, 1997, 1998, and 2000. Today, we drove by the road race finish line and the Frank-N-Horst course and that brought a smile to my face.

I remember when the road race finished in front of Peerless Insurance. It was a crazy final kilometer as you screamed north on Route 12 after more than 50 miles of racing. You took the Maple Ave. exit on the right, and then at the bottom of the ramp, made a hard 90 degree left turn, went under the overpass for 12, and sprinted 150 meters to the line. When I did the Cat 3 race in 1998, I came through the final corner banging bars with Keith Berger. He accelerated from the scrum to win the bunch sprint in brilliant fashion. I finished 8th.

So, it was good to be back in the Keene area today. Pumpkin Cross was a fantastic race. After an overnight storm with heavy rain, the course was heavy, wet, and gnarly with several mud bogs. I used my mud tires and they came in handy. I did the Men’s 50+ race. We started 30 seconds behind the 40+ men, and the 60+ riders started behind us. I finished 4th, but was hoping for more. If I had one more lap, I would have had a shot at the podium because the third placed rider appeared to be fading and I was closing in.

The race was short and slow at just over 40 minutes and just under 7.5 miles. The conditions were not ideal for speed. I tend to do better on the power courses that are also technical. This race was a slog. There were a few fast sections, but they weren’t sustained. The course was well-designed with a tough asphalt climb, a technical turny section, several challenging off-camber hills that you had to traverse, two sand sections, a set of tall barriers, two logs to dismount and run over, and a gnarly woods section that forced me off the bike twice/lap. That’s a run-on sentence, but that’s what this course felt like!

Some guys rode the woods section, but I didn’t take a chance. I got off twice. Once for the steep downhill onto the wood bridge over the muddy stream, and once again to get around a deepish mud bog at the exit from the woods. So, I was getting off five times per lap. Mike Rowell won our race and he rode all the tough stuff, which was an advantage. I was a bit nervous, so I got off.

Surry Mountain Lake Beach is a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers day use facility located on the Ashuelot River and it is beautiful. The leaves were colorful. Debbie and I drove up this morning. Our kids spent a chill weekend with Debbie’s parents. The only other Team HORST rider at the race was Alexandra Miller-Davey. She did the women’s race and did very well. It was fun to watch her ride.

We got to see our old friends, Chris and Kate Northcott and their children. They were on Team Frank back in the day. We had fun catching up with them. It wa also fun to see old teammate Kathryn Kothe. Kudos to the race organizers and volunteers for putting on an awesome grassroots events. After a cool down, we made the drive home, and stopped at India House in Northampton. It was neat to learn from one of the owners that they are a 38 year-old family business. Earlier this week, HORST Engineering celebrated 75 years in business.

When I got home, I cleaned my bikes so that they are ready for next week’s Belltown Cross in East Haddam, Connecticut.

Race Results (2021 Pumpkin Cross)

Race Results (1999 Frank-N-Horst Cyclocross)

Photo Credits: Debbie Livingston took the shots of Alex and me.

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