2021 Cheshire Cross

After a one year hiatus, Cheshire Cross returned and it was a blast. I wish I had more time to hang out, but I had to leave immediately after my race because of a schedule business trip that started on Sunday afternoon. The weather was gorgeous, though the course was still muddy in spots after the heavy rain that we had yesterday and earlier in the week.

Cheshire has a great vibe, with the centerpiece being Heckle Hill. The fans on the hill were so loud and I loved it. The infamous climb is a feature that is hard and has character. The timing of this year’s race, falling on Halloween, made the fun factor even better. Since I last raced Cheshire in 2019, I was motivated. Being in my new 50+ age group was another exciting aspect of today’s race and I had something to prove after mishap at the start of last week’s Belltown CX.

My crash severely hurt my chances at winning Belltown, which was a course I loved and suited me. The technical and hilly tracks have been a strength of late, so a bounce back race at Cheshire was welcome given how gnarly the Cheshire Park course is. Despite being super-motivated to race today, I was still unsure how things would go because my main geared cyclocross bike is undergoing emergency repairs at Seven Cycles.

Earlier this week, my friends at Bicycles East stripped the Mudhoney PRO frame, boxed it, and I drove it to Seven in Watertown, Massachusetts. The diagnosis was a right side titanium lug pulled away from the carbon fiber seatstay. Seven deemed it an important repair because the carbon tube could have been compromised and failed. I managed to finish the race after the frame was damaged, but that didn’t mean I could do another race or several more races without a failure.

The Mudhoney PRO is my only modern geared cyclocross bike that is worthy of racing. In my basement, I have at least one older bike that I could have used but I wouldn’t feel comfortable on it, whereas my Mudhoney SL singlespeed is identical to the PRO, but without gears. I had no choice but to race that bike today. I thought about switching too the singlespeed category, but figured that if I scored any points in the 50+ age group, it would help my overall standings.

When I arrived at the course and realized that due to the rain, the use of the longer flat sections on the ball fields that were a feature in past Cheshire races was out of the question, my mood improved. The rest of the Cheshire course is hard, technical, twisty, and heavily wooded. Between the woods, the sand, and mud, the course was going to ride slow. That favored me in this situation as I only had one gear and it was a hard one to push, but still not big enough that I would be spun out. Shifting would have been nice, but if there was to be a race where I could get away with one speed, this was it.

I had a much better start this week. I was first call up and got off the line in third place and held that position through the first few turns. I stayed there for the better part of the first lap before moving up to second. Then by the end of the third lap I had taken the lead with a few rival riders trailing behind me. I continued to apply pressure in the uphill sections that were rideable (for me) and also pressured them in the muddy sections.

I had to run most of Heckle Hill because I couldn’t get far without a derailleur. I also had to run both the timber beam and the double barriers since bunny hopping was out of the question (for me). So, I had to get off three times a lap. I don’t think it penalized me because those were slow sections. I was gassed at the top of the big hill, but so were the guys who rode it. By the fourth of six laps, I was stretching out my lead on those tougher sections. When we doubled back, I could see the riders chasing me, but as I caught other riders from the 40+ field (they started a minute in front of us), I knew I was riding well.

I didn’t have any incidents and was able to recover quickly from a few botched turns. Pushing the big gear was hard on my knees. I was able to get heart rate high and keep it high. I nearly covered 10 miles in about 48 minutes so it was a relatively slow course. There was nearly 1,000 feet of climbing, so that was a big factor.

I was thrilled to cross the line first in the age group, notching my first win in a long time. Orchard Cross in New Hampshire drew away some of the Masters competition, but it still felt good to reach a goal. I’m excited for the rest of the season and plan to carry this fitness as far as I can. Team HORST and the CCAP Team HORST Junior Squad had a good day. We had riders in all three Masters age groups, 40+, 50+, and 60+. We had riders in all of the Junior age groups as well. We even had a presence in the kids race and women’s race.

I know we have had some good battles with our friendly rivals on the Stage 1 Airline Cycles team. I’m going to need my geared bike back by next weekend at the Northampton International Cyclocross is a very different course with long fast flat sections and hard packed ground. The thick grass and mud at Cheshire Park was quite different. Fingers crossed that everyone working on the fix has good luck…and the parts they need to get the job done.

I’m looking forward to racing my singlespeed again, but just not next weekend.

Kudos to the crew at Cheshire Cycle Race Team and other volunteers who promoted today’s race. The next CT Series of CX race is in two weeks in Avon.

Race Results

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