2021 USA Cyclocross National Championships (50-54 Age Group)

Yesterday was the penultimate race of my cyclocross season. It was the 50-54 age group race at the USA Cycling Cyclocross National Championships. This was the 5th time I’ve done Nats. It hasn’t been a priority, but as I’ve gotten more competitive in the Masters age groups, I’ve renewed my interest. I was at Leicester (1995), Baltimore (2001), Hartford (2017), and Reno (2018). I was also at Providence (can’t remember the year), but my race was cancelled right before the start because of violent weather.

My last go in Reno ended in disaster with a broken leg. I won’t say much more because I’m looking ahead, not back, but you can read about it. I didn’t do the 2019 race in Washington and 2020 was cancelled due to the pandemic. It’s good to be back at it in Illinois (Wheaton).

I drove out with Arlen Zane Wenzel and Adam Skepner. Zane is the Directeur Sportif of Team HORST Sports and Adam is a friend of the team. They have been a huge help. HORST Cycling has a boot in the race expo, and we have been helping out new customers with Cross Spikes.

We started the drive on Tuesday and finished on Wednesday after a brief early morning stop in Toledo, Ohio to get some rest. Once we reached the Chicago area, we made a short stop at a new HORST Engineering supplier. I had a meeting with their Quality Manager and then got a plant tour. Adam and Zane did walking laps of the industrial park where the shop was located.

A lot of interesting things have happened this week. Most notable was the action at the race. Cantigny Park is the race venue. I like the course. It is super-challenging with deceptively hard uphills, lots of off-camber turns, a slippery descent, steep Belgian stairs, a set of barriers, a sand pit, and a long asphalt finish stretch. It’s a worthy course for Nats.

The cold and damp weather has made it even more interesting. My age group race was at 2:05 P.M. on Thursday. Our weather was dry and cold with an overcast sky and a light breeze. The late afternoon setting meant there was melting of the top layer of soil. This result in several slippery spots including that section down two the Belgian stairs.

I won’t break down the whole race, but I was seeded 23rd and finished 23rd. My goal was to break the top 20 and I came close. My main disappointment is that I was “pulled” with one lap to go because of the P&P rule. I won’t even give you the rule book definition, but basically, in these championship races, they have a “quick bell.” I gather it helps them squeeze more races into a tight schedule.

Only 16 guys finished our race on the lead lap. This is partially because the leader was so far out front and there were big time gaps between the top riders. I was bummed because I had a slow first two laps and when I finally figured out the course and got a rhythm going, I ran out of time. My last two laps were strong, but a four lap race is hardly a championship. I wasn’t even out there for 40 minutes.

It sucks because I was competitive. It’s not like I was anywhere close to being lapped. I was actually making up time and could have caught a few more guys if I had the chance. My slow start is attributed to not feeling comfortable and just having blocked legs. After 20 minutes I loosened up and started to make progress, but it was too late. In the end, I’m satisfied, but I know it could have been better.

I’m glad that I didn’t crash. I was sloppy in spots, but at least I stayed on my bike. In warmups over the last few days, I’ve fallen four times on tricky spots, including a massive endo in the sand pit. Maybe those falls made me gun shy for the actual race. One thing for sure is that it was a competitive field. I got the last spot on the third row. There were eight riders per row. The start was clean, which was good because we were hauling on the pavement. The first time through that sand pit was ugly and I lost 20 seconds right there.

Like I said, I got better as the race went on. I’m generally happy with the outcome. I’ve said several times that this has been my best cross season ever. I’ve been strong and my bike handling has improved to the point that it has become an advantage and not a liability. I’m still not even close to the top talent in the age group, but I’m also not pack fodder. I can hold my own which makes it more fun.

A lot of other fun stuff has happened at the race. I’m sure I’ll write more about it. I’ve seen tons of friends from New England and beyond. It was fun to race with Jon Gallagher. We did a lot of riding in the early 1990’s and these big events have become like reunions. Team HORST Sports and the CCAP Team HORST Junior Squad has representation. Keith Enderle had a strong race in the 60-64 age group. Brett Chenail rode in the 45-49. Alexandra Miller-Davey did some warmup races today and her big race is tomorrow. Boden Chenail is also racing tomorrow. I’ve met a lot of new people too. After we set up the tent/booth this morning, I went for a nice ride on the Illinois Prairie Path. I made it back to the park in time to see Kelly Montgomery (Stage 1 Cycling Team/Airline Cycles) score the win in the Women’s 50-54 age group. That was super exciting.

Then, I made another side business trip to visit an equipment supplier in Mundelein. They were gracious hosts and I got a really cool tour of their showroom. I drove back to the park and helped Adam and Zane break down the tent. The rain started to pour down and high winds are predicted so we didn’t take the chance of leaving it up like the last two nights. Tomorrow should be interesting. Most of the day is filled with Junior races and it is going to be wet and muddy. The singlespeed races cap the day with my race being the last one at 2:20 P.M. By then, the course should be suitably trashed. Conditions for the elite races on Sunday will be rough, but that’s why the pros are pros.

I’m no pro, but for this week, I got to act like one. I’m feeling good with one race to go and thankfully, I’m still motivated to think about the next Nats in 2022.

Race Results

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Helping out our neighbors: the kids are playing “farmer” this weekend. 🐓 🐐
Pumped to be back at the @newenglandairmuseum for Women Take Flight 2022. I brought Little D to help!
Little D says my artistic ability is lacking and that I’m better at business and cycling. Even still, we had a great afternoon @thefirestonect and then at the library. Florence was lovely company at our cafe table. The librarian pointed out a book option and then I reminded all within earshot that you can’t judge a book by its cover! #art #painting
Well that was pretty incredible. Congrats to @trailrunningmom Congrats to ALL the participants whether they finished or not. Mahalo to ALL of the volunteers. More will be written about this ohana when we get home.
@trailrunningmom was holding steady as she departed Nu’uanu for the last time at 92.5 miles. Shepard is having fun but it’s all business now. There is a pitched battle for second place and if they keep pushing, it’s a threat to Debbie’s lead. I’m doing the mental math and she has to keep pushing too. Anna and Mele left the aid station together and are throwing down.
I said I would only post two more times, but I’m posting three. A big shout out to fellow New Englander, our “adopted” runner and Hawaii “housemate” Tim Glickman. I’m pulling for him to persevere. He came through lap four at Nu’uanu at 72.5 miles and was hurting but we agreed he would NOT quit. They will have to make him stop. I told him to just keep moving forward.
We made it to Paradise Park Aid Station (Manoa) just in time to catch @trailrunningmom at mile 87 (or so). Shepard is on pacing duty now and he decided to go from here rather than Nu’uanu. That’s cool. She is up to 7th overall which is also pretty cool. She hasn’t faltered yet and we don’t expect her to. I’ll post after Nu’uanu and then at the finish…and then I’m done!
@trailrunningmom is on the final lap (five) now and back on her own. This images are from our overnight “date.” We ran to Manoa and then to Nu’uanu and then back to the Nature Center. She is hanging tough, just like the sign says. I’ll meet back up with the kids and track down their Mom again soon.
It’s been seven hours since the last report. I joined @trailrunningmom for lap four/the graveyard shift. This sequence includes her return to the Nature Center after lap three and then our trek to Manoa. She is running so well on this gnarly course.

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