2021 USA Cyclocross National Championships (Singlespeed) + Season Wrap-Up

As last Saturday’s daylight faded at Cantigny Park in Wheaton, Illinois, my 2021 cyclocross season came to an end. The conclusion of the Singlespeed Championship was much less eventful than 2017 when I DNF’d with a broken leg. Even though this year’s SSCX race may have been one too many (number 19 on the season), I came to Illinois to finish what I didn’t in Reno. Before I continue with the story, you really should check out this fantastic video. It’s delightful.

SSCX has such a great vibe, and the race at Nats is always awesome. My “A” race was the Masters 50-54 Championship, which I wrote about last week, but the singlespeed race was the capstone to my season.

This was my first year in the 50+ age group and I made the most of it. I’m technically 49 until later in 2022, but with cyclocross’ weird age group rules, I got a head start on my 50+ racing. That’s why cyclocross was my main overall endurance sports objective for 2021. Despite the ongoing challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, I pinned a number on 40 times this year. Along with the 19 cyclocross races, I did 11 triathlons (nine were off-road), four road running races, three trail running races, and three mountain bike races. That’s a good mix for me.

This is absolutely my best cyclocross season in the 26 years that I’ve been doing the sport. My www.crossresults.com profile proves that point emphatically. My cyclocross season goals included 1) winning my age group in the CT Series of Cross 2) consistently placing top 10 in the regional age group races and 2) finishing top 20 in my age group at Nats. I accomplished most of this. I fell short of the Nats goal, but made up for that with stellar regional races at the GP of Beverly and the Northampton International. Arguably, other than Nats, they were the two most competitive Masters races that I did all year. They had strong fields and I performed above my own expectations.

I mixed in a few New England SSCX Series races for fun and then as noted, finished the season on the singlespeed bike at Nats. The final race day had lots of drama. My age group race was a week ago (last Thursday). On Friday, I had a full day that included a training ride, lots of cheering at the race venue, a supplier visit, and Cross Spikes sales at the race EXPO. On Friday afternoon, a storm front blew in and it brought heavy rain and high winds. My teammates, Arlen Zane Wenzel and Adam Skepner, decided to take down all of the Team HORST Sports and HORST Cycling stuff (i.e. tent, table, displays, etc.) in advance of the storm. A lot of other teams and companies left up their tents and paid a heavy price. We learned our lesson in Reno when we lost a tent in a wind storm.

In Wheaton, the winds accelerated overnight and by morning, they had made ruins of the EXPO and club/team area. The winds also wreaked havoc with the course, which resulted in a three hour delay and cancellation of a few non-championship races. The winds persisted throughout the morning, but we were eventually able to set our tent up again. Saturday morning and early afternoon were hardly restful, so by the time the singlespeed race start came at 3:45 P.M., I was already cold and tired. The cheering on Saturday was extra special because the race schedule included most of the Junior races. We had two CCAP Team HORST Junior Squad riders out there. Alexandra Miller-Davey and Boden Chenail. Each was in their respective 15-16 year old age group. They were joined by several other CCAP Travel Team athletes and I screamed loudly for all of them. I wasn’t at the top of my game by the time my race start rolled around.

Regardless, I gave it a go and hung tough for three laps, but I was outclassed by the all-ages field of talented riders. The conditions were tough. The course was muddy, heavy, and slick. The hills and off-camber turns were challenging. I had an OK start, but steadily lost ground. I’m usually good when there is a lot of running, but it was slow running if you know what I mean. I could have switched to “party mode” and started taking hand-ups and horsing around, but that isn’t my style. I pushed hard until the end, even sprinting for a spot, even though I was in 60th place. I had to end my season pushing because that is how I started it back in August.

Overall, Nats was great experience. Arlen and Adam were awesome. We sold a lot of Cross Spikes, made a lot of new friends, and spent time with old friends. The course conditions were ideal for our marketing efforts – they were muddy and slippery.

When I finished my last race, I had to clean my bike because it was covered in mud and the drivetrain was packed with Cantigny Park grass. By the time I got back to the tent, Arlen and Adam had most of our stuff packed up. They were ready to go. My hands were frozen solid and it took a while to clean up and get warm clothes on. We departed for home as the sun was setting. We said our goodbyes to our EXPO neighbors, and hit the road. I took the first shift and drove for a few hours. Adam took over and drove until we stopped for dinner. I didn’t warm up until we reached Ohio.

The three of us “traded pulls” for 15 hours and after dropping the boys off, I pulled into my driveway around 10:30 A.M. on Sunday morning. I was exhausted but ecstatic to be home. I spent the afternoon cleaning my bikes (again), doing laundry, cleaning the trailer, and putting away the gear that I won’t need until next season. It felt good to end the season healthy. I’ve got a slew of minor issues after a season full of crashes (part of the game), and hard efforts. It was great to reconnect with Debbie and the kids after several days on the road. Looking back on the 2021 cyclocross season, I have nothing but good feelings. I can name several races where I could have done better. That competitive desire is what keeps me going, but in the end, none of those results matter and no one will ever care. If I’m having fun on bikes, I’m happy.

Race Results

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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.
Evening at Pu’una Aid Station. @trailrunningmom is holding on to the lead but Mele DeMille is looking strong and she is chipping away at the gap bit by bit. She was eight minutes behind Debbie coming into 52.5 and picked up a little time with a quick-turn. When Debbie hits the Nature Center at 60, she will have two laps then go.
More afternoon scenes from Nu’uanu Aid Station, including leader Anthony Lee. He was flying. We saw him twice in six hours. He lapped…a lot of folks!
The kids and I did the noon to six volunteer shift at Nu’uanu Aid Station while @trailrunningmom was doing what she loves to do. There was no cell reception so I’m finally sharing highlights from Lap 2. Timmy wasn’t far behind.

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