With the US National Cyclocross Championships, now only a weekend a way. No better time than now to give the low down on last months BadgerCross weekend.
The two day event sporting the titles of WI State Championship & Midwest Regional Cyclocross Championship. Despite some inclement weather in the forecast & waning motivation, on went the pursuit of USA Cycling points for January’s US National Championships.
If a repeated theme comes through it’s no secret I’m not a huge fan of traveling longer distances for races & the 5hr drive there wasn’t the most appealing (the drive back home was another story…) Fortunately, the race course at the Badger Cross events is very much a power course over a skills course. There’s hills, descents, & some twists & hairpin turns but but not so much it gets borderline annoying like some courses I’ve raced.
With a late afternoon start I was able to drive down the day of the Sat race & prep in adequate time (which for me is anything more than 15minutes). After some failed communications back from the race director earlier in the week on race scoring, it would cost me a better position in the starting line up. Unlike last year they raced the Open Pro, Cat 1, Cat 2 race with the Masters (35+) of the same categories. It was a person’s option of which to register under. After getting 3rd overall in the master’s race last year I wasn’t there for placement awards. I simply wanted to do whatever race afforded the best points possible, looking at the starting line ups & results of those racers it would be close but I opted for the Open race thinking my odds would be better.
The race went off in it’s normal super fast “track” start on the pavement that rolls out into an open field. Last row start wasn’t affording any immediate passing opportunities without being very aggressive and again forgetting what I learned the previous week in the MN championships I failed to bring that aspect to the start of the race. In the first qtr mile things had strung out I was riding 4th from last & trying to be patient.
Here’s where in only a few races every year you'll run into that moron the tends to annoy you at every step of the race, until you finally drop them. I’ll pass on naming the kid, but there’s aggressive racing & then there’s stupid racing, he fit the later. What transpired after the first hairpin turn with him left me off the back of the entire field in D.F.L. It’s funny when being in last place early in a race isn’t something that normally happens -- what a crazy feeling it is. You look behind & see no one. For me it’s a mixture of laughing & saying “oh crap!”
Even so, the course was hard & very fast, as temps stayed below freezing for the day. And I was able to work up & pass riders on the successive laps. There was some 25 riders in the open race & by the end I’d moved up to 15th. Actually racing the final laps with 4 or 5 guys from lead group of the Master 35+ race (which had started some 30 seconds behind our race.)
The last two laps were pretty fun, as Chris Smith was railing it with a group including Jeff Melcher, William Pankonin, & Andy Hoenisch. When they came by I knew they weren’t in my race & would have no bearing on the points, but it seemed like as good as opportunity to get some competitive riding it. I was surprised that Chris wasn’t taking any breaks at the front the entire 2nd to last lap, thinking he’s in trouble for the last lap. Though he was pushing it hard enough that eventually it would drop Andy.
On last lap, I thought I had no reason to hold back & perhaps I could pay Smithers back, so I went hard the front & as I passed Chris I told him to get on.
It had been one of those seasons thus far where expectations, capabilities & outcomes hadn’t coincided. So you look for small wins against or assistance with your competition as motivations. For me, having lost out to Andy in a uncharacteristically poor race in Eau Claire to start the season, & seeking some redemption for not finishing off Jeff in an attack I put on him at BadgerCross last season was what I had. Plus for Smithers with the work he was doing pushing the pace I only felt right he deserved a good lead out to finish off his race.
So I just drilled it from that point, wanting the pace to be high enough guys dropped or couldn’t hold on. Once or twice Jeff would try to go to the front. I would counter. Jeff charged hard to get past me leading into the final turns before the pavement finish. It was enough to gap Chris & William initially or…. so I thought.
We hit the pavement with Jeff at the front giving me pretty much all the position I would need to pass him. I looked back & swore I didn’t see anyone within many bike lengths. The finish being probably 150-200 yards away. Instead of pushing it really hard I slowly worked the outside way around Jeff coming into the home stretch passing him just before the finish, only to have Chris catch back & swing by me in the final feet before the finish line. Very nice job on Chris part to come out of nowhere. Note to self, you can always learn something in a race or be reminded of it.…. do a better job of checking where guys are behind you.
The weather forecast for the next day wasn’t looking both good & bad. Good in a sense that snowfall would make the course nice & technical, bad in that it meant a not so fun attempted drive home.