Thursday, October 14, 2010

Mid-Season Cyclocross Report

by Don Maschka

The 2010 cyclocross season is in full swing and we are now midway through a busy fall. There are plenty of opportunities to race across Iowa in the rapidly growing ‘cross scene. There are two different points series races available to racers. There is the Eastern Iowa Cyclocross Experiment and the Central Iowa Cyclocross Series sponsored by Scheels that one can choose from on any given weekend September and into November.

I have been racing in the Central Iowa Series as most of the races are in the Des Moines area. There are seven races in the Series and one needs to place in the top ten in a race to get points and race six races to qualify for the end of the season points standings.

The Scheels Series began Saturday, September 25 with Capitol Cross on a rainy, muddy day. In other words it was a perfect day for ‘cross. I had a few top ten finishes last year and was hoping to place among the leaders this year in the CX 4 category. The course was held in a park complete with a difficult run up, rolling hills, and lots of technical turns. With the turns and the mud it may have favored the mountain bikers a bit, but was a blast for all of us. The course and the day really captured the essence of ‘cross-grown adults riding their expensive bikes through the mud and acting like kids. Some of my family came out to watch and they could not believe so many of us gladly pay $25 for the opportunity to punish ourselves in these conditions. One particularly difficult off camber turn led to a number of spills, including me, but surprisingly we avoided “The Big One.” I was able to come in 5th and nab a few points in the Series.

I had to do a quick turn around on the bike and gear to get ready for Sunday’s race back down in Des Moines. I am proud to say I went with North Iowa cycling legend Dave Delperdang on what would be his first ‘cross race. The day was a beautifully sunny fall day. The organizers had changed up the course a little bit, but it still had the muddiest sections. As we were racing first we had the worst of the conditions. The course was torn up from a full day of racing on Saturday, but not firmed up from the sun that the later riders would enjoy. I did not recover well, but was able to grind out a 7th place finish.

Dave did great! He raced in the 45 plus group and promptly got 4th place. The unofficial results had him 3rd and we were able to make it out of town with his third place tee shirt before the results became official. What made his result even more impressive was the bike he competed on. We are talking 1960’s Lincoln Continental heavy with bald tires. This thing was such a boat I was looking for the Lusitania decal on his down tube. I don’t know what it is made out of, but I think it could be from the Bronze Age. One thing I do know, looking at the smile on his mud covered face after the race, this won’t be his last ‘cross race. I am also pleased to report that Dave has since acquired a Life Time Achievement Award from the North Iowa Spin in the form of a new ‘cross bike and there will be no stopping him now. I look forward to racing with him next year in the 45 plus category.

The following Saturday featured The Dirty Wooden Shoe race in Pella. Ben Fistler and I made the long trip down together. The weather was gorgeous and the course had a little bit of everything; technical turns, a section on an off camber hill that had to be run, a run up, sand and hills. I was feeling good and took advantage of a few mechanicals my rivals had and was able to get my first ever podium finish in a mass start race by taking second place. I just missed out on getting a cool wooden shoe trophy.

Sunday it was back to Altoona. This was a fast course with double barriers on a flat section, a run up and some rolling hills. The start was fast and furious up a paved hill, over some gravel to the first set of barriers. One guy bit it on the barriers and we had to scramble around him, then another guy ate it on a technical turn that caused some angst in the pack. Eventually mid way through the first lap things settled down and I was able to get myself to the front of the action. I was able to fight off a few competitors on a long up hill section and found myself in 2nd chasing a college kid on a single speed who is a cat. 2 roadie. People were yelling at me to catch him as he only had one gear. I thought to myself, “The bike may only have one gear, but that kid has more gears than I do.” I couldn’t catch him, but was able to come away with another second place. All in all it was a good weekend of racing.

Next up is Friday night’s race at Mullet’s Bar in Des Moines. This is going to be held under the lights with a band playing on the infield. It should be another crazy night of ‘cross racing. I am also planning on going to Spooky Cross in Des Moines over the Halloween weekend. These two races are my favorite races of the year. They have big fields and challenging courses held on Living History Farms. There are also two races in Waverly/Cedar Falls October 25 and 26.

If you have thought about doing ‘cross go ahead and do it. It will be the most fun you have ever had racing your bike. It is physically demanding, but more laid back than road racing. Because the field eventually gets lapped nobody really can tell if you are getting killed or if you are still on the lead lap. It is very spectator friendly and your family can cheer you on throughout much of the course. Get on or and pick out a race. Just do one race and you will be hooked.

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