Saturday, November 20, 2010

2010 Cyclocross Update/Part Deux-by Don Maschka

The 2010 Cyclocross Season has come to a close in central Iowa and the North Iowa Spin was well represented in the second half of the Central Iowa Cyclocross Series (CICS) by Evan Peterson, North Iowa Cycling Legend Dave Delperdang, and Don Maschka. The CICS consisted of 7 races including 2 days of Capital Cross, The Dirty Wooden Shoe in Pella, Altoona Cyclocross, Oakley Nightcap in Des Moines, and 2 days of racing in Living History Farms at Spooky Cross. The State Championships were also held in Altoona at the end of the season.

The second half of the series began with the most unusual race of the year with the Oakley Nightcap race held Friday night October 15. The race was contested outside Mulligan’s Bar along the banks of the Des Moines River under the lights (such as they were). This race was a late addition to the series as there was a need to replace the now defunct Cattle Cross in Marshalltown. Oakley and Mulligan’s Bar were good enough to step up and sponsor the race on fairly short notice.

A number of factors came together to give this race a different vibe compared to racing in a park or campground. First, it was held at night which required the course to be lit by portable lights. This was great, but one section of the course in a wooded area didn’t have any lights so the organizers threw some car lights on it and called it good. The Friday night time slot also made it a scramble to get there after work and made for a raucous crowd.

The loudest section of the crowd was strategically positioned at the start finish line just outside the deck of Mulligan’s Bar. Playing to the crowd were not only hundreds of ‘cross racers, but a live alternative rock band in the middle of the course. More fans lined up 2 or 3 deep along an off camber straightaway along the river.

The course itself was very short and tight. Combined with huge fields this made for a bit more paint swapping with other racers than usual. The course started on the off camber straightaway, then through the dark woods to the first set of barriers. These were double barriers before a short, punchy run-up and then an off camber descent to another barrier. The second barrier was before a short run up and then some rocky, technical turns. With all of the rocks there were probably more flat tires in this race than all of the other races combined. As we chewed up the course broken glass before the first set of double barriers came to the surface and began to claim some victims as well in terms of tires and flesh. One rider who fell at the barriers spent the rest of the night picking glass out of his hands.

We then sped around the bandstand and headed back towards the bar. A concrete parking lot barrier was placed right at the edge of the bar and some riders chose to dismount and run over it while a few bunny hopped it. Some of the less skilled provided some spectacular crashes in failed attempts at hopping over the unforgiving concrete much to the delight of the beer swilling fans.

This was not a course suited for me. I told myself to try to just get through it in one piece. We had 99 racers in my field alone fighting for every inch of position. I was close to the lead group when I dropped my chain. I was able to get my chain back on in fairly decent order, but I knew a good placing was over. With all of the mayhem the judges had a difficult time scoring the race and results weren’t posted until the following week. After my first ever protest of a race result I ended up a respectable 9th in the CX 4. Good enough for a few points in the series standings. A special thanks to Ben and Katie Fistler who didn’t hesitate to loan me one of their Egg Beater pedals when mine broke in warm-ups. Without the quick change I couldn’t have raced at all.

The story of the race was Evan Peterson. He showed up for his first and only ‘cross race of the season and won the star studded CX 3 race! This guy has a habit of racing one race a year and winning it. Let’s hope we get to see him and Seth racing more for The Spin next year. Evan and Seth could be a fixture on the ‘cross podium across Iowa. These guys have the motors and technical skills that make them great ‘crossers.

The last two races of the CICS were held at Living History Farms over Halloween weekend in the appropriately named Spooky Cross. These are my favorite two races of the year bar none. If you are only going to do one race next year, make it one of these.

Going into the weekend I was in second place in the CICS standings down by a razor thin 2 points. The series would all come down to the final weekend. Day one was held in the “town” portion of Living History Farms and was the most I have ever hurt on a bike for 45 minutes. The course was absolutely brutal with a difficult, steep riding section followed shortly thereafter by a long, steep run-up. This combination had my legs crying out in pain. I just kept telling myself that if I was hurting this bad, so was everybody else. It turns out most everybody else was hurting worse and I was able to get a third place finish in a tough field.

North Iowa Cycling Legend Dave Delperdang rode in the masters 45+ group and had a nice 7th place. I watched his race before mine and could tell this course was going to be tough as Dave was clearly suffering. He was able to pound out a great result and actually finished ahead of the guy who would finish in the top three for the 45+ overall series standings at season’s end.

Day two of Spooky Cross was held on Halloween and this brought out a few costumes and the dreaded rider in nothing but a Speedo. I’m not sure how his perineum held up for 45 minutes of ‘cross racing. I just hope he used lots of chamois cream. The course was less muddy than last year, but just as fun. It’s set mostly in the woods with some barriers over a scenic creek bridge. It’s a good course for me as it has a couple of long uphill sections that I can grind up.

I had my best hole shot of the year and found myself leading on the first lap of the race. I had never been off the front before and wasn’t quite sure what to do. I thought maybe something had gone awry behind me. I decided to just keep hammering and soon 4 of us were off the front together. We were gone with nobody in sight behind. I settled into third and was battling it out with a kid from Bike World when I felt my front tire get squishy. I debated on whether or not it was flat and actually got off and checked it. Indeed, it was going flat. I was able to limp around to the wheel pit where I had actually placed a spare set of tires. I don’t always do that, but luckily that day I did. I was able to do a quick tire change and only lost two spots. The rider from Bike World ahead of me had a mechanical himself and I was able to wind up 4th.

After all was said and done I ended up in first place for the season in the CICS CX 4. I never won a race, but I did all of the races and never finished out of the top ten. I had two 2nd places and one 3rd. They had a little awards ceremony after the race and I must say it was cool to get called up with great riders like Brian and Kim Eppen and Kevin McConnell to name a few.

After my results in the CICS I categorized up to the 3’s and decided to race with the masters at the Iowa Cyclocross Championships held in Altoona on November 13. Dave and I planned to go together but he was felled by a bad case of bronchitis and I soldiered on alone. It rained the two days before the race and on race day it was 36 degrees and wet. Perfect weather for a ‘cross race.

I had gotten second on the Altoona course earlier so I knew it was a good course for me, but I wasn’t sure how I would fare against the masters. For my group they started the masters, juniors and single speed together with money going to the top five overall and medals to the top three in each group. My pre-race goal was to not get lapped by Brian Eppen on his single speed. The course was highlighted by a couple of long uphill sections, some technical turns, and a tricky off camber section before a barrier and run up. This last section claimed a few victims throughout the day.

Based on my category and order of registration I started in the middle of the field which turned out to be 47 racers. On the hole shot and after the first long hill I was able to get myself into pretty good position not too far behind the leaders of Lane Anderson, Brian Eppen, Kevin McConnell and Jerome Rewerts. I was never in touch with them, but could see them up until the last 2 or 3 laps.

I soon got into a battle with a rider from Melon City and another from Bikes to You. I was able to get around the Melon City rider on one of the technical sections as my tubular tires at a lower pressure of 27 psi gave me incredible grip. I could feel him behind me the rest of the race, but he wouldn’t catch me. I passed the Bikes to You rider with 2 laps to go and then he just sat in on me. I was able to get a gap after I heard him hit a barrier behind me, but I lost all of it when I hit the next barrier. I wasn’t afraid to sprint it out with him and I rode on the right so I could see him when he made his move. Unfortunately, he had a little more left and pipped me at the line.

The big boys really pushed it on the last few laps, but I could hear when they finished over the PA system and I was about a half a lap down. So, I was pleased I accomplished my goal of not getting lapped. I actually ended up 10th overall. However, in my category and as an annual licensed rider I was able to bring home a bronze medal for The Spin. I’d like to say, “thanks,” to Seth and Evan at Wayne’s for keeping my bike ready for the demands of ‘cross racing. The bike takes a beating over the course of the season and they were able to keep me racing.

That wraps up the racing season for me. There is still racing left at Jingle Cross over Thanksgiving, but I am going to sit that one out this year. It’s a great event and I encourage anyone to race it or go and watch. You will be treated to Iowa’s only UCI sanctioned race and literally some of the best ‘cross racers in the country.

Another North Iowa Note: The First Couple of North Iowa Cyclocross Ben and Katie Fistler are having a great season as well. Ben races for and worked his way up to a category 3. Katie races for the Punk Rock Racing Team and is racing with the big girls. She has been solid all year and rode a strong race at the state championships to get 3rd and bring home another medal to Mason City. The Fistlers are a fixture at all of the ‘cross races across Iowa. Look for them in their 1979 Boogie Nights Van complete with orange shag.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Cyclocross racing was a blast! Thanks Don, for the rides to a couple of the races. It was great fun!