Monday, September 24, 2012

Race Report: Trek USGP Planet Bike Cup

Each year it's the same, you layout your season, you start your scheduled training, but when it comes right down to it, you never know how good you are until you turn those pedals in anger against the nations best. We rolled up to Sun Prairie, WI for the start of my junior year of cyclocross school this past weekend with high hopes. The new Trek Cyclocross Collective program has us outfitted better than ever.

When we arrived at Angell Park Speedway the course looked amazing and very much to my liking. Tighter and more technical than usual I knew this was a course that would play to my skills. I told myself from the get go on lap one in training, I'd hop the barriers and ride the steps. I managed both, the later significantly better. Hopping barriers isn't always the fast way, in this case, it was faster to dismount and run them.

The absence of Richard Feldman, last years series winner, meant I'd get bib number one. The nerves got to me a little bit but once I was in the box I knew what I had to do and everything calmed down. It was great seeing all the guys who I hadn't seen since the World Championships. Matt was behind me on the second row with Nate, and Jay another row back, we were all in great shape.

At the gun I got away clean, and slotted in behind Kenny Wehn, as we rolled onto the grass Joe Curtes shot around the outside and I grabbed his wheel. Joe was pinning it and it seemed like he was majorly stretching the elastic. I could tell he wasn't going to be able to maintain this effort for long, so wanting to keep the pressure on I jumped around before we dove into the north woodsy section. I led the group into the hillside strangler, jumped the steps and powered up the climb. I heard cheers for Paul behind me I could only assume it was Paul Bonds from OKC. The two of us had a bit of a gap at the end of lap one so I decided to try and make it stick. I kept the pressure on through the 2nd lap as the groups formed up behind us.

Lap one, driving the front group
Photo: Wil Matthews /
It was clear that Paul wasn't particularly interested in helping the cause so instead of towing him around all day I eased up on lap three as Bill Elliston and Scott McLaughlin came up. Four always seems to be a nice group size and we began trading places lap after lap. It was going to end up a battle of tactics and positioning. If I was in front going into the strangler I could get a gap on the others, if I was behind my advantage was nil.

With two to go, we had whittled it down to just Bill, Paul and myself. As we crested the strangler for the second to last time I squeezed past Bill and pinned it as hard as I could. I never looked back but could here Bill and Paul barely maintaining contact. Again, at the base of the strangler I cleaned the steps and had about 4 bike lengths on Bill by the top, enough to hold on and win my second USGP.

The team rode awesome as Matt and Jay rolled through with best ever finishes in 7th and 11th. Nate squeezed his way into the points with 20th. Tom Price rounded out a great opening weekend for the team with 3rd in the 45+ too.

Day 2 got a bit interesting. A bad crash within the first 100m of our race neutralized our race and it was eventually cancelled due to time restrictions for the Elite races. I'd pretty much thrown in the towel and started drinking a beer when I decided last minute to transfer my entry over to the Elite race. Why not, I'm here, and I could use the training.

As expected my call up was third from last, but I lined up on the left side so I could rip around the outside of the opening corners and hopefully make up some easy early ground. The plan worked to perfection as I passed almost half the field in the opening two corners. From there I settled in slowly picking my way through the field. Each lap I'd get a few more guys and soon I found myself inside the top 25 which was my goal. I was getting high enough in the classment that Jay had Tom running to officials to see how deep UCI points went so I wouldn't jeopardize my Masters Worlds eligibility. I was a step ahead though and knew points only went 10 deep so I was in the clear.
Photo: Trek Cyclocross Collective
Driving hard over the top of the hillside strangler
Photo: Trek Cyclocross Collective
With 4 laps to go though I started to get a little ragged. Kevin Fish turned up the heat with three to go and as we hit the strangler my fatigued body couldn't clear the steps and I slammed my year wheel into the step, pinch flatting my rear wheel. It was a long ride to the pits but Frank and Tom had my bike ready to go. By this point I'd already lost 4 spots and I had 4 more guys breathing down my neck. Eventually I couldn't hold them off and fell back to 30th at the finish. But I finished a UCI Elite C2 race on the lead lap and was the fastest masters guy in the race. The next youngest guy in front of me was four years younger and nobody in front of me moved up as many spots as me, from 67 on the grid to 30th. Pretty sure I was the only guy in the race who's pre-race drink was a beer too :-)

It was quite a season opener for Trek and their new cyclocross program. Katie Compton won both days, Lukas Fluckiger was 3rd on day 1 and won the Elite race on day 2. Mark Legg-Compton won both days in 45+ with Tom 3rd and 6th. I won 35+ with Matt 7th and Jay 11th, Will Black was 12th and Jesse Rients 16th. Matt Shriver pulled off an amazing 10th place on day 1 and super junior Ellen Noble, 16 years old, finish 16th in the Elite Women's race, amazing.

Excited for the season, glad the form is there, definitely ready for more.

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