Yesterday was day 1 of two days of Cyclocross action up in Shawnee, Kansas. Last year I traveled up here with Tyler, Craig and Judson and it was the best racing experience I had all year. The courses were challenging and the fields plenty large. I knew I would want to come back this year to help fill the gap in local race weekends in the Oklahoma Scene.
This year I’ve traveled up with my wife Mandy (big upgrade sorry guys) and we’ve made it a get-a-way weekend with the racing. As a side note I can’t recommend this enough. Training and traveling for cycling can take away from time with the people most important in your life, combining the two is ideal “together time” as the race only takes 2–3 hours of time and then you can hange together. I plan on trying to bring just a couple of my kids at time in future races for fun adventures with them.
Anyways, I knew from last year’s course that Saturday would be the tougher of the two for me becuase of the large, long climb that is a part of each lap. Saturday is also a lot of off loose off camber so getting a good start can really help you establish a gap and hold on. I like getting a good start anyways so that is always a part of the plan.
The other new dynamic this year is that I’ve just switched to running a single chain ring in the front with a chain keeper to avoid dropped chains during the race. I was finding I was always in my smaller ring, only occasionally running out of gears - but then leery of trying to shift for the scare of dropping a chain or having a mechanical. Research online showed a lot of racers go with a 42 in the front - but that felt too big for what I’d need so I went with a Surly 40 tooth chain ring in the front. With the long hill in this course I knew my 40x28 would just have to do.
They do a good job of having a wide/open staging area at these races that lead into the start/finish portion of the course. I continue to find most cyclocross racers will jump at the start for about 4 seconds and then it seems everyone is more focused on fitting into their place in the pack then trying to keep advancing places. Yesterday at the start I jumped out and kept hammering so I was in 2nd spot leading into the start/finish straight away. There was a strong north wind blowing right down this stretch so instead of passing I sat in behind the guy in front of me letting him take the wind and waiting for the 180 turn at the end of it. As he started to fade a little I jumped around and hit the 180 with good speed leading into a series of the loose off cambers.
Just getting out of the fray I had a 10 second gap leading into “death hill” on the first lap. As with any course it’s all about trying to find your pace for the fastest laps possible. The first 3 laps I was able to stay in first place but I was burning too many matches trying to find that place and on the fourth lap (where I tend to struggle the most laps 4–6) I was gassed. I only ever got passed on that long hill and 5 laps to go six guys had managed to slip pass me. But from 5 to go and on I stayed with the same gaps, finding a good rhythm and starting to feel my legs/lungs come back.
The last couple laps I was able to go up the long hill in my 24 and keep much better speed through that part of the course. I didn’t catch any one, though gaining on them and ended up 7th for the day (about 35 were in the field.) I felt good with the performance. Last year this had been my first CX Cat 3 racing and I ended up in the high 20s for placing - it’s always good to see some tangible progress.
Today’s course, if it similar to last years will be mostly flat, have a good off camber technical section, 30 ft sand pit, and opportunities for a bigger guy like me to keep momentum. The goal, as in any race is to get into the top 3 and on the podium. Today is the Boulevard Cup - sponsored by Kansas City native Boulevard Beer. So, if nothing else their beer truck will help sooth any disappoints from the race - ha!