During the 2013 Cyclocross season we had the privilege to bring on our long time friend and teammate Kurt. We watched throughout the season as Kurt entered 26 races in the Elite racing category. Here are some words he has to share with us about his season.
It’s hard to believe that in the last four years I’ve entered almost one hundred cyclocross races. What started as a fun and curious challenge shifted into a focus into how competitive I could become. After moving up in the amateur ranks in 2012, 2013 meant a whole new game as a category 2 racer in the elite field. Competing this season meant showing up to the big UCI races with some of the world’s top riders, and to the small grassroots races with the best locals. I competed in 27 races overall in the 2013 season.
After Quad Cross, the local season opener was Green Mountain CX, my first UCI race. New England CX racers all know this is a demanding course and right off the start I felt myself gasping to hang on to the pace. I got pulled with a few laps to go and felt as if I gave all I could. The next day, Sunday, I finished on the lead lap with all the power I had.
Sometimes things just happen and even if you’re feeling on top of your game things still go awry, like breaking your chain in the middle of the race. That’s how it went at the Midnight Ride of CX, a night race under lights. After a frightening start, barreling into darkness at full speed hearing only brake pads and tires skidding, I made it through the mess and felt like I was moving up; I was on my feet running halfway around the course to the pit a second later. The pit mechanic fixed my chain in minute or two and I jumped back onto the course while my heart was still pounding and rode it out the best I was able.
My next challenge came three days later at the Gran Prix of Gloucester amongst a stacked field. I felt comfortable in the pack sprinting off the line and had found my way in the mix for half of the first lap when I got a shoulder from somebody passing with power. Losing my line I swerved off course and my stem was knocked to the side. I had come ready with a pit bike this time and after a quick transition I was back in the race. Gloucester conditions were much drier than in past years; the course was very dry and dusty on the second day of racing. This dust proved to be a factor in the race: when riders stormed onto the course a wall of brown dust enveloped all but the top riders at the front. I finished on the lead lap and felt all the endorphins one can feel. Dust lingered in my nose for days, regularly reminding me of the intensity and grit of that weekend.
The following week was highlighted by the Providence Cyclocross Festival, which is always a big production. The field again was stacked with the best riders in the country. The course was fast and the top riders used their speed to break the field. Just around half finished on the lead lap both days.
The calendar for the next few weeks included some smaller races in rural New Hampshire and Maine that I hadn’t done in the past. As exciting as the big races were, these smaller races – with no announcers, few spectators aside from other racers, maybe one vendor, and a fraction of the number of racers – had a sense of competition that was much more intimate but just as fierce.
Starting line at Hannover CX
Orchard Cross turned out to be a party. Celebrating the end of the harvest on a Sunday in late October at Apple Crest Orchard in Southern NH with cider donuts, grilled corn, beer, a costume race, and a ripping fun course was a blast. The alluring course flaunted its autumn flavor as it weaved crisply around the orchard and through rows of crops; a set of nicely-groomed BMX style dirt rollers were also included in this two-wheeled hayride of sorts. Hanging tight in a fast group the whole race, holding on until the end, and staying smooth throughout were just as satisfying as all the delicious food they had there. It was a perfect fall day and one of the season’s highlights.
The next Friday James and I hopped in the car to head to Northampton via the Mass Pike. We were out past Worcester, about 20 or 30 minutes before we would have reached I-91, when we saw something dark in the lane ahead. Approaching fast, I jammed on the brakes and we locked into a skid. The unknown object turned out to be a car crashed out in the left lane and we weren’t slowing quickly enough. While locked in a skid I drifted the car into the middle lane. There was another car blocking that lane too so all in one motion we drifted back to the left lane, narrowly avoiding the accident in the darkness. We saw a few more cars and a large pickup truck with a huge trailer jack knifed up ahead. We were certainly shaken up a bit after narrowly avoiding this multi-vehicle accident in the darkness. Our gracious host Rebekah from the wonderful Valley Green Feast, one of BCD’s delivery partners, helped calm our nerves by taking us to Stone Soup Farms Co-op Launch party. I managed to race extremely consistently on both Saturday and Sunday, finishing on the lead lap each day and wholly exceeding my expectations.
A few weeks later was another weekend event in Sterling, MA: Bay State CX. At this point in the season we turn the clocks back, the sun is lower in the sky, and generally the temperature is noticeably cooler. No exceptions here, just add rain. These were the hardest races of the year without a doubt. I warmed up the best I could and prepared myself for the start. The ground was frozen solid but had a slick layer of thin mud as the rain had thawed parts of the surface and the bicycle tires scraped it away. Maintaining smoothness and a decent pace required intense focus and precision, as well as patience. The ice, rain, and mud were the typical mix of CX conditions we know and cherish here but had not seen yet this year. Greasy-feeling off-camber sections and steep, lumpy descents gave this course technical features that really broke apart the field. Seeing the upset of Jeremy Durrin beat Jeremy Powers was exciting to watch. Somewhere around half of the elite field finished on the lead lap both days.
The last big weekend event was NBX in Warwick, RI, right on the Narragansett Bay at a beautiful state park. I had raced here before and love both the venue and the course, which includes a rather long beach section, twisty lines though rooty pine trees, and a fast, paved downhill. The delicious taco truck there helped fuel me to consistent rides both days and I even finished in the money on Sunday! Twenty fourth place scored me $18. It does seem a little silly after paying almost $50 just to register but I’ll take it. It takes plenty of recourses to support a cyclocross season and clearly I don’t do it for money but anything helps. Towards the end of that race I felt solid and during the final laps I was passing riders whom I never see in a race except for at the start. They must have been having problems and I benefited. It happens to every racer; I have been on the other side of that many times myself.
Ice Weasels was the last race of the season and a local favorite. With a new venue this year it was different, but it maintained its festive spirit, or maybe it was all the beer they had. The high of the day was 20 degrees and the first snow of the year was starting in the afternoon, with a few inches forecasted to stack up that evening. A large fire, tents, and drinks kept the party together and I had a wonderful time even though there were some stressful moments. An icy off-camber stretch across the top of a hill caused many people to hit the ground. A hand injury made half of the race quite frustrating while trying to glide over the frozen earth. On the drive back my car was overheating while not getting any heat inside. As I made my way to Boston, cold and weary, hoping not to breakdown, all I could think was “please just get me home.” Indeed I made it but not without damaging my bike on the rear rack of the car. I felt better when I finally got warm and into bed, at last able to begin recovering from the shock I had absorbed from the day. I felt as if my body and equipment had all been fully exhausted and I felt strain on personal relationships. It seemed for a moment like everything was crashing down. There are highs and lows in this sport and all of them make me come alive. There are no regrets here, only lessons learned. I feel grateful for every one of these races for which I was lucky enough to line up.
Kurt raced the Bern “Allston” and the “Morrison" helmet, Bern’s first cycling specific offerings. BCD has put the Allston to the test in elite competition and in our daily courier operations this season.
With generous support from Pedro’s our race and work bikes have been rolling smooth and respond impeccably to the rigorous demands of competition and work.
Thank you to all of our sponsors and supporters! We look forward to developing the team as the Co-op grows and promoting the sport in 2014!