Written by David Keppler Sunday, 18 October 2015 00:00
For my first cyclocross race of the season, I signed up for the 2nd annual Keene Pumpkin Cross race in Keene, New Hampshire. The race takes place at the Surry Recreation area just north of Keene and we lucked out with a brisk but beautiful fall day. I woke to some snow and ice on my car but the sky was clear and as the sun came out, it turned into a gorgeous day.
The course for the race spanned a beach front park and incorporated 2 different sand sections, a large log barrier, one run up, and some paved sections as well. It was a fast course with many areas where you could really crank but also had a good variety of terrain to make it an interesting race. The fall foliage was pretty much at peak and, with the clear, sunny morning, as well as the lake and mountain scenery, the location was quite stellar.
Being in the men’s cat 4/5 race meant that I was in the first to race at 9:00 a.m. I got to the venue early enough to take a few casual warm up laps which was a good thing as there were some sneaky surprises like the log barrier in the woods and the interesting sand traps. I guess that strengthens the argument for a warm up lap.
The field was of moderate size with about 30 of us lining up for the over 40 category. Before the start I could have sworn I heard a beehive nearby but it turned out it was a drone that ended up filming this cool video of the race:
The start was fast, as it was on a paved section of road, and then we took a quick left into the grassy field at the middle of the park. The pace was kept high as we passed through the finish line and we made our way around some corners and up behind a picnic structure on the edge of the woods. Around a few sharp turns and then up and a sharp left as we slid down towards the large log barrier. Quick flip over the log and off to the first sand section. At first, the sand was a bit sloppy but it quickly packed down and became faster as we worked our way through the 3 or 4 laps of the race. After a few more winding turns we cleared the barriers in the middle of the field and headed back towards the beach. The first section of sand was mostly straight and flat while the second section was a semi-circle turn that wrapped around a large pile of sand. Fun but challenging and it worked out, on the later laps, to be faster by running it rather than riding it. The next section was a straight shot across the edge of the lake to the run up which was fairly short but was just enough to break up any rhythm you might have built up to this point. Next up were some sharp off-camber hilly turns and a mild climb to the top of another road. Down the road a bit, to the left into the grass again and around a few more sharp turns. One more road section, onto a walking path and up around the bathrooms for a few more turns. Down one last steep hill and we were at the start again.
I was able to keep my speed pretty well throughout the first couple of laps but started to fade on the third. Fortunately I was able to ride the first sand trap every lap and got into a bit of a rhythm running around the second sand section. I didn’t have any serious mistakes and my Kona Major Jake was more than up to the challenge. It will be a long time before I outride that bike. In the end I was just glad to finish in one piece and overall, had a great time.
The course in Keene is very well laid out, quite fast, and had a great mix of obstacles and smooth sections. The scenery alone is worth the trip. Everything was very dry with just a little bit of mud from some previous rain and morning dew. The race was very well organized and had a great vibe. I was fortunate to have raced in the morning as it was so sunny and beautiful but later in the day, there were snow flurries and colder temps. My Verge jersey kept me warm and as I mentioned before, my Kona Major Jake was a smooth riding machine. Seeing as how this race took place the same day as the Casco Bay Cross I didn’t see any other Bikeman.com riders. I did my best to represent and overall had an excellent time. I’ll definitely be back next year for the third running of the race. Unless it happens on the same day as Casco Bay…
Thanks for reading and keep the rubber side down.
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