Blunt Park CX - Springfield MA
by David Keppler • September 18, 2018
For my first CX race of the season I decided to try the Blunt Park race in Springfield, MA on August 26th. Normally I'm still racing mountain bikes at this point but there weren't any other races going on that superseded this early season cross race. Seeing as how it is only about 40 minutes south of where I live and the weather looked to be pretty nice, I figured it would be a good start to the proper cross season. So I loaded up my Kona Major Jake and headed south.
The weather turned out to be great. It actually was a little too hot at some points but I wasn't complaining. I made sure to get to the park with enough time to get in a few warm-up laps as I hadn't seen the course before. Turns out that was a good choice as it helped me plan numerous lines and tactics for the coming race. I spun through the course after registering and got a good idea of what was in store.
What was in store was a tremendously entertaining course. Not sure what I expected but I wasn't sure what could be presented by an urban park in Springfield. There were tons of very tight turns, 2 sets of wooden barriers, 1 set of individual stone barriers (those were fun), very little pavement, and lots of loamy, grippy, flowy trails in the woods (definitely more woods than expected). I was smiling after the first half of my initial warm-up lap and found no reason to stop until the end of the race. Competitive Edge Sports and the Cyclonauts racing club put together a great course and presented a very well run and managed race.
There were about 30 of us in my class with the Masters 50+ starting a minute or two behind us. As the start whistle sounded we sprinted down one of the few paved sections of the course. After a few hundred yards we took a 180 degree turn onto some soft ground, launched over a fun 'mogul' jump and soon took a right into the actual woods. The trails were soft, loamy dirt with numerous exposed roots. Even though there was minimal mud the roots were greasy and got more so as the laps racked up. The trails through the woods were tight and had really good flow. There was a great mix of short, sprintable straights and tight, winding turns. After bouncing through the woods a bit we had the longest straight sprint of the course that cut back along the road to the central, start area of the course. Once back near the pits we were funneled into more snakey turns with a couple of stone barriers. They weren't back to back and were a little taller than parking lot blocks but they offered some interesting challenges just the same. I chose to dismount and run but they were rideable if you had the gumption to try it. After the first one there were a half dozen winding turns and then the next stone barrier. Back into the woods for some twisty turns and numerous roots and then we made our way to the other side of the course.
This side was more what you'd expect from an urban park with picnic tables and swings spread over grassy ground. We ripped our way through more tight turns and two sets of traditional barriers, placed close enough together that I found it fastest to dismount and run all four before remounting. After some fast turns through the park there were some tight off-camber turns and a short bit of pavement back to the start for the next lap.
The lap times were pretty quick and we ended up doing 4 laps in our allotted 45 minutes. For the first race of the season I was pleased with my result, and my fitness. I was glad to feel some improvement in my core skills as I'd been working on them since the Cycle-Smart Cross camp from a few weeks before. My Kona Major Jake performed flawlessly as usual. Still discovering the capabilities of that bike and enjoying every minute of it.
Overall the Blunt Park Cyclocross race in Springfield Mass is a great race to start the season. It is more technical than expected and, for me, that made it more fun than expected. There was a great turnout, some well deserved heckling, and good times all around. Met some great people, saw some familiar faces, hammered through the woods, had great weather, and enjoyed a thoroughly satisfying day. If you get a chance to add this race to your calendar any time soon, I would highly recommend it. Thanks for reading and keep the rubber side down.