Uncle Sam Cyclocross Brings the Challenge
by Paul Wojciak • October 13, 2018
The NYCROSS Cyclocross series offers a variety of venues in New York's central and capital regions and even in southwestern Vermont. Prospect Park in Rensselear, NY plays host to the series' Uncle Sam cyclocross double weekend. The venue overlooks Troy, NY and sits in the shadow of Rensselear Polytechnic Institute. Like most cyclocross events, the weather factors into how the races will unfold. When things are wet, the mud flies. When things are relatively dry, as they were this year, power becomes a bit more of a factor.
The park has some of the best punchy climbs, tricky sidehill, and off-camber you'll find on a CX course. This year an extra treat, a 75 foot long, super steep, shouldering required climb, featured on every lap. I say climb because the footing was so treacherous and the pitch so steep that running did not at all describe what you were doing. Many groans and curses were in the air, mingling with the heckling from the spectators.
My Masters 50+ / 60+ group was the second field of the day with temps in the 50's and grippy, mud free conditions. Still benefiting from the racer I was last year, I got a front row starting position. The starting grid was in a prominent position this year so fans and supporters were able to get into things from the get go. We got our instructions from the race official, 30 seconds to go, the whistle blew, and we were off!
The posse swarmed into the first gentle turn, through the chute, into the trees and I settled into position. We navigated a number of power sections, then into some technical side hills and through a gravelly section, down a loamy hill, to the base of 'hike a bike hill'. Wow, what a pile of humanity. Good thing I pre-rode this section to find the best footing. There are guys falling all over.
Over the top, back on the bike and cruising. Uh Oh, a guy missed the high-speed turn and went crashing over a boulder, he's shaken, but appears unhurt. Cranking through a bunch more swoopy turns, some power sections, the barriers, down and around some more flowy stuff to the rideable power climbs. Field is definitely spreading out now.
The tricky sidehill, where you can hit your crankarm if you're not careful, claims a victim. Up a little rise and we're sprinting through the start/finish for the end of lap one. That was a blast! I start to work traffic, dueling guys and making some passes. As each lap unfolds, I see that my strengths are 'hike a bike hill', a series of power sections, and the punchy climbs. We're already getting the bell lap. One to go and I see a couple riders ahead that might be catchable with a big effort. I'm adding all I can to the motor while trying to stay smooth along the way. I pass one of the riders and just prior to the punchy climbs, I'm catching a second.
As we near the tricky sidehill, I'm right on his wheel. I draw alongside as we both rise up out of the saddle, sprinting for the line. I let out a 'Woop!' , because this is so awesome. He gets me by a bike length at the line. I'm feeling winded, feeling grateful, feeling excited, feeling relieved, well, just reveling in the moment, digesting the experience.
The NYCROSS folks are lickety split with the results and turns out I've finished sixth of 25 riders. I'm very happy with the outcome. Totally stoked that I decided to come to Uncle Sam this year and that the course and conditions turned out the way they did. I really like the addition of 'hike a bike hill' to the laps. Plus, starting early, I'm cooled down, changed and on my way home before 11am. It wasn't until reviewing photos the day after the event that I noticed a second team Bikeman member, Yohsuke Takakura. Great clip of him here coming over the barriers:
Nice to know fellow riders are enjoying the NYCROSS series too. That's all for now, until the next time, may all your rides bring you what you need and your races bring you what you crave.