Written by Mike Benson Thursday, 13 October 2016 00:00
This would be the first year the KMC Cyclocross festival would be held in Thompson, CT. In the previous years it was held at Roger Williams Park in Providence, RI. Much of the reason for moving the race was to provide a bigger venue to accommodate a future National Championship. Not only was parking an issue in Providence but the venue was maxed out for growth and the city wasn’t extremely accommodating in finding ways around this. The Thompson speedway offers many things that Providence couldn’t. The first, which my family and I absolutely loved, was the ability to camp onsite. We have a travel trailer and were able to arrive late in the afternoon on Friday to find a huge camping area (one for family and one for night owls). The only issue with camping is that there wasn’t a cut through from the camping area to the back of the team club areas (it was only 50 yards). This was mainly because there was actual car racing on Sunday and they couldn’t close part of the track for that. As I understand it, KMC has secured leased the whole facility next year for both days so I presume they will create an area to walk over. For those that are wondering, I rode my bike over to race both days but my wife and kids drove over both mornings with my pit bike because it was just too far to ride over with two bikes. Not a huge deal but something to stress about before a race.
When we arrived on Friday, I really wanted to pre-ride the course but wasn’t able to because Friday night racing had already started. Not a big deal though because it started to rain pretty hard. We headed over to the Builders Ball to check out some of the great handmade bikes. This was a fun event to attend. It was great speaking with many of the local bike builders on their bike design and history. I was able to speak with Richard Sachs for a while as well. He is a solid citizen with lots of great stories.
On Saturday, I got up early and headed over to the race course to pre-ride and warmup. My race was at 9am following the 4/5 race at 8am. There was a lot of mud on the course first thing because of all the rain the night before. Everyone on the course that morning was riding in 6 inches of mud at times and forming many of the lines that would be ridden later in the day. The course started on a 100 yard grass straight away on the infield of the race track. During my Saturday race there was a huge mud puddle right before you crossed the raceway. As you went through here at high speeds, mud was flying everywhere and it was almost impossible to see. Wearing glasses was not an option because I would have had to dump them at some point because it was still raining and mud would have gunked them up pretty quickly. After crossing the raceway, the course quickly banked to the left back onto hard pack grass which lead to the first tricky right hand camber turn and then up an over the first of two flyovers. The middle of the course was generally flat and offered many opportunities to race in tight packs and draft other riders to save energy. The pit area was strewn with mud due to all the bike washing going on. By the way, this was one of my real big issues here. They wouldn’t let you wash your bike here and the lines to wash bikes behind the garages was 100 people deep. Luckily my camper had an outdoor shower which enabled me to clean things up nicely.
On the back of the course, there was a large hill that provided all sorts of run-ups, steep descents, gnarly off-cambers, ruts, etc. Some of this hill was not open for our races and later opened for some of the lower category and pro races. Watching the pros endo over the handle bars down the steepest section on Saturday was mind blowing. Rider after rider was going over the bars including Stephen Hyde. The back hill was an area that I excelled in and was able to gap many people here. After the hill, there was a long straight away on pavement where it was basically an all-out effort that took you back around the course, through the garages, and back around towards the main oval race track where the race began. After going over the second flyover, you raced around a small pond, which lead to a sandy camber and then a sand run-up. At the top of the run-up, you ducked right and then dropped in down the corner of the race track and back on the infield to a number of twists and turns, one set of barriers and then a long straightaway to the finish line. The course was very similar both days in terms of the way it raced except much was reversed during the middle sections and back hill area. I raced my Challenge Baby Limus tubulars on my awesome C38 Carver wheels. These offered great mud traction. I think I was 25/22 psi front and rear.
Overall, I loved the course, the location, and the mud that Thompson offered on this race weekend. Are there improvements needed for next year. Absolutely!! For one, I never found the beer garden which was probably a good thing. It took a while to figure out where the pit was. It took a while to figure out how to and where to watch the following races that day without trekking around the course. They definitely need more options in terms of pit and bike care. As for my results in the 40+ 4/5 category. This weekend provided my best results to date and 6 upgrade points. I finished 4th out of 90 or so riders both days. On day one, I actually thought I had third and let up in a sprint finish that I may or may not have caught his front wheel but quickly found out that someone had gone way off the front. On day two, I was in third all the way to the final twists and turns before the barriers on the final lap, and crashed around a tight 180. Two riders passed me and I was in 5th. Crap!! I was able to catch the person that beat me on day one and retain 4th. That’s racing. Can’t wait to see what they produce next year.
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