Written by David Keppler Monday, 09 October 2017 00:00
The KMC Cross Festival takes place at the Thompson Motor Speedway in Thompson, Connecticut. It is one of the larger events in the area, being part of the US Cup, and had races that covered 3 days with a total of more than 1000 registered racers. My race was the first race on Sunday but I made a point to get there early enough to get at least one practice lap in before the race.
Fortunately, Sunday turned out to be one of the most beautiful fall days we’ve had in a while so it made the early start much easier to contend with. The speedway is part of the NASCAR series and is a pretty imposing venue but the course, demo area, and registration for the Cross Festival are laid out well and everything was easy to find. After getting registered and kitted up I took a quick and informative warm up lap. Not being a real flat-ground fast-sprinter I wasn’t sure how I’d do on this course as the majority of the lap was either in the infield, which is pretty flat, or on parts of the track, which is very flat, but the course was super fun and had some interesting ‘features’ that would definitely demand racer’s attention.
We lined up for our start on the far side of the track from the bleachers and finish line. It was sunny, dry, and a little cool which made for perfect conditions for a race. I was thankful that it wasn’t wet as all as the start is actually on the race track which is paved and the turns are banked somewhat steeply. As the whistle blew we started off strong but considerate as no one wanted to go down on the pavement. We had stretched out a bit and picked up the pace as we passed through the finish line and entered the grass of the infield.
We cut a sharp left under the first of two flyovers and cranked past the pit through the snakey course of the infield. Soon we were back out on the paved track and sprinting towards the hill that constituted the most technically challenging part of the course. Quick sprint around the base of the ‘mountain’ and right into a huge run-up. Did my best to actually run it and remounted quickly at the top. Around a sharp left turn, made interesting by some well placed sand, and down the off-camber hill drop. There were three lines to choose from on the downhill and I felt fortunate to have chosen the middle one as that seemed to play to my style the best. I stuck with that line for the rest of the race.
We hit a sharp right turn, fortified with tires no less, at the base of the hill and then an immediate, very sharp, uphill to an off-camber hill crossing. I wasn’t able to ride it the first time due to traffic but I made sure to ride it on every successive lap. Some well placed turf helped navigate the off-camber section and we were shunted out onto the track again to head back towards the infield. After a few snakey turns on the grass we had a 3 foot step-up to the second level of the infield.
Another straightaway sprint and we hit the lower part of the hill we recently left. One quick up and down, a bit of a left turn and then a short but challenging 180 on the far side of the hill. Unfortunately, due to the time of our race, I found it pretty much impossible to ride that last turn as the sun was directly in my eyes every time I approached the hill and I couldn’t see to pick a line. I tried it on the first lap and only succeeded in having to dismount and cause some riders behind me to rear-end me. Sorry guys. For the rest of the race I made sure to run that last turn and found it probably didn’t take too much away from my time.
We made a quick sprint over a flyover and down into some more sharp turns in the grass. Through a well banked dirt turn and then up onto the wall above the race track. Back down after a quick sprint and we were in the infield again. Over the next flyover and down behind the finish line. We jumped the barriers, popped out on the track for a sharp left-turn and down through the finish line for the lap.
Overall I found the most challenging part of this course was the numerous straight sprint sections and the one off-camber turn on the hill that found me sunblind every time. I think we ended up doing 5 laps which made for a good ride for sure. I didn’t make any glaring mistakes, kept my pace as high as I could, and in the end was very pleased with my result. Once again my new Kona Major Jake was flawless and gave me extra headroom that I haven’t had access to before. I hope someday to live up to this bike’s potential.
With such a unique venue, a well run and well attended event, and perfect weather, the KMC Cross Festival was a great way to spend a Sunday morning in the fall. If you haven’t had a chance to race in Thompson, I would recommend adding it to your calendar. Thanks for reading and keep the rubber side down.
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