Written by David Keppler Saturday, 14 October 2017 00:00
The Minuteman Cyclocross race takes place in Lancaster, Massachusetts at the county fairgrounds. Fortunately it is only about an hour from my house so I signed up and headed out early on Sunday for my 9:15 a.m. race.
We’d been having a week of beautiful fall weather but Sunday was cloudy and was spitting rain as I headed to the venue. Rain was forecast throughout the day but I had hopes that it would hold off until after our race. Even with the potential for rain, however, the temperature was in the 70s so it felt like a great day for a cross race.
The fairgrounds offered a great variety of terrain for the race course including wood-chip lined barns, grassy hills, concrete, and even a sandy ‘race course’ section on the back side of the course. There was one set of barriers, a large log/sand step-up, and a 3-step log barrier on an uphill climb that could be ridden but was quite challenging. Along with the wet grass and sharp turns the course definitely demanded consistent attention.
As we staged for the men’s cat 4/5 race the actual rain started. Considering how much of the course was on grass we knew that any serious moisture would change the course dramatically and I did my best to mentally prepare for the changes. We started strong with a combined field of more than 100 and sprinted our way up the first grassy hill.
Down the same hill we just climbed, around a sharp left and into a banked 180 that, unfortunately on the first lap, was a jammed up walk. Things quickly thinned out and we worked our way through the first barn and down towards the sandy race-track on the far side of the course. The pace was kept high as we snaked our way around the sand and up over the large sand/log step-up. Through some tight, sandy turns and down to another livestock area for a few turns and then out onto the grassy field. A sharp right and left around the barn and through the field onto one of the few paved sections of the course.
Cautious right turn back into the flat field and a few lefts to the barriers. Up and over, hard right onto the next paved section. Around a good sized pond on the left, through the pit area and back under the next wood-chip lined barn. Out of the barn and back onto a different section of the hill that we climbed at the start. The sharp turns on the side of the hill were some of the hardest parts of the course, especially as the race progressed, because it got wetter, softer, and very slick. I did my best to be cautious while keeping the pace up as I knew if I went down I would definitely lose some precious time. Around a few more sharp turns and then the log barriers heading back up the hill. Fortunately I was able to ride these logs on every one of our 5 laps while some chose to run them. Riding them kept me ahead of those who ran and made the remainder of the climb much faster. Around a few more turns, heading down the hill and we came around to the finish line to head out for the next lap.
As the race thinned out (as much as it could with the number of racers on the course) I found a good pace and was able to keep it for most of the race. The rain had been sporadic at most throughout our first few laps but, about half way through our 3rd lap, the skies really opened up and we got some real rain. This had an immediate effect on the course as I saw numerous riders go down on the grassy corners. I kept my pace as best I could and compensated for the extremely greasy conditions. The sand corners got a little faster as they solidified a bit but the grassy corners (which were much more abundant) definitely became oily slick. The log steps also became more challenging as the risk of a rear tire spinout rose dramatically. Despite the rain I was able to hold what I thought was a good position and finished the race strong.
In the end I was very happy with my result and was pleased that I didn’t go down, even with the extremely slick conditions. Again my Kona Major Jake was flawless and handled all aspects of the course like a champ. If I haven’t mentioned it, I love that bike. Stiff and responsive and eats climbs for lunch. Even though I was thoroughly soaked at the end of the race I was still smiling from the effort and excitement of the day.
The Minuteman CX race is a well organized, well attended, and entertaining event. The course was a lot of fun with some new and interesting components and made for a challenging race. The rain upped the intensity for sure but just made for a more exciting race. All of the racers were considerate and the volunteers did a great job accommodating all the racers. If you get a chance to attend the Minuteman CX race in Lancaster, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed. I know I thoroughly enjoyed the day. Thanks for reading and keep the rubber side down.
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