Written by David Keppler Monday, 04 December 2017 00:00
One of my favorite cross races of the year is the West Hill Shop CX race in Putney, Vermont. This year marked the 27th anniversary of the race making it one of the longest running races in the area and the West Hill Shop definitely knows how to put on a Cross race.
Sunday turned out to be a cold day with potential showers in the afternoon which is perfect for a Cross race for sure. I thought I’d add an extra challenge for myself for this race so I signed up for the Men’s Cat 3/4 race in the afternoon. Being a mid-pack cat 4 racer I knew I’d have my work cut out for me. I had hoped that the rain might hold off until after our race but that was not our lot. On the drive up, rain started spitting and everything got quickly damp and slippery. Fortunately it wasn’t quite as cold as it usually is this time of year so it still felt like a good day for a race.
By the time we lined up at the start the ground was sloppy, greasy, and very wet. Watching some of the races before ours it was obvious that the mud would be a factor as it seemed to suck all the momentum out of even the best of efforts. We lined up before the single-speeders and got the countdown for our start. At the whistle we raced for the grass that makes up the first section of the course. The pace was fast and there were some slide outs but everyone made it into the groove without getting injured. We snaked our way through the solar array that sits next to the West Hill Shop and ran our way over the barriers at the back of the field. I settled into what I thought would be a maintainable pace and pushed ahead.
We raced up a grassy hill and around sharp turns working our way to the first sections of serious mud. With enough momentum you could ride the next few hills but definitely had to pay attention or the thickening mud would pull you out of your rhythm. I paid attention to those riders ahead of me and fortunately was able to ride the muddy sections without losing any real time. Around the next few bends and then we took the steep, slippery downhill to the lower level of the course. After racing through some grass and a few muddy spots we took a sharp left onto a dirt road to speed back to the transition run-up that led back to the upper part of the course. The run-up had changed since I last raced here but it is just as challenging and steep as the previous version. Fortunately there are two distinct lines so the pace kept moving up the hill.
The next section was also new to me and presented a challenging, deep left turn that got more and more greasy as the race went on. There was a runable option which I took, erring on the side of caution and was able to get through, albeit slower than those that chose to ride into the turn and run only the last section. Up top we worked our way through more snakey, sharp turns and I did my best to preserve what momentum I could through the muddy sections. More than once I had to let up a bit to avoid spinning out and taking a tumble into the mud or grass but I was able to stay upright and press through.
Back around the shop over some hoop-dee-doos and some sharp turns and we set out on the next lap. The rain increased a bit in intensity as our race continued so the slippery sections became more abundant and more challenging with every lap. Soon enough the lead single speed racers caught up to me and I did my best to keep my pace and not hinder those that were faster than me.
In the end I finished about where I expected too, considering the category that I was racing in. I was a bit disappointed by my fitness as there were a few times I had hoped to catch some riders that seemed within my reach but did my best to learn from the challenges presented by this excellent course.
As always, the event put on by the West Hill Shop was very well run and the course itself was challenging and very enjoyable. Even the weather, as bad as it was, could have been a lot worse considering the time of year. I had a great time and learned a lot racing against guys that were younger and much faster than myself. My new Kona Major Jake was, again, incredible, reliable, and a joy to ride. I will definitely be attending this race again next year and hope to improve on my result from this year. If you’ve never had the chance to race the West Hill Shop CX race, I highly recommend it. Hope to see you there next year. Thanks for reading and keep the rubber side down.
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