Cyclocross: How I Work Really Hard to be Mediocre, and That’s Okay.

Hello everyone,

Nathan Werner took 1st place and Dan Ciabattoni took 3rd in the CAT 4/5 race at Swashbuckler Cross.
Nathan Werner took 1st place and Dan Ciabattoni took 3rd in the CAT 4/5 race at Swashbuckler Cross.

This weekend was an absolute blast (even though my legs are killing me).  I raced two cyclocross races this weekend. Swashbucklers Cross on Saturday held at the renaissance fairgrounds, and Stoudts Cross put on by my own team Stoudts Brewery/JB Mountain Bikes held behind Stoudts Brewery.  These are two of the three races put on by Breweries within the Pennsylvania Cyclocross Series (PACX).  I almost wish they would have a mini brewery cup within the PACX series just because these races are so much more different than the standard grass crit cross races we often see in this area.  Stoudts Brewery/JB Mountain bikes had an impressive display this weeekend.  We doubled dipped on the podium both days which is awesome.  It’s great seeing the team colors up there on the podium.  I just had a good time.  You know, I have a very decent power profile if you look at the numbers but I place towards the back in the Masters 35+ series.  I will tell you why that is.

My Power Profile puts me right in the middle of a CAT 3 racer. However, they don't have a scale on there to measure your bike handling skills.
My Power Profile puts me right in the middle of a CAT 3 racer. However, they don’t have a scale on there to measure your bike handling skills.

Being strong on a bike is only half the equation when it comes to cyclocross racing.  You need superior handling skills also.  I would estimate cyclocross racing to be 60 percent power and 40 percent bike handling skills.  The people I race with in the Masters Category have superior handling skills and the power to go along with it.  I’m not mad that the results are not there for me this year.  I feel the exact opposite.  I am glad to be out racing and socializing with people who love to do the same thing I love to do, race bikes in the grass and dirt.  The skills the masters level riders possess are absolutely impressive. These guys are amazing to say the least.  It is really humbling to get out there,  pin on a number, and just watch them flawlessy execute things that you personally are only okay at.  So enough about how I suck at cross rassin!

At Swashbuckler, if you have the bike skills you roe this quick rock run up. I'm sure you can see I wasn't able to ride it.
At Swashbuckler, if you have the bike skills you rode this quick rock run up. I’m sure you can see I wasn’t able to ride it.

I put the brewery races in a completely different category.  You will never catch me saying a cross race sucked.  So, if you are ever here reading this and looking for me to tear apart a cross race, it isn’t going to happen.  There are good cross races, great cross races, and epic cross races.  I love riding each and every one of them.  When I’m pre-riding the course, I can see exactly what the course designer was trying to do in every turn, obstacle, and straightaway.  You ride the course and it’s like the course designer is talking to you in each section.  You see where they want you to scrub speed, where there is the opportunity to pass, where you need to put your bike driving skills to the test.  A true and well balanced course will have all of these options.

This is me doing my best impression trying to pump my bike up and down these muddy rollers at the back of Swashbuckler Cross.
This is me doing my best impression of a BMX’er trying to pump my bike up and down these muddy rollers at the back of Swashbuckler Cross.

Now, I’m better at courses that allow me to lay down steady power under flat conditions.  I feel strong at Nittany, West Chester, and Crossasaurus Awesome.  I struggle on the other courses.  You will notice this amongst all types of racers on a cross course.  The mountain bike guys love the courses where you have to use more skill to negotiate the course and the road guys like the flatter grass races where they can lay down steady power.  So one course may be the best course for one person and an awful course for another.

That folks, is a very large and sandy jousting pit. We were lucky enough it rained and packed some of the sand down. Otherwise, it would have been interesting.
That folks, is a very large and sandy jousting pit. We were lucky enough it rained and packed some of the sand down. Otherwise, it would have been interesting.

The brewery races favor the bike drivers.  Swashbuckler is a great time.  You get to ride the Renaissance Fairgrounds, ride through a sandy jousting pit, ride through the actual fairgrounds, do some BMX’ing on the back side; I had a great time there.  You also get a free smoked turkey leg as a participation prize.  Who doesn’t love some Swashbuckler brew and a smoked turkey leg after a race.  Stoudts is another great venue, and yes I’m partial to this course because it is my team’s course.  We worked hard putting it together.  Besides a few tweaks, we have a pretty damn good course laid out right now.

Nathan taking another win at Stoudts Cross with his teammate Eric Ciabattoni coming in third. Great job guys.
Nathan taking another win at Stoudts Cross with his teammate Eric Ciabattoni coming in third. Great job guys.

Stoudts Cross also favors the bike drivers.  If you have great handling skills, your going to be on the podium in this race.  Stoudts runs you up and down goat hill, it gives you 5 places to either ride or run obstacles, and they have great Stoudts beer with German food to fill up on after your race.  We worked hard for months on that course and I felt proud and accomplished when we packed everything up at the end of Sunday.  There is no better feeling than being on a great team that also puts on its own race.  We are not just riding cross, we are also a big part of the cross scene in this area.

My biggest highlight this weekend was watching the Killer B’s (CAT 3/4) race at Stoudts.  It was an epic race to say the least.  You rarely get the opportunity to see a person just completely turn themselves inside out in a race.  Greg Ressler (aka Rupert) from Riders of Rohan absolutely turned himself inside out to win that race.  Rupert battled, and battled, and battled during that entire race.  He fought for every inch and every second.  I couldn’t help myself but to cheer for the man.  I haven’t seen an effort like that since I was in the Marine Corps.  It’s common place to see Marines turn themselves inside out on a weekly basis when training.  You learn what it’s like to embrace the suck and dig deep.  It’s more of a rarity to be in a position to see that outside of the Marine Corps.  I don’t even know Rupert that well, but I was so damn impressed with him for that herculean effort.  Damn impressed.  Bravo Zulu Rupert!

Leave a Reply

Translate »
%d bloggers like this: