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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Hear The Midgets Roar and Other Observations from Planet Bike USGP CX Race in Madison WI

By Guest Blogger Ryan Lindsay-Zephyr Wheel Sports/Cyclesport (pictured left and still on his bike at OVCX Kingswood)

I decided to take a trip to Madison, Wisconsin this weekend to race the Planet Bike U.S.G.P.'s and take the chance to see 3 time cyclo-cross world champion Erwin Vervecken race in America before he retires at the end of the year. Friday morning loaded up and headed north, all was well until I hit Illinois, lets just say their highway system sucks, especially their toll roads, but thankfully Wisconsin came and things improved. I got to the course at Angell Park Speedway around 2:00 P.M. and see the following sign at the entrance to the track "Hear the mighty midgets roar!", while at first glance it could seem offensive, it is really a dirt track for midget and sprint race cars, so no need to call the ACLU on behalf of any vertically challenged folks.

The course was pretty bland, a lot of flat wide open straights mixed with a few tight turns, off cambers, and a run up with some railroad ties on a hillside, but thankfully for me it rained on Friday, so Saturday was going to be wet for us working class racers. I got to the course at 7:00 a.m. Saturday to pre-ride before the Cat. 4's and juniors, things were still muddy and slick and I was loving my Challenge Fango's. 10:15 and I am lined up 67th out of 80 riders, the gun goes off, the sprint begins, and just as we are up to speed I hear the sound of bikes hitting pavement, not good, next thing I know I am running over people and then get slammed in to the steel fencing and hit from behind to boot, we hadn't even got to the start line yet! I get up, only to see my front tire peeled off the rim, so I do my best sprint for 300 yards to the pit, switch wheels and set off from what appeared to be last place, I got my anger channeled and started picking my way back through the pack, passing people in the technical areas and even a few on the power sections, all told I ended up 55th, and given all the problems was pretty happy with that. The pro's made it all look easy, 3 time world MTB champ Allsion Sydor amazed all when she rode up the railroad ties on the run up, and on the men's side all of the big gun U.S. riders were riding up them, while Vervecken
(pictured below courtesy CXMagazine.com), swiss national champ Christian Heule and others were on foot.

Sunday I was hoping for some redemption, again got to the course early, things were changed up a bit for Sunday, the run-up was out, replaced by a short, steep climb, only to ride right back down to a 180 degree off camber and ride right back up, the announcers called it the "hillside strangler", I just called it tough, really a strength zapper, but we don't ride 'cross because it easy now do we? A few other minor changes to the course, but by and large it was very similar to day one. Cheered on the Cat 4's, juniors and begginers, including the Red Zone juniors from Louisville who were representing nicely. Lined up 68th out of 80 plus on Sunday, got a great start and was picking off guys pretty quickly, got up to around the top 40 and was settling in, came through lap one feeling good, and put in a dig right before a 180 degree turn to get rid of some people, only to have disaster strike again, rear tubular rolled, about now I am feeling like Bill Murray in "Groundhog Day", my motivation is now in the basement, so in a repeat from the previous day, I do my best Carl Lewis impersonation and run to the pit, switch out wheels, which takes a little time when you have to deflate the tubular to get the wheel off and start the same pursuit for the second day in a row, I managed to pick off about 15 people in the next three laps, but my heart wasn't in it and with the leaders quickly aproaching to lap me, I decide to pull myself, just had enough of the frustration by that point.

I regrouped and went in to fan mode for the rest of the day, got to talk with Tim Van Nuffel from Belgium and ask him what he thought about U.S. 'cross, he said he liked it, our courses are much more firm than what he is used to, he said he likes the muddy stuff better than fast, dry courses, little did we know, he'd get his wish. The ladies race was pretty much the norm, Katie Compton (pictured left from CXmagazine.com) versus the Luna tandem of Katerina Nash & Georgia Gould, with Compton reigning victorious. Minutes before the elite men lined up, a brief storm rolled through, turning what had been a sticky, grippy circuit in to a slippery ice rink, the guys with multiple tire options were smiling, but you could sense the fear in guys that were stuck with less than optimal rubber. Most of the big dogs handled the slippery conditions well, although did get the misfortune of seeing Troy Wells go sliding across some really rough asphalt in the final turn with a lap to go, he got up, but pulled the plug and had some nasty gashes on his left side.

Observations:

1. I need some guidance gluing my tires.

2. Illinois roads and drivers suck.

3. U.S. 'cross is quickly closing the gap to the old world nations

4. OVCX is a great training ground, our riders won the Cat 4 race, and 45+ masters both days, not to mention great rides in the juniors, masters 35+ and even some of our elite guys beating former national champions like Jesse Anthony and Justin Robinson.

5. Don't quit when things don't go your way, even if it seems like the race is a disaster, might as well just keep going and see what you can pull out of yourself.