Lake Geneva Cross 2014
A brief report…
Last year’s edition of this race featured gloomy all-day rain and a clammy slopfest otherwise known as The Real CX. While that’s nice for fireside stories and all, this year we had a nicely forgiving bluebird day in the 60s and 70s, complementing one of the most complete CX courses I have ridden. The start was on slightly uphill pavement which turned quickly to gravel—great venue for an all-out sprint for the holeshot. Due to my general lassitude and other factors, I arrived to the staging area only a couple of minutes before the start, condemning me to the back of a nearly 80 person start mob. Surely with a spot farther up I would have crushed my way to a nearly mid-pack triumph, but that was not to be. At least that’s how I’m telling it. A healthy late summer beer habit combined with the flogged legs of a brand new fatbike owner will be my flimsy excuses for a pretty poor showing even considering starting in the back row. That aside, the course took us somewhat uphill to a few twisty turny bits around trees in the upper part of a large field. The CX4 race had some definite slipperiness here although my later attempts in the SS race found it much more grippy. Nonetheless, the twists and turns gave way to a brisk charge through an open field, and where last year we had a lonely pair of barriers taking up space out there, this time there was a hastily assembled set of 3 ‘whoops,’ the center of the only photograph I have to share. My photo is from the last race of the day, featuring a most photogenic fall as consequence of the preceding rider’s over cooking of whoop #1. I posted the full video to the WCA cyclocross facebook page, to zero response. In any event, the little whoops cause me no great difficulty and continue a charming habit the Wisconsin races have of providing at least one unique and skill-requiring feature per course.
After crossing the field there was a chicane followed by a very hoppable (though seldom hopped) barrier board. After this we dove into a parking lot and then into another small field with some fencing covered by a couple of mattresses for rider safety. This second little decent was quite precarious in the rain and slop last year, but fortunately a nice little rut developed on it this time, which guided the calm rider neatly clear of the fencing and padding. After leaving that field we found a road about 100 yards long of lovely, rich mud. This had some challenge to it in the morning but was pretty well grooved in by the SS race. Still, a fine patch of mud it was. After the mud came a little ditch with a steep flyover to the right or some lines to ride through it on the left. Getting the right momentum to get over the flyover was kind of a challenge all day. Smashing through the ditch was probably just as fast, but the temptation of extra Cool Points (and staying dry/clean) maintained the flyover as the preferred option. Yours truly biffed the whole thing in the CX4 race, managing the low crossing without event on my third try. In the SS race I managed the flyover two out of three tries, though the challenge was less by then. I did watch the entire Pro 1/2/3 group go over the flyover together without incident on their first lap, so take from that what you will.
The flyover/under segment was followed by a grinding climb on a pretty rough gravel road. This of course was the part where everyone’s sprightly energy turned into plodding stubbornness, which held for the rest of the course and indeed the race for some of us. At the top of the gravel climb was an agonizing little bumpy almost-climb on grass before hitting pavement again and bombing into a little hairpin followed by a pair of barriers and a not-so-steep runup. After this was a quick run on asphalt that found even yours truly shifting briefly onto the big ring (during my geared race) followed by some technical grassy switchback + off-camber action in the same area where the rutted decent previously mentioned was. A punchy climb followed by a short stretch of pavement led again to off-camber grass finishing in an almost-but-not-quite (for me) rideable punchy climb, right before the obligatory volleyball court sized sand pit. The sand was pretty solid but never really rutted into predictable lines. On my first run through I careened from tape to tape and was actually held vertical by some spectators on the left who preferred assisting me to having me fall on them. After that, my trips through the sand were pretty uneventful. This is probably my favorite kind of CX sand—difficult enough to keep my attention every lap, but not so hard that I’m in serious danger of making sand-angels. And the roadies generally have to run it. Perfect.
After the sand pit was a merciful area of relative seclusion where I could regroup from my desperate effort to Look Cool Riding In Sand (plenty of spectators back there) before tackling the paved beginning straightaway. While this little stretch was nothing much at the start, somehow while I was away completing my first lap they replaced it with an endless paved climb to oblivion, followed by a gravel punch at the end. Aside from the crying, I took the change in stride.
Such were the laps. I completed three in the CX4 race and 4 in the SS race. Having held on to the group pretty well early in the CX4, I felt pretty good about my overall achievement during that race. There was a young fellow that I admit I heckled a little as I passed him 2-3 times, as he struggled with gear selection and remounting. My criticism had something to do with the artistic differences between a drum solo and a CX race. Despite these antics, and most likely because of them, I came in very close to last in that race. Results were really no better in SS. A relative newcomer to the sport, very overgeared, was my sole victim, although there was a fellow who suffered at least two mechanicals which I technically defeated as well. No honor there.
Overall, despite the complete lack of teammates (--tears--), I found it to be an excellent race and course. Last year’s dismal raininess turned me off to this one, but in broad sunlight it had everything—mud, twisty turns, uphill, downhill, technical challenges that really matter, runup—that I love in this sport. The venue is strictly non-alcoholic, so handups were absent and missed. Even given that, I’d call the Lake Geneva course a True Specimen of American CX.
-By AMR Member Muse Davis.