This past weekend I competed at Badger Cross in Verona (Madison), Wisconsin. Saturday was the final stop in the WCA Crank Daddy''s cyclocross series. Sunday, on the same course, was the Midwest Regional Championships. The course is a preview of the cyclocross National Championships course we'll race on in January - more on that later. I thought this weekend would draw more racers curious about the nationals course, but fields were relatively small. The big guns from the region were all at the USGP races in Bend, Oregon, so the "Regional Championship" title didn't hold a lot of weight. The most positive thing I can say about my performance at Badger Cross is there is plenty of room for improvement when I'm there in 4 weeks for nationals!
It was 20 degrees F on Saturday and the ground was frozen solid. The course was just unbelievably bumpy in places, and "only" extremely bumpy everywhere else. I destroyed an expensive tubular tire in my warm up before realizing I would need to have much higher tire pressures than I had ever used before. Some hard training during the week had left my legs tired and perhaps helped me succumb to a cold on Thursday and Friday. I felt OK in my warm-up Saturday but within 10 seconds of the start of the race I knew I was in trouble. Out of around 20 starters in the Pro/1/2 race, I finished 16th - easily my worst result in as long as I can remember.
Sunday it was a balmy 38 degrees and sunny, and the course had softened up a bit. It was still very, very bumpy but at least bearable. The course had also changed subtly from the day before and had better 'flow,' which made it much more fun. I still wasn't feeling great and after a slow start clawed my way up to 6th but then faded back to 9th by the end.
The course has some fun technical elements but some long pedaling sections with short, steep climbs in the middle. If conditions are dry for nationals, the course is clearly going to favor the biggest engines and not the technical specialists. As I've mentioned before, pedaling is not my strong suit.
So here's how I can improve on my Badger Cross performance when CX nationals rolls around in 4 weeks:
1. Try to be healthy and rested. That's going to make the biggest difference over this past weekend.
2. Work on my core strength. That's the only way to survive all those bumps.
3. Hill repeats. Luckily, the Montrose Harbor sledding hill is close by.
4. Hope and pray for a blizzard!!!