by Greg Hejtmanek
Sunny skies, brisk trade winds, 85 degree temperatures, and a three to five foot south swell greeted the cyclocross riders for the opening round of the Off the Back with Frick and Frack Cyclocross Series on Oahu, Hawaii. With both overall series leaders from 2009 not living in the Islands this year, the Hawaii cyclocross bragging rights are wide open.
The Sand Island State Park course featured three dismounts per lap, including a deep sand beach run. Most all of the corners were either off camber or very loose sand. Climbing several old WW II bunkers added some altitude features to the pancake flat course. Riding can be made difficult on a place named Sand Island, and Race Director Mr. Frack made a tricky venue for the opener.Adding to the difficulties were a few feral cats on the course, the unofficial surfer crossing and a few homeless spectators who had no idea what cyclocross riders and cowbells were doing in their park.
The first-lap leaders Shep Myers, Carl Brooks, Tai Blechta, Matt Schlosser and John Climaldi quickly gapped the chasing herd. Matt rolled a tire on the third lap and was out. Shep held his own with the leaders but faded a bit during last half of the race. Carl took command over Tai and John C. on the second lap and neither of the chasers pulled within ten seconds of Brooks for the rest of the 45 minutes. Tai kept the hammer down on his mountain bike, getting a last-minute speed workout before the upcoming Xterra Maui World Triathlon Championships. He just could not close the 10-15 seconds on the lead of Brooks, however. John Climaldi rode a single speed for a solid third overall and winner of the SS division.
On the women’s side, Maria Stewart started fast and never lost her comfortable lead. Alison Kinsler finished 2nd and Ann Blair rounded out the podium for 3rd.
Fourteen-year-old Ben Brown got his first taste of cyclocross and was running mid-pack when a long mechanical cost him almost a lap in the late goings of the race. A lot of old guys took a deep breath when the hecklers stopped the “Beat the Kid” chant due to the youngster’s mishap. The hecklers, super soakers and surfers hooting section added to the Island flavor. It’s a long way from Belgium, but at least it’s warm and, of course, “we gots better surf.” Just ask the locals.