New Orleans: ’Cross is here. © Jason Paris via Flickr
by Richard Carman
NEW ORLEANS – The Delta States Grand Prix opened with a mighty thunderclap that soaked the earth and, over the course of three heats, turned everything in sight to mud.
The extremely condensed technical sections carved into the bunkers and tee boxes on the front side of the course were slowed significantly, leveling the playing field towards those with less handling finesse. Mountain bikers gained an advantage that increased a hair each lap as the course eroded into goo. To put the muck into perspective, Cat 4/5 Men put down significantly faster race times than Cat 3/4 Men, due almost entirely to worsening course conditions. Races broke down as follows:
Cat 4/5 Men
Micheal Boedigheimer (Semi-Tough Cycling-Rouler Racing) took the holeshot, gunning for the cash breakfast prime. Ultimately he did not have the legs to hold off unattached rider Sean Brock, who took home the bacon and set an impressive pace. Accordingly, the 30-minute race that was set at five laps, turned into a 40-minute race as the course degraded. Brock related afterwards, “The course was getting rutted and sloppy even just from pre-riding. Picking clean lines and staying upright were the top priorities.”
After Lap two, unattached rider Zach Thomas fell back from third, trading places a couple times with Richard Carman (Semi-Tough Cycling-Rouler Racing)and Matt Gandy (The Bike Crossing). On lap three Carman fell, allowing Thomas and Gandy slip up to third and fourth. Meanwhile, Graeme Preston(4th Dimension Fitness) overtook Brock, who would soon be caught by Thomas, as well.
Early in the race, unattached rider Brian Bourgeois rolled a tubular off his rim on an off-camber turn. Burgeois shouldered his bike and ran several hundred meters to the pit, changing out, and managing to work back up to second in the Masters field.
Matt Kyte (Semi-Tough Cycling-Roleur Racing), kept his nose to the grindstone, staying upright for the duration, suffering no mechanicals, and pulling out his first podium ever. “Honestly, I think the limited field helped, but not as much as 30 years of mountain biking,” Kyte modestly reflects.
Gandy, after an apparent warm up in the Men’s 4/5 race, zip-tied his shifters and ran away with the lead in the SS category by about a minute, executing the absolute smoothest, if not the most documented, hand-up of the day.
Rosanne Simons (NOLA Lending Racing) won the Women’s category. While absolutely crushing it on her mountain bike, she still felt the deteriorating course conditions. “The bike seemed to get heavier as the race progressed, but then it occurred to me, someone must be raising the barriers,” she exclaimed.
Cat 3/4 Men
In a world with no grass ... With the advantage in the mountain bike corner, Ryan Barnes (S3 Racing), all-around speed freak, floored it off the gun, cranking the throttle on the ideal machine for the race, a hardtail 29′er on a short travel fork with 2.5 inch tires. Barnes blasted off and never returned. According to legend, he stopped and dismounted to chug a beer, and later rode a one-handed wheelie across the finish line.
Simultaneously, in a universe about three minutes later, the Men’s Cat 3/4 race was underway. Unattached rider Ed Novak held down second. Jaden Kifer (4th Dimansion Fitness) dropped out of third due to a mechanical, allowing Robinson Sudan (Semi-Tough Cycling-Roleur Racing) to slip onto the podium. Sudan evaded Kifer in the final stretches of the course to finish just 9 seconds ahead.
Preston, who won the Men’s Cat 4/5 race ran out of gas. “It became painfully apparent at the first set of barriers that I was not going to be competitive in this race,” said Preston
The action picks back up this weekend, Saturday October 26, at Highland Road Park in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The course is known for extended climbs and will be fast and hilly. Organizer Blair Krogh says the course will be laid out in a manner ideal for spectators, with most of the course visible from a single vantage point. As of today, weather will be dry and cool.