by Mark Albrecht
UTAH — Utah is home to “the greatest snow on earth.” But when the sun comes out and the snow starts to melt as it has for the last three weekends, Utah cyclocross racers enjoy some of the greatest mud on earth. UTCX race #10 took place on November 19 at the always-popular Wheeler Historic Farm. Race conditions were nearly perfect.
The men’s A races this year have been dominated by Cannondale Factory Racing’s teenage standout, Keegan Swenson. Keegan’s biggest challenge this week came from his Cannondale teammate, Alex Grant. Grant recently returned from racing La Ruta de Los Conquistadores and was comfortable enough in the Wheeler Farm mud to get away from Swenson with two to go to take the win. The third spot on the podium came down to the final lap when Troy Heithecker was able to gap Kevin Hulick after Hulick faltered in an especially slick off-camber section of the course.
Sarah Kaufman proved once again that she is at the top of her class in the Women’s field. Sarah has won more often than not in the races she has contested but has missed a few weekends in order to race her mountain bike. While Kaufman took the win, Erika Powers finished second, and her consistency was enough to pull into the lead in the season standings. AnneMarie White was third after upgrading to the A race part way through the season. AnneMarie’s first cyclocross race was last season, when she started in women’s C category.
Masters racing has been dominated by two racers in the Men’s 35 — Thomas Cooke or Tim Matthews has won every race but one, when both were set back by mechanicals. Mathews has had more success in the mud and edged out Cooke, who leads the season series. Men’s 45 points leader Daren Cottle’s day ended early when a puncture forced a bike change, which was followed by a second puncture. Robert Hamblin took the win. Lou Melini won the day in Men’s 55.
The categories that raced later in the day saw markedly different conditions than the earlier races. The C and B racers were in snow that turned to wet mud, rendering several sections unrideable. The men’s A race was contested under sunny skies that dried the course somewhat, leaving some corners fast and tacky. The previously unrideable sections proved decisive in some cases for racers who were able to stay on their bikes.
With two races left in the series, including the Utah State Championships up next, those who brave the elements to compete or to watch should be rewarded with some outstanding racing.