Racing at FayetteCross was a last-minute decision for Kerry Werner (Kona Maxxis Shimano), but the decision to fly to Arkansas proved to be a good one as he took the win in Saturday’s C2 and then followed it up with a third-place finish in the mud on Sunday.
In Saturday’s race, a late rally by Werner and a flat for Curtis White (Cannondale p/b CyclocrossWorld) gave Werner the finishing push to hold off Lance Haidet (Donnelly / Aevolo), and on Sunday, Werner used a new approach for dieseling through the mud to grab his second podium finish of the weekend.
We caught up with Werner about his race weekend.
For more from the FayetteCross winners, see our interview with Women’s Day 1 winner Maghalie Rochette.
Kerry Werner: 2019 FayetteCross Day 1 Winner
CXM: The Men’s field had a strong field with many of the top riders. What was your motivation for racing there and how does it fit with your plans for this block of the season?
Kerry Werner: Honestly, I wasn’t going to go but then I did a quick search for flights at Jingle and saw $250 round trip so I pulled the trigger. At the time I figured it would help my ProCX standing but then everyone but Stevie [Hyde] showed up anyway.
CXM: The Euros obviously created a different dynamic in the racing recently. What were you expecting heading back into more domestic racing?
KW: Yeah, I figured it would go back to business as usual. Gage [Hecht], Curtis [White], Lance and I have been racing on a similar level so I figured that would be the head of the race. Go hard at the start, see how everyone is feeling mid-way through then start sending bombs toward the end of the race to create separation on the final laps.
CXM: How did Saturday’s race play out for you?
KW: The course was really fast and punchy with not a ton of longer pedal sections, so it took a while for the front group to separate. Then with 2 to go, rain came down. I headed into the pits for muds and the track got a little slick. I got pumped about it and rallied. Curtis flatted with a lap and a half to go, and I had a gap on Lance [Haidet], so I just had to ride the last lap steady and smooth.
CXM: What were some of the keys to winning?
KW: Definitely being patient and not trying to win the race in the first half and then pitting for a little more aggressive knob.
CXM: In recent years, Stephen has kind of been the man to beat, but now it seems like any of 6-8 guys could win a race. Does that affect your tactics with each rider having their own strengths and weaknesses?
KW: It doesn’t change a whole lot. Everyone is somewhat close and no one is going to ride away in the first fourth of the race, especially on a dry day. So it’s just about biding your time. Checking on peoples’ body language and knowing where to be in groups when technical sections come up. Basically, minding the gap and predicting the gap that others may cause.
CXM: When conditions change from one day to the next like they did in Fayetteville, do you change your approach for racing?
KW: A little. I am not a great super heavy mud guy and I have struggled with running, so typically I dreaded days like Sunday. I have shifted my approach to a more diesel style of racing. I try to stay on an even keel when people thunder past because usually I catch them in a few laps. Running is still not a strong point, so I try to run at a steady pace and keep my wit about me so I can pedal when I jump back on my bike.
CXM: How did racing in the mud go for you?
KW: It went well because I followed the above protocol. It was 3’’ deep around the whole course, and there was lots of traction. The speeds were low because it was so much of a tractor pull. It was really about energy conservation, knowing when to get off and run, not wasting energy trying to ride, being cognizant of where holes and bumps were on course and trying not to flat.
CXM: It seems like Curtis is emerging as a nemesis for you. How have those battles elevated your game?
KW: We have raced each other every race this season and we are both pretty evenly matched. Where he has a bit more strength on me, I have a bit more skill on him so the courses are dictating who comes out on top lately. It’s been fun and good for both of us to always to have someone to push against, especially because Stevie takes breaks, where Curtis and I tend to race more.
CXM: What are your thoughts on the course and venue two years out from Worlds?
KW: One thing is for sure, they better do something about the field parking. If it gets wet for Worlds it’s going to be a shit show. That or hire a shuttle service and pay Walmart to rent their parking lot out.
Apparently, not one turn of the course we raced will be used for Worlds, so it will be interesting to see the course they build. I heard they are actually going to break ground to form a totally new course.
CXM: Who’s going to be on top in the upcoming CX Heat Check Power Rankings?
KW: I am hoping I am because I have better hair then Curtis. I wonder if the algorithm accounts for that?