The 2016 Trek WCA Cyclocross series made another new stop on Saturday at Kinnickinnic Park in Bayview for the inaugural Sijan Cross race. The race, hosted by KS Energy/Team Wisconsin, also brought the beginning of winter cyclocross to Wisconsin as temperatures dropped into the 30s, and a howling wind dropped wind chills ever further.
Given your humble reporter’s penchant for bad puns and inside jokes, he had fully expected to call the race Sweatpants Cross (for course designer Freddy Derocher) or Satan Cross at the suggestion of the Phelpsi contingent. However, after reading this article about Lance Sijan, Sijan Field’s namesake, there will be no wordplay and the race’s name will be given its due deference.
During his violent ejection and very rough parachute landing on the karst ridge, Sijan had suffered a fractured skull, a mangled right hand, and a compound fracture of the left leg. He was without food, with very little water, and no survival kit; nevertheless, he evaded enemy forces for 46 days. During this entire evasion and escape period, Sijan was only able to move by sliding on his buttocks and back, along the rocky limestone karst ridge, and later along the jungle floor. After managing to move an astonishing several thousand feet, Sijan crawled onto a truck road along the Ho Chi Minh Trail, where he was finally captured by the North Vietnamese on Christmas Day, 1967. Terrifically emaciated and in poor health, Sijan was placed in custody in an NVA camp. Soon thereafter, he managed to incapacitate a guard and escape into the jungle, but was recaptured several hours later.
Sijan was transported to a holding compound in Vinh, North Vietnam, where he was placed in the care of two other recently captured POWs, Air Force Major Robert R. Craner (later COL) and Air Force Captain Guy Gruters. Although in terrific pain from his severe wounds, and in suffering brutal beatings and torture from his captors, Sijan displayed superhuman defiance, and did not disclose any information other than what the Geneva Convention guidelines allowed (name, DOB, service, rank, and service number). Suffering terribly from exhaustion, malnutrition, and disease, he was soon transported to Hanoi, under the attentive care of both Craner and Gruters. However, in his weakened state, he contracted pneumonia and died in Hoa Lo Prison (the notorious Hanoi Hilton) on January 22, 1968.
Kinnickinnic Park is divided into two tiers, with a sloping hill separating the lower Sijan Field from the upper area. Course designers took advantage of the hill to add a series of off-camber turns and short explosive uphills to both the first and second halves of the layout. A small little mud pit shortly after the barriers also gave riders the chance to get a little deertay and look that much more badass after their respective races.
The other story of the afternoon was the wind. With gusts from the west reaching up to 50 km per hour, or 105,000 cubits per hour (both unofficial estimates), riders were forced to contend with several brutal headwind sections. The smallish fields of riders meant that there were few wheels to site on through the headwind sections, although as we will see, several riders did use them as an unexpected opportunity to attack. The other other story was the cold. With Wisconsin cyclocrossers enjoying unseasonable warmth up through last weekend’s race, the onset of cold Wisconsin November temperatures coupled with the howling winds was a rude welcome to the tail end of the CX season.
Beard Tops Trek Midwest Teammate Feldhausen in Friendly Women’s Affair
I won’t make any Novembeard jokes…
I won’t make any Novembeard jokes…
I won’t make any Novembeard jokes…
April Beard (Trek Midwest) and Erin Feldhausen (Trek Midwest) are friends off the CX course and on Saturday they got the opportunity to participate in a friendly bike race contest that was the highlight of the afternoon’s racing. The two Trek Midwest riders traded leads several times during the race and were rarely more than the length of a Trek Boone from one another throughout the 45 minute tilt. Beard was able to seize the lead for the last time halfway through the bell lap to bring home another victory during her November to remember.
The race started in a familiar fashion with Beard driving the early pace at the start. Kristin Korevec (MadCity Velo) and Feldhausen were able to follow her as the three staked a spot off the front. In several previous races, fans have seen Beard get off the front and ride away from the field early on, so Korevec and Feldhausen’s early response was perhaps a sign the game would be awheel on Saturday.
During the second lap, Feldhausen was able to affix herself to Beard’s wheel, while Korevec slowly dropped off the blistering pace the two Trek Midwest women were laying down. Feldhausen pulled ahead for the first of many lead changes the second time through the start/finish area as the two slowly extended their gap on Korevec and Julie Phelps (Gryphon Velo).
As mentioned in the introduction, the headwind sections on the latter half of the course proved to be a popular spot for attacks. Beard launched the first of several headwind attacks on the third lap to seize the lead back and appeared to be ready to open a gap on two of the off-camber sections, but each time Feldhausen was able to close the gap and reel her teammate back in.
With little over a lap to go, Feldhausen seized the initiative yet again and rode a headwind attack to the head of the race. Said Feldhausen about these headwind attacks, “I like to consider that team work. I was going to pull for her for a bit. But actually there was a technical off-camber section and I kind of felt strong through that section so I came around and tried to get there first.”
As the riders traveled up to the upper portion of the course for the last time, Feldhausen held the lead and looked to be in a strong spot to take the afternoon’s top spot. Beard emerged a minute later at the front and was able to navigate the off-cambers along the hill and withstand two more headwind attacks by Feldhausen to take home the top podium spot.
The winning move played out in the friendliest of fashions. A few laps earlier, Beard helped Feldhausen recover from a small mechanical issue so the two could keep working together, “I was having a little bit of a skewer issue, so I was trying to get my wheel on with like two laps to go and April waited for me so we could work together so when we got to the hill I said ‘Go.’”
Beard accepted Feldhausen’s bell lap invitation and then rode that advantage to the win, “Right at the top I guess. It was kind of unplanned. We were kind of going back and forth and Erin was like ‘Go’ and I said ‘Ok.’”
Feldhausen finished two seconds behind her teammate for second and Julie Phelps rounded out the top three. On the whole, Beard said that she enjoyed the windy afternoon ride with her teammate, “I didn’t feel like they were attacks, but that we just riding together at our own paces. It was much more fun to have that back and forth instead of to kind of be out there on our own.” Added Feldhausen, “We were building on each other’s strengths.”
Berry Takes the Single-Speed Win, Jaeger the Masters 35+ Win
Robert Berry (Belgianwerkx) and Jadon Jaeger (Belgianwerkx) continued the team spirit during the single-speed and Masters 35+ races. Berry rode his one-geared bike to a convincing win in the single-speed race, and then Jaeger countered on his one-gear bike with a strong win in the Masters 35+ race to make it a 1-1 affair on the afternoon. There has been no official confirmation, but the two Belgianwerkx teammates were overheard saying they were going to head home for a game of Chutes and Ladders to settle the afternoon of competition.
The race started with Belgianwerkx young gun Carter Warren (Belgianwerkx) grabbing the hole shot and leading out a fast start. By the end of the first lap, Berry and Jaeger had opened a small gap on their younger teammate and appeared destined for the afternoon’s second high drama teammate affair.
Berry would have other thoughts as he slowly opened up a small five second gap on Jaeger over the course of the next lap. Berry had a tough outing last weekend at the Battle of Waterloo, and as the race progressed, Berry looked like he was determined to put that race behind him. On the third lap, Jaeger suffered an Ay Yay Yay in the small mud pit after the barriers, and Berry was able to pounce on the opportunity.
Said Berry about the opportunity, ” It was fun. It was one of those where you get a little gap and you maintain and maintain. And Jadon goes face down in the mud a couple times, and you just go.”
Those muddy spills allowed Berry to open up a large gap that he kept for the rest of the race to take home the victory. ” I’ve had some frustration this year, but you get your chance and you just go and everything works out. It was a tough day, but it worked out. Everyone had fun, sort of.”
In the Masters 35+ race, the Belgianwerkx riders stayed together for the first half of the race, before Jaeger received an opportunity to get off the front from an unexpected source. Joe Curtes (Twin Six), winner of the Masters 45+ race, came charging to the front and Jaeger was able to follow his wheel and get a bit of a learning and training experience from the legendary Curtes brother. ” Joe Curtes caught us, so it was just a matter of following his wheel. I managed to hold onto it, at least until the last lap. This wasn’t really an attack your teammate sort of situation, it was just who could hang out with Joe.”
Curtes was the race’s overall winner, and Jaeger took home the title in the Masters 35+ race. Carter Warren took third in the single-speed tilt, and the other Zach, Zach Redding (MadCity Velo) took third in the Masters 35+ race.
Overall, the Belgianwerkx brothers said that they enjoyed Sijan Cross as a single-speed course, although despite the brutal wind chill brought by the gusty winds, it actually made it better for a better race in the discipline. Said Jaeger, “I think the wind helped make it a single-speed course. There were a lot of flats, and if you’re in the headwind it doesn’t matter if you have gears because you have to just mash through it.” Berry agreed about the bonus level of difficulty from the wind, “Without the wind it would have been much different, probably not as fun.”
Winkel Outduels Mahon, Breuer in a Bumpy, Windy Contest
One of the more exciting categories of any afternoon of racing is the Cat 3 category. You can always find strong riders who are looking to make a name for themselves and work their way up to the Main Event held later in the afternoon. Saturday the Cat 3 race did not disappoint, as a trio of riders – Harrison Winkel (KS Energy/Team Wisconsin), Narayan Mahon (Mo’ Mahon, Mo Podiums), and Daniel Breuer (Comrade Cycles Racing) – battled wheel-to-wheel for nearly the entire race. A last lap attack from Winkel was enough to propel him through the wind at to the top step of the podium for his third victory of the season.
The Cat 3 race started with Andrew Aaron, caretaker of Joe Van Deraffe, standing tall and racing out to the early lead. Harrison Winkel was able to hold Aaron’s early pace and went to the front during the first trip up to the top tier of the course as a chase group of Aaron, Mahon, and Breuer emerged behind him.
Sitting alone at the front meant that Winkel had to grind into the wind on his own as the chase group worked together behind him. The solo effort appeared to get old for Winkel, as Mahon and Breuer made contact with the leader on the third lap and Mahon took over the lead heading through the start/finish.
The group of three would ride together for the next several laps, with Mahon taking the leading role on the front of the group for much of the ride. As the race wore on, Mahon was looking for his spot to make a definitive move, but the layout of the course and the wind made that difficult. “The last lap I was trying to figure out where I would attack and was having a hard time deciding what the past parts would be. In all the flat sections, there’s so many. Flat straightaways seemed like bad attacking moments.”
Despite the difficulties in finding a place to Go!, Mahon still held the lead heading into the bell lap. He held that lead through the upper tier of the course and was sitting front wheel heading into the off-cambers that ringed Sijan Field.
Winkel finally found a spot to mix things up when he attacked at the steep uphill section near the stairs, “I knew that last turn into the off-camber before the end the first person to get that was going to win. I saw Dan trailing off the back, so I attacked into the uphill with the logs and took the lead in the front, and I knew I could take the set of off-cambers the fastest, so I was like ‘Mind as well just go.’ So I went there and got like ten bike lengths and held it.”
Despite getting a gap, Winkel still had work to do to bring home the victory. He stayed on the gas through the headwind and tailwind straightaways as Mahon pulled away from Breuer into second. However, for Mahon, the flat section did not make recovering the gap easy, “The headwind was right where it was kind of the bumpiest. When Harrison attacked and I was trying to bring him back it was headwind and bumps, so if you are out of the saddle your bike is going all over the place, but if you’re in the saddle you are bouncing around the whole time. That made it difficult.”
Winkel’s plan would end up working to a T, as he was the first rider to the last off-camber section and came blasting off the hill through the finishing straight for the victory. Mahon finished two seconds behind in second, and Breuer rounded out the podium in third.
Overall Winkel was happy with how the afternoon played out and the tough challenge Mahon and Breuer gave him, “It feels pretty good. It was a definitely a surprise, kind of the fact we were all really strong and we were all sticking together. Doing our moves. I was pretty surprised, but I am pretty happy to take the win today. So congrats to the two other dudes, they killed out there.”
Blodgett Bludgeons the Wind for First Elite Victory
David Blodgett has won races on the road and in the cyclocross single-speed category, but an Elite cyclocross victory has eluded the Wisconsin cycling powerhouse until Saturday. Blodgett unleashed his power and bike handling ability on the Sijan Cross course to take a convincing win in the Men’s Elite race and add a sweat(pants) addition to his trophy case at home.
The race started off similar to a single-speed affair with Blodgett driving the early pace at the front. Only Kyle Russ (Brazen Dropouts) and Joel Finkeldei (KS Energy/Team Wisconsin) were able to keep pace with Blodgett’s fast start. As early as the second lap his power proved to be a decisive force in the race, as he stretched his lead by 5 seconds over the course of the lap and then added another five seconds per lap on the next few laps.
With the small field and no features that could cause a major disaster, Blodgett kept the pace hot as the front as the November late-afternoon chill set in. Blodgett won the race in convincing fashion, with Russ finishing second and Finkeldei third. One of Blodgett’s prizes was a pair of sweatpants emblazoned with “Freddy Cross” written in neon puffy paint that pay homage to course designer Freddy Derocher, who has achieved legendary status for rocking his trademark sweatpants during pre-ride.
Blodgett said that it was a good course for him, “I’ve worked really hard. It did suit me well, the wind, the flats. It allowed me to put power down. It also kind of harkened back to the mountain bike race on a supercross, like, bumpy thing. It suited me, it was good.”
This reporter will admit this is a very brief recap of the Men’s Elite race and perhaps it does not due justice to Blodgett’s achievement, but by the time the race rolled around it was incredibly cold and the tl;dr of the affair was Blodgett dominates from the start.
What’s on Tap with Hop Haus Brewing and One Barrel Brewing
There was another bike race on Sunday in Madison at Cross the Isthmus. Hopefully there will be a race recap coming your way soon.