Plymouth Rock. Ayres Rock. Chris Rock. Punk Rock. There are a lot of famous rocks in the world, but on Sunday the only rock that mattered was Cam-Rock Park nestled between the villages of Cambridge and Rockdale along the banks of Koshkonong Creek in southern Wisconsin. Cam-Rock Park was the site of the latest Braggin’ Rights stop for the 2016 Trek WCA Cyclocross series. The event, hosted by the University of Wisconsin-Madison Cycling Club, is one of the oldest races in Wisconsin and always a fun stop on the WCA calendar. The previous event in the series was the Sunnyview Cross in Oshkosh.
Much of the Cam-Rock Cross course is set on the double track and cross-country skiing trails of Cam-Rock 2. This reporter is still waiting for the year the course is extended to the Battle of Cam-Rock Wisconsin Off-Road Series start hill in Cam-Rock 3, but 2016 was not to be that year. The 2016 Cam-Rock Cross circuit started with a short, punchy climb up the prairie hill and then wound back toward the grassy party pavilion area. One of the big questions of every Cam-Rock Cross is how big the logs at the base of the Loggy Hill run/ride-up will be. This year, the logs were of medium size, which allowed for more riding as the races moved into the afternoon. The circuit finished with a sweeping 180-degree turn around a paved turnaround circle and finished with an explosive uphill 100-yard sprint to the finish.
One thing that Cam-Rock Cross is known for is the pinwheel formation that usually appears each year on the grassy section near the party pavilion. There is a growing movement – an Occupy Cyclocross, if you will – against pinwheels on cyclocross courses. Social pressure in Wisconsin was strong enough that the organizers from UW-Madison were reportedly shamed out of including a pinwheel on this year’s course, giving cyclocross fans everywhere an organizing victory to be proud of.
Cyclocross riders and fans at both Sunday’s race and Saturday’s Estabrook Beer Garden Polka-Fest race were #blessed with beautiful early-Fall weather in November (thanks Obama!) The sun was out all afternoon and temperatures approached an unseasonable 70 degrees.
Class Is in Session with Antonia Leal
Before there was teacher-racer Jolien Verschueren of Belgium, there was teacher-race Antonia Leal (unattached) of Wisconsin. The former Masters Champion of the Milky Way Galaxy has been educating students in the classroom and cyclocross racers on the course for years, and that trend has continued apace in 2016. On Sunday, class was in session at Cam-Rock Park as Leal exploded off the front of the Women’s Elite field and brought home her first victory of the 2016 campaign.
Leal raced out to a lead that stretched to 15 seconds by the second trip through the circuit and held it to about that length through the rest of the five-lap race. Leal would not relinquish the lead nor be seriously threatened as she cruised home with a victory to kick off the afternoon’s races.
That the lead was not extended further is a testament to Holly LaVesser (Ben’s Cycle/Milwaukee Cycling Co.) and the improvement she continues to show as a cyclocross rider here in 2016. LaVasser, the winner at the Little Bike Race on the Prairie, took a hold of second place early in the race and turned in a strong performance that kept Leal’s lead in check and left her one major Ay Yay Yay (the new WisCXonsin Race Report term for a mechanical or mistake taken from Dutch CX-race announcers) from getting back in the race. Meredith Peterson “Tyranny” Turany (Mad City Velo) rounded out the top three for the Women’s Elite race.
This reporter spoke with Leal after the race, but she declined to discuss the race because “I can only talk to a room full of first-graders.” She did add that she enjoyed the afternoon’s race, and the former Master of the Galaxy proved a solid race announcing assistant with her knowledge of many of the racers in the afternoon’s Masters Racing Blowout Extravaganza.
Mayer Is the Wiener in Her First Cat 3 Race
Anne Mayer (Great Dane Velo Club) (pronounced MY-ur, like the Oscar Meyer weiner) is known in the Madison area for her prowess on the road, but this season she has made her way off the road and into the Wisconsin cyclocross scene. After turning in a fine performance last weekend in Cincinatti, Mayer toed the line for her first WCA Cat 3 race on Sunday. Mayer’s dogged effort was one of an old CX pro, as she held off the efforts of a talented group of riders that was hot on her tail all afternoon.
Like many of the afternoon’s races, the Women’s Cat 3 tilt got off to a hot start. A lead group of five consisting of Mayer, Jamie Ertl (KS Energy/Team Wisconsin), Amanda Mack (Trek Midwest), Caitlin Neuman (Brazen Dropouts), and Jenny Youngwerth (Diablo Cycling) was established with Amy Schultz (L5 Racing) forming a chase group of one. By the third lap, the lead group of five was down to Mayer, Ertl, and Mack, with Caitlin Neumann dangling off the back by a handful of seconds.
During the third and fourth laps, the race at the front took on a predictable form. Mayer would use a little craftiness to hop to the front and emerge from the Loggy Hill in the lead and then Ertl would regain the lead through the sketchy downhill and return back to the barriers. “My trick was I remounted right after the logs,” said Mayer. “The other women ran up the hill while I rode it, so that’s where I passed them every time. However, then on the downhill section and sometimes through this more intricate part in the field here she would pass me.”
On the last lap, Amanda Mack showed that she did not want to be counted out of the conversation with a strong attack to the front at the prairie hill. Mayer used her Loggy Hill trick to get back to the front heading into the serpentine turns on the grassy area near the party pavilion. On literally the last turn in the grass section – at a corner that would come to be known as Kyle Russ Korner later in the afternoon – Jamie Ertl suffered an Ay Yay Yay and slipped out on the slick corner. Mayer pounced on the opportunity and accelerated up the small incline to grab a lead that Ertl’s downhill prowess could not erase.
“For sure. I thought she was going to catch me, so I never looked back,” Mayer said about the so pro move of taking advantage of a late-race opportunity. Overall, Mayer said that she enjoyed her first Cat 3 experience, “It was a tough battle; I would say tough, fun battle. Jamie and Amanda really gave me a run for my money. I just knew that I couldn’t let them get too far ahead of me, and I also couldn’t brake on some of those downhills. It was good, lots of learning experiences.”
Ertl’s Ay Yay Yay created an opportunity for Mack to steal second, as the two riders hit the barriers together and headed to the last sweeping turnaround circle with Mack right on Ertl’s wheel. Mack demonstrated her sprinting prowess earlier in the season, stealing a victory from another rider at Celtic Cross by taking the tight inside line, but as will become a theme for Sunday, the last sprint at Cam-Rock Cross really favored the rider who hit the inside line first. That rider in the Women’s Cat 3 race was Ertl, and the young Team Wisconsin rider was barely able to hold onto second in the sprint. Mack finished third, Neuman fourth, and Youngwerth rounded out the top five.
Curtes Brothers Make It a Masters Blowout Extravaganza to Remember
Often times the Masters Blowout Extravaganza (MBE) in the afternoon can be difficult for spectators and race reporters to keep track of due to the intermixing of competitors from the three different races. On Sunday, being an MBE spectator was significantly easier, with folks only needing to look for the Curtes Brothers to find the head of the 35+ and 45+ races.
Joe Curtes (Twin Six) and Carlos Casali (Intelligensia Coffee) – who also won the afternoon’s single-speed spectacular – engaged in a tough battle in the Masters 35+ race and Michael Curtes (Ben’s Cycles/Milwaukee Bicycle Co.) and teammate John Lirette (Ben’s Cycles/Milwaukee Bicycle Co.) duked it out in the Masters 45+ race. The added twist was that Casali and the elder of the Curti opted for single-speed bikes for the geared race. As the race announcer pointed out, there was a 50% chance one of the Curti would go home with bragging rights, a 25% chance things would come up Curtaces, and a 25% chance it would be a sad day for both.
When the dust settled, the 50% chance won out, with the geared bikes emerging as the winners in the geared-bike race. Joe Curtes and John Lirette went into the final turn ahead of their respective competitors and emerged victorious in two of the more exciting Masters competitions of the 2016 season.
In the Masters 35+ race, Joe Curtes got off to a hot start and appeared poised to leave Casali behind early on. “I had a nice start, got off to a good start,” said Curtes. However, as readers of the WisCXonsin Race Report are now likely aware, crushing Casali’s soul is easier said than done (even if you say it ten times fast). “It was maybe Lap 2, I think, [Carlos] caught me. And I was like ‘Alright, Carlos is obviously feeling good today.’”
The two competitors took advantage of their friendship off the course to push out to a comfortable lead over third-place rider Josh Borgmeyer (unattached). “We’re friends outside of racing,” said Curtes, “and we just kind of worked together and had a good time. We were racing hard and fast … I wasn’t getting away from him today, that’s for sure.”
Casali said he also enjoyed the jockeying for position that occurred before the riders entered the last epic lap, “I was pushing him, he was pushing me. We were flicking the elbows [motion indicating elbow flick] taking turns. It was like a great workout.” Despite the workout and the extracurriculars, Casali knew relatively early on that it was going to come down to the last lap, “It was pretty obvious that it was going to come down to the last lap.”
The two riders entered the last lap together, and Casali’s premonition would prove prophetic. Casali took the lead heading into the first trip through the non-pinwheeled grassy section near the party pavilion. It was there that Curtes managed to sneak by Casali and make what would prove to be the winning move. “Last lap I was kind of thinking to myself ‘Where do I need to make a move and try to get ahead of him?’ In the playground area here at the end I had an opportunity to get ahead of him and it was tough to pass that whole back section before the barriers.”
In cyclocross every rider would agree that you want to be the first one to the last corner when getting ready for a sprint, and at Cam-Rock on Sunday, we saw this prove to be true race after race. “The last corner was a huge sweeper, right hand corner on the pavement,” said Curtes, “and I just kind of hugged the inside and said ‘if you want it, you have to go the long way around.’” That hugging of the inside corner gave Curtes the position he needed, and he sprinted home to victory as Casali acknowledged his friend’s savvy move.
In the Masters 45+ race, John Lirette and the other Curtes Brother Michael emerged from the field and engaged in a friendly team group ride of their own. Neither of the two were able to get away from one another as they battled to a standstill heading into the last sweeping corner. However, in this race, Lirette was able to enter the corner in front of the one-geared Michael Curtes and used that to sprint home to victory much like the younger of the Curti did minutes earlier.
Ackermann Defends UW’s Home Turf
Wisconsin may have a mid-sized cyclocross scene, but at the Elite Men’s level there is no question that it punches significantly above its weight. With several Elite riders traveling near and far over the weekend, one could perhaps expect the quality of racing to drop off a bit. That would not be the case, as the Wisconsin scene dipped into its pool of talent on Sunday and put together a crew that provided the perfect cap to a great afternoon of racing and provided a battle that is really among the best of the 2016 season.
A lead group of seven was whittled to four, then three, and halfway through the last lap, finally just Max Ackermann (UW-Madison Cycling Club) and Kyle Russ (Brazen Dropouts) sat at the front. Like the day’s previous two-up battles, the race between the two would come down to who hit the last corner first, and in the last act of bike racing for the afternoon, it was Max Ackermann who would be the first to hit the corner and win the sprint for the victory in one of his few cyclocross races of the 2016 season.
Ackermann is a former cyclocross star, but has opted to heed the call of the road as a member of the elite Gateway Harley Davidson/Trek U25 development team. Sunday he brought his CXy back to the Cam-Rock course and gave fans a show with a MAXimal amount of excitement.
The Elite Men’s tilt started with a large congregation of seven at the front of the race – Ackermann, Russ, Alex Martin (Revolution Cycles), Micah Moran (801 W. Madison), Seth Eckert (801 W. Madison), David Blodgett (Great Dane Velo Club), and Scott Daubert (Trek Cyclocross Collective). Kyle Russ was leading the race early on until he suffered an Ay Yay Yay on the Kyle Russ Korner where Jamie Ertl was snake-bitten during the Women’s Cat 3 race.
The corner right before the slight rise toward the pavilion and downhill was named Kyle Russ Korner because the spot would again claim Russ as a victim on Lap 2 as well. When asked about the Korner after the race, Russ said “That spot, that corner wasn’t for me.”
The race did not really start to get animated until the latter stages of the third lap. Anytime Alex Martin is in a cyclocross field you know that you are going to be in for a) a slugfest (if you are a rider) and b) a great show (if you are a spectator). Martin did not disappoint on Sunday as he got to work breaking the lead group apart through the pavement section. Fans congregating near the start/finish could hear him using a very Wisconsin friendly manner to urge his fellow riders to break the lead group apart, “I do say dear chaps, let us ride harder.”*
*Unofficial transcription of Martin’s quote
Martin’s attack helped spring a group of four consisting of Ackermann, Russ, Martin, and Blodgett off the front, with Micah Moran forming a chase group of one. During fourth trip through the turn-y grass area, Ackermann appeared to pull off the front group and dropped back several spots to join Moran, Eckert, and the other chasers. There was no indication as to whether he had a mechanical or had hit his TSS goal for the afternoon, but with his disappearance, the lead group was down to three.
Whatever was bothering Ackermann on Lap 4 was fine by Lap 5, as he worked his way back to the lead group by the barriers right before the completion of the lap. During the sixth lap, Ackermann seemed poised to finally break the lead group up, as he gained a small advantage (which was about three bike-lengths during the afternoon) on Martin, who in turn gained a few seconds on Russ and Blodgett through the downhill and double track back to the barriers. The attack proved to be for naught as it became increasingly apparent that the last race of the afternoon would come down to a finishing sprint like so many others.
The group became three during the penultimate lap as Blodgett suffered an Ay Yay Yay on a downhill in the first stretch of double-track and Ackermann, Martin, and Russ were left at the front with Micah Moran still holding strong in fourth as the one-man chase. The group of three entered the bell lap together and it appeared that Ackermann and Russ had gained the smallest of gaps on Martin as they weaved through the grass turns and then accelerated up the small rise coming out of Kyle Russ Korner.
Ackermann described this key attack, “Basically I was just trying to punch it as best I could out of the corner and really twist it [twisting motion] and make people hurt. That’s what I did. I just accelerated super-hard and saw where it landed me.” Kyle Russ confirmed that keeping up with Ackermann was indeed painful, “the pain was real.”
Fans waited breathlessly for the riders to emerge from the woods and head over the barriers toward the finishing stretch on the pavement. When bikes did emerge, it was the twin Treks of Ackermann and Russ. Ackermann had a slight advantage through the barriers and past the throng of spectators gathering near the finish line.
This was not a mistake, as Ackerman did his homework earlier on in the afternoon, “From the barriers on, I was just focusing on not making a mistake. I was watching how the races played out over the day, and it looked like pretty much the first person onto the pavement was the first across the finish line. That was my goal.”
Ever the student, Ackermann’s homework paid off as he was the first to hit the pavement turnaround and deployed his road explosiveness to sprint the last hundred yards to the finish line. He threw up the W for the hometown UW and the win as he took home the victory in the last sprint of the afternoon.
Russ took home second place, and Martin rounded out the podium in third. Moran, the one-man chase group, finished fourth, and Seth Eckert finished fifth.
Badgers Abroad Report
This time of year seems to be high time for Midwest biking events, and so Badger State riders were spread near and far over the weekend.
One event was the annual Iceman Cometh mountain bike race in Traverse City located in the upper Lower Peninsula of Michigan. Brian Matter, last seen winning the Men’s Elite races at Cross Shooshooshko and Sun Prairie, took home the overall second place spot – and a nice haul of flowers – in the Men’s Pro/Cat 1 race.
Isaac Neff, last seen on the top step of the podium at the Little Bike Race on the Prairie, took home 22nd and Bill Street finished 76th. Kristina Navarro finished 18th in her first Pro / Cat 1 Women’s race.
Cyclocrossly-speaking, the premier UCI race in the United States was the Derby City Cup at Eva Bandman Park in Louisville, Kentucky. Young Caleb Swartz of Madison brought home fourth and sixth place finishes in the UCI 17-18 Juniors race, and his sister Emma, currently riding for Marian University located In The Annapolis took fourth place in Saturday’s Women’s Cat 1/2 race.
Finally, several riders headed just across the Cheddar Curtain to the Chicago Cross Cup race in Woodstock, Illinois. In a small bit of hilarity, Casey Hildebrandt, Dan Teaters, and Bryan Fosler repeated their podium from Saturday’s Polka-Fest Cross at Estabrook Park again at the Woodstock CCC race. Al Krueger of Menomonee Falls finished sixth, Patrick Brock of West Bend finished 20th, Paul Warloski of Greendale finished 29th, and Jon Wienandt of Fond du Lac finished 31st. For the women, Jodie Prestine of Brookfield finished 13th.
The Badgers Abroad report for the Men’s Elite race will be outsourced to Al Krueger:
Check out an exclusive weekend report from friend of the WisCXonsin Race Report Casey Hildebrandt:
What’s On Tap with Whatever Beer (or Root Beer) is Currently in Your Fridge
The next stop in the 2016 Trek WCA Cyclocross Series is the penultimate Super Cup race at the Battle of Waterloo in Waterloo. This race is, of course, not to be confused with the Battle of Waterloo that was the Trek CXC Cup, or the Battle of Waterloo that will be the Wisconsin State Championship at Trek World Headquarters, or the Battle of Waterloo that got Napoleon exiled to the island of Elba. The race is sponsored by Lakes Area Physical Therapy and is always a challenging course with a good combination of technical sections, a lung-busting run-up, and several tough climbs. Organizer John Svanda recently broke the news that unfortunately, racers will not be seeing the snow that they did in 2015. Bwomp bwomp.