After two whirlwind weeks of Midwest World Cups in Iowa City and Waterloo, things returned to a more Wisconsin-paced normal this past weekend at the Flyover Silver Creek race in Manitowoc. The 2017 edition of the event was the fourth time the race has been run on the shores of Lake Michigan, and it takes place at, not surprisingly, Silver Creek Park and it features, as one might expect, a flyover.
Flyover Silver Creek is one of five Wisconsin races that make up a subseries of the Trek WCA Cyclocross schedule called the "Hinterlands Series." Cyclocross races, and the population of Wisconsin, are concentrated in Madison and Milwaukee, with the occasional World Cup or local Waterloo race held in between the two large cities. Green Bay and the Fox Valley area have a healthy cycling presence, and so teams there banded together to form a series that highlights those areas and reduces the amount of driving riders from Wisconsin's "hinterlands" have to do.
The Hinterlands series received a decent-sized donation to assist with the races this year, and one way the money is being put to use is to offer a free entry to four first-time racers at each of the events. New ’crossers still have to pay the one-day license fee, but it still gives folks from an area not always exposed to cyclocross in their backyard a chance to try the sport out at an affordable price.
Despite its youth, the course at Flyover Silver Creek has already become a must-race for many non-Hinterlands residents despite the long drive. Some events get by because they are close to a lot of people, but for races outside the usual schedule, it often takes a great event or a great course to get riders to attend.
Women's winner Erin Feldhausen (Trek Midwest) echoed sentiments of other riders that the course is what made the drive to Manitowoc worth it. "That's kind of what makes it worth the drive, all the different things," she said. "The flyover, the sand, the beach, the stairs, the hill, the little woods section is really fun."
In 2017, Flyover Silver Creek managed to mix both a fun course with some lively spectating locations. The highlights of the course include the "Heckle Hill" climb that was a popular spot for spectators to coax riders into taking beer hand-ups and interacting with the crowd. In previous years the route has been so steep there has been a prime offered for anyone who can ride to the top, but this year, the route up was more mellow and the hill was much more rideable.
The course snakes its way through some fun singletrack to a section along the Lake Michigan beach. With temperatures hovering around 70 degrees Saturday afternoon, it was a darn good place to be. Riders, of course, were well into the red by the time they had to dismount and run through the sand, so they probably disagreed.
Feldhausen Continues to Roll for the Women
The story of the 2017 cyclocross season thus far in Wisconsin has been the dominant performances of Feldhausen's alter cyclocross ego, Erin Feld der Hausen. Feldhausen, a former triathlete and occasional runner, was able to win some of the more climby races in 2016, but this season she has combined technical skills with her power to create a force to be reckoned with. Feldhausen won both Milwaukee races the opening weekend and won a Cat 1/2 race at both the Jingle Cross and Trek CX Cup regional races as well.
The second big story ofnthe Wisconsin Women's field in 2017 has been the return of Heidi Beck (Ben's Cycle / Milwaukee Bicycle Company). Beck was a podium regular in 2015 before missing the entire 2016 season due to an injury suffered at RAGBRAI (don't ask). In 2017 she is back and has been quickly re-adapting to racing elite-level cyclocross.
On Saturday at Flyover Silver Creek, the fast starter was Emily "Nordy" Nordahl (Team Wheel and Sprocket). Nordahl started fast on the long, open starting straight and kept going while Feldhausen suffered an early crash and dropped chain. When the women hit the sand for the first time Nordahl had a ten-second gap and the other riders were left to chase her through the Lake Michigan sand.
Nordahl said she has learned the importance of starting fast from recent regional races with larger fields. "I think I am used to it from other races," she said. "If you don't start strong you're not really going to do well for the first lap. It's not as bad in smaller fields, but it's still important."
Despite moving to Wisconsin at the end of last season, Nordahl has already won a WCA race and she held off Feldhausen at Midwest Regionals last season, so a lap and a half in, she was in a strong position for a good finish and perhaps a win in Manitowoc.
Toward the latter half of the second lap, Feldhausen started to make her move to the front. She worked her way from fourth to third and then after a small bobble by Beck at the top of a steep incline, she moved into second place and began the chase of the leader Nordahl.
The course in Manitowoc featured a fair number of sections where power was likely to reign supreme, and Feldhausen took advantage of these to overtake Nordahl and open up a comfortable lead for herself. The move did not take long. By the end of lap three Feldhausen opened up a 20-second gap back to second and Nordahl and Beck found themselves in a tussle for second.
Feldhausen was unchallenged by the other riders and unforced errors once she took the lead. Her win at Flyover Silver Creek was her fifth Cat 1/2 win of the young 2017 season.
Feldhausen said there was not one spot that helped her recover from the rough start. "Turnaround point? Not really. I think on the hard power sections I just tried to use all the power I could so when I got the more technical stuff I'd be ok."
Beck held a small advantage on Nordahl after three of five laps, but the two soon came back together to engage in a duel that would last well into the early afternoon. The two were inseparable during the penultimate lap and when they hit Heckle Hill for the last lung-busting climb, the two riders were still wheel-to-wheel. A Wisconsin legend against a Wisconsin newb.
The last lap of the two-rider battle belonged to Nordahl. She got a gap on her rival in the technical section in the woods and along the beach to take home the second-place finish. "I thought it was a really good mixture," said Nordahl. "At first I was a little nervous because there are a lot of straightaways that I'm not very good at, but the technical sections in the woods I thought I was a lot better at. I'm usually more comfortable sliding around those corners than other people."
Beck finished third, Julie Phelps (Gryphon Velo) fourth and Andrea Cyr (Velocause Centraal), a Cat 3 interloper in the elite field, finished an impressive fifth overall and first in the Cat 3 field.
Schouten Holds Off Mountain Bike Interlopers
Tristan Schouten (Threshold Sports Carbon Repair) of Plymouth, Wisconsin is one of the legends of Wisconsin cycling. Schouten finished as high as eighth a U.S. Cyclocross Nationals and spent several years on the UCI scene. He started to dial back his travel around 2014, and in recent years has shown up for the occasional local WCA race. Last season he won at Grafton Pumpkin Cross and finished third at the epic Brian Matter-Isaac Neff race in Sun Prairie.
On Saturday, Schouten found himself sharing the start line with two cyclocross interlopers, Cole House (CashCall Mortgage) and Pete Karinen (Broken Spoke Racing). House and Karinen are two of the top, say, three mountain bikers in the Wisconsin Off-Road Series, although House has a bit more cyclocross experience than the young phenom Karinen. In fact, Saturday's race was just the second-ever cyclocross race the 21-year old has ever done.
"It's a different sport," said Karinen after the race. "It was my second cyclocross race ever. It's alright, something different. It's some good interval practice after the last mountain bike races."
If Karinen was unsure about riding on the skinnier knobby tires, he did not show it on Saturday. He blasted off to take the holeshot and led the riders into the technical section in the woods for the first time. House eventually pulled around and when the group emerged from the beach, he was leading the way.
During the next lap, a lead selection of House, Karinen and Schouten broke away from the other riders in the field. Schouten is certainly fast, but as a semi-retired racer raising a family, did he have enough to break away from the two mountain bike stars?
That question was answered during the third lap, and the answer was yes. By the time the riders reached the beach, Schouten had a 15-second gap back to House in second and House, in turn, had a 15-second gap back to Karinen. With a smallish field and such large gaps, it seemed that the afternoon's affairs might already be decided.
The decisiveness, however, was short-lived. The previous lap, House attacked up Heckle Hill to win a prime offered to the first rider up the hill during that lap. House won, but the effort soon took its toll. At the end of lap four of seven, House had dropped way back behind Karinen, behind Joel Finkeldei (Neff Cycle Service), all the way back into fourth place. A hundred bucks is a hundred bucks, but results are still nice, right?
"I just showed up about twenty minutes before the race and hopped on the bike and went," said House. "One hundred dollar prime to the top of the hill, so I just went for the hundred bucks. After that I thought I was feeling alright and put in an attack. I knew immediately I went into the red too quick."
Schouten was not challenged the rest of the race. He did the Masters 35+ race earlier on to see how he was feeling, and in the Elite race he showed his legs are ready to race some more cyclocross in 2017.
"I think I just kept going hard because I didn't want the two of them riding together," Schouten said about getting away midway through the race. "I kind of felt the one-two thing going on. I think Pete was maybe ten feet behind us going up the long slog in the back and Cole was giving me the chicken wing, like come on through, and I was like eh, I think I am just going to keep going hard."
Behind Schouten, House slowly recovered from his big prime effort. In lap five he caught Finkeldei at Heckle Hill and by the end of the lap he had also made contact with Karinen. The two battled up the hill, down the hill, through the technical sections and when they emerged from the woods, it was clear a sprint finish was inevitable.
The finishing straight was a long, open section after a sweeping turn, so pure power was more important than position heading into the sprint. House held the upper hand in the latter and used the former to outkick Karinen to take second. Not surprisingly, House would also go on to win Sunday's Hopkins Park Chicago Cross Cup race.
House said the sprint win was a bit of consolation for chasing after Karinen at WORS series races. "I think I just settled something for the past season on the mountain bike," he said.
What's on Tap
Next up in the Trek WCA Cyclocross series is Grafton Pumpkin Cross, another rider favorite at Lime Kiln Park, on Saturday and the third of the Hinterlands races, Diablo River Cross, in Kimberly on Sunday.