SUN PRAIRIE, Wisconsin – The Midwest Cyclocross Regionals return to Wisconsin for the first time since 2012 on Saturday, December 17 at Angell Park in Sun Prairie. Angell Park is the former host of the UCI Sun Prairie USGP of Cyclocross race that was the predecessor of the Trek CXC Cup now held in Waterloo.
The 2016 Midwest CX Regionals are being hosted by L5 Racing, a Verona-based cyclocross and mountain bike team sponsored by the Verona Fitness Studio and Unwin Chiropractic. The team chose to host the event for a few different reasons. One is the tinges of nostalgia that hit event promoter Tyler Stein every cyclocross season:
The real goal with hosting was to make ‘cross great again. I remember that when I started racing ‘cross the first place I ever raced was at the venue that we are hosting the race at. The former US Grand Prix of Cyclocross course that happened every year. It was the first course where everybody would race each year.
Stein’s reasons for bringing Regionals to Angell Park also have philanthropic undertones, with the event filling the phenomenal-year-end event void left by Jingle Cross’s move to September:
Another goal with this race was to fill the void in the later part of the year, with Jingle Cross being early now. There was really nothing big and great to end the year with. For this Regionals course we wanted people to be able to have that Elite-level feel of what the US Grand Prix was. But also for people who are not going to Nationals and want to end the season with something great.
With CX Nationals taking place in early January in Hartford CT, it also provides racers with Nationals aspirations to keep their competitive edge:
That’s one of the hardest things with how late Nationals is. You almost lose your mind. you need that outlet for competition. Getting out on the ‘cross courses or even getting outside gets to be a pain. Anybody who’s going to Nationals, that’s awesome. We are looking to have an outlet for them so they’re not sitting inside riding the trainer with all the nasty conditions outside this time of year.
One of the challenges with designing a course for mid-December in Wisconsin is predicting the weather. Sometimes it’s polar vortex cold, sometimes it’s 45 degrees, and sometimes there is snow. This year, it looks like the theme of the weekend is going to be snow, aka REAL (MIDWEST) CYCLOCROSS WEATHER. Sun Prairie received about 6″ of snow over the weekend and L5 Racing’s resident weatherman Cale Dorn says that more may be on the way later in the week.
Lest riders be concerned about riding cyclocross in the snow, L5 Racing also has a lesser-known L5 Racing Snow Removal team. The team’s Fearless LEEder Lee Unwin and Andrew Carlson will be manning the snow plow, snow blowers, and snow shovels to make sure the course is clear(ish) on Saturday. And if the snow proves overwhelming, the conditions will be REAL (MIDWEST) CYCLOCROSS WEATHER, so c’est la vie.
It is worth noting at this point that the registration building WILL BE HEATED, oh will it be heated. Not Richard Groenendaal having a bad day heated, good old central heating heated. Indoor trainers will be provided by the Verona Fitness studio, so racers will be able to feel like a pro while warming up, and Hop Haus Brewing of Verona will be taking trainer-side beer orders for those riders who prefer beer to goo packets before a race.
As Stein mentioned, the 2016 Midwest CX Regionals takes place at the site of a former UCI C1 race. Later editions of the Sun Prairie USGP race took place in the field in the southeast corner of the property and on the hillside near the playground. Since it is the end of the season and there is literally a motor speedway at the park, it only made sense for the L5 Racing course designers to also include the speedway in the course.
The course is split between the three unique sections of the park. The first third is the most technically challenging, with a deceptively tough uphill and a series of off-camber turns that will likely have their degree of difficulty upped by the snowy conditions. The second third of the course is located in and around the speedway and is the most fun part of the circuit. The speedway grandstands are set on a man-made hill that makes for a great rip-and-ride halfpipe section, and riders will also be given the opportunity to literally ride on the speedway. The last third of the course is the most physically demanding. Riders drop down a steep hill before working their way up and along to hill before reaching a run up that was known as the “Hillside Strangler” in the USGP days. The course then finishes with a unique barn of barriers and an uphill sprint to the finish.
The Technical First Third
The Regionals course features an uphill start that goes into a wide, sweeping right hand turn. If I may editorialize, cyclocross courses should have long, wide starts with sweeping corners to minimize crashes that could potentially end riders’ days and help allow riders more opportunity to fight for position heading into the first technical features. Fortunately, given the ample amount of space at Angell Park, the Midwest Regionals course achieves this goal and this reporter will not be made to feel like a hypocrite.
The track then works its way up a deceptively steep hill toward a technical feature that was often a part of the USGP course. The feature features a series of off-cambers located on a small knoll that are likely to test riders’ balance and technical prowess in the snowy conditions. Course designer Travis Gruchow wanted to include technical features that are faster to ride than run, so there will be a premium for technical riders to hit this off-camber section first on the opening lap.
The snowy conditions are likely to lead to icy cleats, so avoiding dismounts will be a key part of riding features quickly. Although it may be quicker to dismount and run the off-camber section, acceleration out of the feature will be easier for those who are not forced to run. If riders are looking for a skill to practice before Regionals, clearing snow and mud out of cleats is definitely it. There is no accepted practice for cleat clearing that this reporter is aware of, but he did have success during the course preview ride with the side smash to clear the cleat followed by the vertical smash to clear the pedal.
Next up is the most fun portion of the Midwest Regionals course. Riders head past the pit, around a beer stand that will sadly be closed, and rip up the grandstand embankment. This uphill is admittedly steep and challenging, especially when the conditions are less than ideal as they may or may not be on Saturday. Stein stressed the importance of proper footwear selection for sections like these, “We have a little bit of a halfpipe that we made near the speedway. You will actually go up and down, up and down. If it’s snowy or muddy, it’s going to be a zoot suit riot. I recommend longer spikes, definitely going to have something on the toes so you can grip.”
Course designers had hoped to put a sweet off-camber section in along the grandstand embankment, but not only has it proven unrideable in the snow, it has proven nearly unwalkable, and sliding all the way down the embankment would be fun in a different context, but probably not during a cyclocross race.
After cresting the grandstand embankment, riders will be given the chance to clear their cleats before ripping down the halfpipe to a challenging sidehill section along the fence before heading down a tricky right-hand off-camber that is not necessarily the toughest off-camber in the world, but, you know, snow. The course traverses the halfpipe one more time before opening up into the speedway.
The Angell Park Speedway is home to midget car racing during the summer, but on Saturday the brrrrrrrraping will be provided by racers of a more CXy persuasion. Loud brrrrrrrraping noises will be a non-negotiable requirement for all Midwest Regionals racers. Local USAC offiical Marcie Weiss will be track-side to give 30 Swiss Franc fines to all non-brrrrrrrrrrraping riders.
Stein offered this advice for the speedway section, “There will be a couple of unique features, including going on the actual race track. For those people with a gigantic motor, that’s a chance for you to power down and get away. For other people who don’t have a big motor, get in their draft.”
After exiting the speedway, riders will get to hit a set of stone steps – don’t worry, precautions are being taken to make sure the dismount area is safe – and then head under a set of bleachers that is adequately tall for the Tallest Man in Cyclocross Greg Ferguson and the Not Quite Tallest Man in Cyclocross Dave Eckel. As noted in the Wiscrossin #9 Regionals Preview podcast with Tyler Stein, if racers see an attractive man or women from another Midwestern state who piques their interest, L5 Racing fully supports inviting them to make out under the bleachers during or after the day of racing.
With 2/3 of the course in the books, the circuit next heads past the VIP team tent area (more info on that later) to a ripping downhill toward the playground. It may not quite meet the high standards of the ripping downhill off Mt. Krumpit at Jingle Cross or the ripping downhill off the Party Hill at Cross the Isthmus, but with the snow, it should be adequately challenging.
Earlier in this race preview, it was asserted that the last third of the course is the most physically-demanding portion of the course. As they say in cyclocross, what rips down must run up; basically, the course has to go back up the hill. Riders will have to navigate two mini climbs before reaching the bottom of the hill for the run up formerly known as the Hillside Strangler. TBH, this reporter feels like this is derivative of serial killers and Chicagoland interchanges, and per the Wiscrossin’ podcast, we are going to go with … the “Sun Prairie Asphyxiator.”
As Stein mentioned in the preview of the Midwest Regionals preview, the course was designed to include some running to make it a true REAL CYCLOCROSS COURSE. Obstacles at the base of the hill and the timely winter weather will make the Asphyxiator a run up that riders are not likely to forget. Although not quite the 51 vertical feet of the Mt. Krumpit run up, the Asphyxiator still clocks in at a difficult 27 feet of vertical ascension – a half-Krumpit, a Krumpitlette, if you will.
The final unique feature of the Midwest Regionals course is the Barn o’ Barriers located before the finishing sprint. The Barrier Barn is intended to pay homage to the Grinch’s Lair that racers ride through at Jingle Cross. The barn is located adjacent to the Team Tent area and right before the finishing sprint, so organizers are hoping this is a place racers choose to hang out before and after their respective races. The L5 Barrier Barn team that consists of Wes Hotchkiss and sons is going to provide tarp-like objects to protect against the wind and give folks a semi-warm location to hang out and heckle riders as they head over the barriers.
Once riders exit the Barn of Barriers, they will make a hard left turn onto the pavement and head toward the finishing sprint. The course rejoins the start/finish stretch and then there is a short 50ish meter uphill sprint to the finish.
Other Useful Pieces of Information
The Midwest Cyclocross Regionals are one of two races being held over the weekend.
On Sunday, December 18, L5 Racing will be hosting the Midwest Grand Prix of Cyclocross, which the last race of the local Trek WCA Cyclocross calendar for 2016 (now cancelled). There is rumor of a singlespeed pick-up race being held during the open Elite race on Sunday, so check out the Midwest Cyclocross Championship FaceSpace page for more information about this event.
Racers traveling to Sun Prairie from Midwestern states such as Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Ohio, Missouri, North Dakota, and Michigan are invited to continue the Regionals fun at the Sun Prairie Nitty Gritty (315 E. Linnerud St.) on Saturday night. The Wisconsin CX scene is hosting its year-end party at the venue, but all Regionals racers are invited to stop by and talk about bikes and their respective Christmas wish lists. The Nitty Gritty is located a block away from Angell Park, and if riders play it right, it may be physically possible to get there with kinetic energy generated solely from rolling off the hill where the Asphyxiator is located.
VIP Team Tent space is available for $20 to help cover the cost of renting the Angell Park facility. Interested teams can contact Tyler at [email protected]. VIP parking will also be available for $2 to help reimburse the L5 Racing Snow Removal team for their efforts.
Several sponsors and area businesses will be on site to add to the Regionals experience:
Hop Haus Brewing (http://www.hophausbrewing.com/) of Verona will be providing some of their favorite Belgian-inspired beers.
Beans n’ Cream Coffeehouse (http://www.beansncreamcoffeehouse.com/#home) will be providing coffee and delicious food items.
Neff Cycle Service (https://www.neffcycleservice.com/) will be on hand to help riders with repairs and show off his dope mobile repair van.
Funkier Bike (https://www.funkierbike.com/clothing/) will have some cold-weather clothing demos for riders to check out (very useful this time of year in the Upper Midwest!)