by Zachary Schuster
This past weekend, the 2016 Trek WCA Cyclocross series made a trek outside of the I-94 corridor to the shores of Lake Winnebago in Oshkosh. With Saturday’s Halloween Cross cancelled due to excessive rain during the week, Sunday’s Braggin’ Rights Sunnyview Cross (or Oshkross, or Oshkosh B’Cross) was the premier Wisconsin cyclocross event of the weekend. The event, hosted by Team Wheel and Sprocket, provided racers with the opportunity to christen a new cyclocross venue at the Sunnyview CXpo Center in Oshkosh. The previous event in the series was the Sun Prairie event the prior weekend.
As The Tallest Man in Cyclocross Greg Ferguson and your more vertically-challenged reporter discussed in the first edition of the Wisconsin Cyclocross Podcast, Sunnyview Cross was one of several events on the WCA schedule this year hosted by teams from not-Madison or Milwaukee. The event provided an opportunity for teams such as Team Wheel and Sprocket, Diablo Cycling, and Gryphon Velo Racing from the Fox Valley area to add some riders who would not otherwise race to the start lists and for road warriors such as the Phelpsi (Gryphon Velo Racing) and up-and-comer Jenny Youngworth (we will hear more about her day soon!) (Diablo Cycling) to save a few dollars on gas money.
The races at locations such as the one-and-only CROSS OF THE NORTH in Wausau and the Sunnyview CXpo center allow Wisconsin racers to experience venues that are different than the usual Madison and Milwaukee mainstays. The main theme of the first half of the Sunnyview Cross circuit was barns and horse pits, which totally makes sense given that the CXpo center is a. a county fair ground b. in America’s Dairyland. Riders had to navigate several barns and a sand feature while winding their way through the flat-ish expo area. The second half of the circuit was defined by a hill that runs along the western edge of the CXpo property. Riders were treated to a legitimate run-up and several off-camber turns that were skillfully-placed by event organizers.
Nordahl Adds to Her Race Resume, Youngwerth Has a Devil of an Afternoon
Emily Nordahl (North Dakota State University) was in town for a job interview and figured she would take the opportunity to bring her ‘cross bike and add to her race resume while in town showing off her real world resume. Nordahl’s decision to race at Sunnyview Cross proved to be a good one, as she raced out to a fast start against the small, but competitive field and dominated the first race of the afternoon in a performance that definitely would have landed her the job.
Nordahl jumped out to a fast start through the barn-y section of the course, taking a seven-second lead into the run-up that started the hill-y section of the course. She used her deftness on the bike and climbing skills to extend that seven seconds to nearly thirty seconds by the first trip through the start/finish stretch to essentially put the race away early on. By the second trip through the CXpo area, her lead had extended to a “two-barn” lead over second-place rider Julie Phelps. That two-barn lead – roughly equal to forty-five seconds in more familiar units – stayed there throughout the race and saved this reporter from trying to have to convert a three-barn lead to a more traditional unit of time.
For Nordahl, being on the front was an enjoyable experience, mostly, “It was nice to be able to just go out at my own pace and just keep going. I knew I didn’t want to just let them catch up. It was difficult, but I didn’t really die at the end, which was nice.”
For Nordahl, a recently-minted Cat 2, being at the head of an Elite Women’s race was a bit of a new experience. “For me it was easier to think about the technical side of things and what to work on. Usually when I get too focused on chasing someone I usually just power through, and I can’t screw up on the corners because when you’re just trying to power, you don’t brake as much and can slip up. It was nice being able to just think about improving the technical parts of it.”
With the Elite Women and Cat 3 Women starting together, the afternoon provided Jenny Youngworth with the opportunity to mix it up with the big girls, as it were. “Big girls,” of course, being a figurative term for the Elite Women racers. Youngwerth cut her cycling teeth on the road, but decided to give cyclocross a try after winning a CX bike at the Tour of America’s Dairyland last summer (note to wealthy cyclocross people: give away more cyclocross bikes). She took advantage of the opportunity to mix it up with Julie Phelps before ultimately taking home the Cat 3 victory.
Phelps and Youngworth chased Nordahl together through the first lap and a half through the run-up on the west hill. Phelps was finally able to separate from Youngworth through the technical sections on the hill and get a comfortable nine second lead in second. Phelps ultimately extended her lead to one minute (three barns?) while Youngworth put over a minute and a half on her chasers Niki Soderberg (Colavita Racing) and Amy Plato (Ben’s Cycles / Milwaukee Bicycle Co.) while taking third overall and first place in the Cat 3 race. Soderberg held onto the fourth overall spot and Plato finished behind her to take second in the Cat 3 race.
Casali Bucks Off a Tough Challenge from Birkholz
After dominating the 2015 single-speed calendar, single-speed legend Carlos Casali has had his hands full with the likes of David Blodgett (Pronounced with a French accent for the afternoon. I am not going to phonetically spell it out, because reasons.) and Tyler Stein (who was being a Halloweenie and not racing) in 2016. Sunday served as a #sbs (sthrowback Sunday) to 2015, as Casali fended off a challenge from one of his chief 2015 nemeses Buckley Birkholz (unattached) to win the one-gear race.
Like many of the races this season, Casali started the race by driving a fast pace at the front. Birkholz and Patrick Brock (Belgianwerkx) were able to mirror his pace and form the lead group of three through the first lap. Brock dropped off the Casali pace by the time the head of the race reached the run-up during lap two, and Casali was able to open up a 10 second lead on Birkholz by the third trip through the run-up. Casali eventually extended his lead to 30 seconds by the sixth trip through the circuit and brought home his first single-speed victory of the 2016 season.
Casali said that he enjoyed his time on the front of the race, “Absolutely. I’d rather be on my own. Sometimes I have a hard time following fast wheels through the turns. It was a fun course. It was fast. It kind of suits my style, with some flat sections, slow turns, and then acceleration.” Anyone who has seen Casali race knows that he has, how shall we say this, a little bit of power in his legs, so it is no surprise that he enjoyed the parts of the course where he could throw down a hammer or two, “For me, it was the accelerations out of the trees. Fast, I can put the power down, which is my style from road racing.”
Birkholz turned in a strong second place performance in his first cyclocross race of the 2016 season. Lest Wisconsin CX fans think that Birkholz is a zombie who rose from the dead just in time for Halloween, he actually has been shaking off a knee injury suffered at the end of the 2015 season. After trying to gut out a mountain bike season early on in 2016, he was forced to shut it down and heal up before returning to the cyclocross circuit. Birkholz was able to challenge Casali for several laps and kept a firm grasp on the second place spot ahead of third-place finisher Patrick Brock. When asked during the race how the Return of the Buck was going, Birkholz gasped out “This is harder than I remember.”
Cat 3 Race is All Good for Ahlberg
Since this reporter enjoys writing words, and based on feedback this reporter has received, you – the person currently reading these words – enjoy reading words about Wisconsin cyclocross, this reporter is going to bring you the rare sighting that is a Men’s Cat 3 race report.
When looking at afternoon race riders, we often look at the Joel Finkeldeis (foreshadowing…) of the CX world, who have a meteoric rise through the categories to the Elite level. For every Joel Finkeldei, there are several Anders Ahlbergs (801 W. Madison), who slowly and painstakingly work their way from Cat 5 to Cat 4 to Cat 3 to … a Cat 3 podium or two. Prior to a tragic bass fishing accident (Carlos Casali will give a bag of Intelligensia coffee to whomever can correctly identify the movie that reference is drawn from (not using Google)), this reporter raced against Anders in Cat 4 and Cat 3, so he knows the realness of the struggle.
It is always incredibly gratifying to see riders such as Ahlberg stick with the sport despite not necessarily getting the accolades that come with finishing in a podium spot. Fortunately, Ahlberg fixed that on Sunday with a winning ride in the Men’s Cat 3 race at Sunnyview Cross. Ahlberg held off a brazen challenge from Mike Kernan (Brazen Dropouts) to take home his first win since the 2015 Cat 4 race at Sheboygan.
The race started with Ahlberg driving the pace at the front from the hole shot. Said Ahlberg, “Getting the hole shot is always a confidence boost. You get that and you try to hang on for a little bit.” Hang on he did, as his early work at the front turned into a small lead group of him, Kernan, and Jason Kozicki (Diablo Cycling) after the first lap with a decent-sized chase group following behind them. The second trip through the circuit whittled the chase to the other-other-Zach Zach Giffey (unattached), Kozicki, Narayan Mahon (Mo’ Mahon, Mo’ Podiums), and Brent Rohrs (Diablo Cycling), with Ahlberg and Kernan at the front with a small gap.
Many races feature a decisive move, but Ahlberg and Kernan’s off-setting abilities kept them within one to five seconds of each other through the entire remainder of the race. Said Ahlberg, “That’s all I can do, I don’t have the corners. So I’ve just got to stay on the gas and keeping the power on was the only way I had a chance.” Kernan added, “Yeah, I kept yo-yo-ing back and forth [hand motion indicating yo-yo-ing], and any time I would want to pass him he’d be going so hard on a flat spot I couldn’t. It was a lot of fun though, I had a great time.” Ahlberg finished the discussion with perhaps the invention of a new cyclocross term, “Every time through the twisties you’d get closer and closer and on the straight away I’d pull away [hand motion indicating yo-yo-ing]. It was nerve-wracking.”
Despite his penchant for the power sections in the first half of the track, Ahlberg was able to maintain his five-second gap through the last trip up, onto, down, and around the west hill to secure victory on the afternoon over the second-place Kernan. On the last lap, Zach Giffey was able to emerge from the chase group to take the third step on the podium, and Brian Davis topped his Diablo Cycling teammate Brent Rohrs to finish fourth.
Finkeldei Has a FinkelDAY to Remember
As foreshadowed earlier, Joel Finkeldei (KS Energy Team Wisconsin) has been one of the revelations of the 2016 Wisconsin cyclocross season. After generally finishing mid-pack in 2015, Finkeldei had a memorable start to the season in Cat 3 at Jingle Cross and has been making his mark on the Men’s Elite races as a Cat 2 ever since. After a fast start on Sunday put him in great position, Finkeldei nearly saw the air go out of his first shot at an Elite Men’s victory when he was befallen by a flat tire halfway through the race. Fortunately, some good luck and level-headed race strategery helped him fight his way back into the race and ultimately take home his first Elite Men’s victory.
The Elite Men’s race started how many of the single-speed races have in 2016 – with David Blodgett (Great Dane Velo Club) going out strong and driving a relentless pace at the front. By the time the front of the race reached the first trip up the run-up, a clear lead group of Blodgett, Finkeldei, and Mitch Nordahl (Milltown / Trek Cycling Team) had emerged with Nicholas Sabel (Lakes Area Physical Therapy) forming the main chase.
On the second lap, multiple disasteri that shook up the lead group struck for Blodgett. The GDVC rider suffered one fall when he was unable to unclip on the barrier section near the barns and then shortly thereafter, fell on a corner coming off of a small mound near Barn E. Blodgett’s stroke of bad luck allowed Finkeldei and Nordahl to head off the front and open up a 30 second gap on their snake bitten competitor.
Finkeldei and Nordahl, who earlier cheered his wife Emily on to victory in an incredibly nice manner – because that’s how people from Minnesota do – battled each other to a standstill over the next two laps until Finkeldei was snake bitten by bad luck of his own on the west hill during lap five.
“Back on maybe the third from the last turn, the big corner into the straightaway there, I guess I pinch-flatted or maybe hit a sharp rock or something that was buried in the mud and heard my front tire going down. It was a little worrying. I was on the front at that time, and Mitch, who finished second today, was on my wheel. I did my best to keep it upright and sort of kind of block him through some of those corners. But I still ended up in this last straightaway through some of these pine trees here before the start / finish I had to run my bike through there into the pit. Luckily it was right there.”
Nordahl seized on the opportunity created by the Finkelchanical and opened up a twenty second gap at the sixth trip up the run-up. Fortunately for Finkeldei, Men’s Elite races are 60 minutes long, so there was still plenty of time for him to make up the gap. He slowly chipped away at the lead, “I said, sort of, stay calm, and sprint on these straightaways and anywhere you can make up some time.”
After catching Nordahl on the penultimate trip over the west hill, Finkeldei also received a nice assist from the race announcers, “At two to go it sounded like the announcers were talking about it like it was one to go, and I was really thinking ‘I gotta go now,’ and I basically closed the gap into the finish straight with one to go and that felt pretty good.”
Finkeldei’s announcer-induced attack actually proved to be the winning move for the race, as he opened up a four-second gap through the start / finish stretch, and Nordahl was ultimately unable to counter his move. Finkeldei stretched the gap to 15 seconds through the Barn E halfway point in the lap, and ultimately cruised home with his first ever Men’s Elite victory. Nordahl finished the race in second and Blodgett held onto the third place position.
Wisconsinites Abroad Report
While any objective observer would agree that the Trek WCA Cyclocross series is the best in the land, sometimes Wisconsinites do feel compelled to trek across the Cheddar Curtain to lands afar to participate in racing events.
Isaac Neff (Neff Cycle Service) and Dan Teaters (Team Wheel and Sprocket) have been known to sneak across the Grate Wall of Mozzarella (that was terrible) to participate in Chicago Cross Cup races. Sunday’s race was Campton Cross in the western Chicago suburb of St. Charles. Neff took home his second CCC victory of the season and Teaters again finished in second as the Ringo to Neff’s rest of the Beatles.
Teaters offered this exclusive emoji race report:
— Dan Teaters (@Dan_Gouda_CX) October 31, 2016
— Dan Teaters (@Dan_Gouda_CX) October 31, 2016
The Women of Wisconsin (WOW!) also had a successful trip to the Campton races. Antonia Leal of Waukesha followed up her 2nd place finish at the Sun Prairie Cup with a 5th place finish in the Women’s Elite race; Holly LaVesser (Ben’s Cycle / Milwaukee Bicycle Co.) of New Berlin used her victory at Badger Prairie as a springboard to 8th, and Jodie Prestine (Ben’s Cycle / Milwaukee Bicycle Co.) of Brookfield rode her 2nd place finish at Manitowoc to 12th.
And lest we forget, the Masters men also had a successful Chicago trip as well. JW Miller of Madison won the Masters 45+ race and finished 5th in the Masters 35+ race; Mike Meteyer (Trek Midwest) of Madison won the Masters 55+ race; and Tedd Jacobson (KS Energy Team Wisconsin) of Pewaukee finished in second as the Sonny to Meteyer’s Cher.
Several riders trekked even further south to the Cincinnati Cyclocross Festival that consisted of the Pan-American Championships at Devou Park in Covington, Kentucky and the Kings CX race at Kingswood Park in Mason, Ohio. Highlights of the weekend include:
- April Beard – 3rd Place in Women’s Cat 2/3 at Kings CX
- Caleb Swartz – 5th Place in Men 17-18 at Pan-Am Championships
- Emma Swartz – 9th Place U23 Women at Pan-Am Championships
- Erin Feldhausen – 11th Place in Women’s Cat 2 at Kings CX
- Anne Mayer – 15th Place in Women’s Cat 2/3 at Kings CX
- Matt Riley – 8th Place in Men’s Cat 2/3 at Kings CX
- Brian Matter – 16th Place in Men’s Elite at Pan-Am Championship
Young Caleb Swartz offered this emoji race recap from Sunday:
— Caleb Swartz (@cswartzz) November 1, 2016
(For the record, all future emoji and animated gif race recaps can be submitted to @TheShoeStar on Twitter)
(As an update to the exclusive Brian Matter interview we scored after the Sun Prairie Cup, Dan Teaters has heeded Matter’s advice and changed his Twitter handle to @Dan_Gouda_CX. Definitely A, or at least Brie Plus work.)
Wisconsin Ex-Pat Report
Although it is basically heaven, not every Wisconsin cyclocross racer can stay in WisCXonsin forever. However, when riders do leave the greatest state in the union, they often take with them a little bit of the spirit of the Badger State. And by “a little bit of the spirit,” this reporter means, of course, their Magnus or KS Energy or whatever kit it might be that they wore while racing in Wisconsin.
Emma Swartz of Madison is in her sophomore year of racing road, track, and cyclocross at Marian University in Indianapolis. Swartz finished 6th at Women’s U23 Nationals in 2016 and represented in the United States at the World Championships in the U23 race. Her 2016 cyclocross campaign has been sidetracked by an unfortunate injury suffered in August, but with her 9th place finish at the Pan-Am Championships, we are all hoping that she is on the track back to good health and perhaps representing the United States at Worlds again in 2017.
Former UW-Madison and KS Energy Team Wisconsin team member Joe Maloney has been finding time to race and blog about his racing as the Average Joseph while easing into the real world in Washington. The Average Joseph was no average Joe at the recent Rolling Thunder race in Missoula, Montana, as he took home first place in the prestigious night race. His blog is also worth checking out for its commentary on cyclocross racing strategery, and this reporter thinks he has a future as a cyclocross strategy consultant for these WisCXonsin Race Reports if he ever returns to the Best State Ever.
On Tap with Bare Bones Brewery
The 2016 Trek WCA Cyclocross series features two Braggin’ Rights races this upcoming weekend. Saturday is the Estabrook Park Beer Garden Classic hosted by the Hampshire Cycle Club. The event is always a rider and fan favorite due to its large pay outs and outdoor beer garden located a couple pedal strokes from the start line. Sunday is the Cam-Rock Classic hosted by the UW-Madison Cycling Club at the Cambridge-Rockdale Park that is ostensibly located in neither Cambridge nor Rockdale. The Cam-Rock Classic has been around for years and stands a good chance of being the first appearance of a pinwheel section at a WCA race this year.
2016 WCA Wisconsin Cyclocross Sunnyview Cross Results - Elite Women
|1st Place||Emily Nordahl (1 - Cat2)||Rochester, MN||North Dakota State University|
|2nd Place||Julie Phelps (2 - Cat2)||De Pere, WI||Gryphon Velo Racing|
|3rd Place||Niki Soderberg (3 - Cat2)||Wausau , WI||Colavita Racing|
2016 WCA Wisconsin Cyclocross Sunnyview Cross Results - Elite Men
|1||Joel Finkeldei (1 - Cat2)||Madison, WI||KS Energy Services / MOSH / Team Wiscons|
|2||Mitch Nordahl (2 - Cat2)||Anoka, MN||Milltown / Trek Cycling Team|
|3||David Blodgett (3 - Cat2)||Madison, WI||Great Dane Velo Club p/b Capital Brewery|
|4||Nicholas Sabel (4 - Cat2)||Ripon, WI||Lakes Area Physical Therapy|
|5||Christopher Morris (5 - Cat2)||Wausau, WI||Great Dane Velo Club p/b Capital Brewery|
|6||Arlen Spicer (6 - Cat2)||Cedarburg, WI||BELGIANWERKX|
|7||John Svanda (1 - Cat3)||Neenah Wi||Lakes Area Physical Therapy|
|8||Jon Wienandt (2 - Cat3)||Fond Du Lac Wi||Team Wheel & Sprocket|
|9||Gregory Ferguson (7 - Cat2)||Middleton, WI||Trek Midwest Team|
|DNS||William Street||New Berlin, WI||KUHL|