Cyclocross relays are a great way to kick off the new cyclocross season. They give everyone the opportunity to shake off the ’cross cobwebs and get back together with old friends in a laid-back environment where winning is secondary to having a good time. Wisconsin last had a season-opening relay in 2014, but in 2017, the Velocause Centraal team out of Milwaukee partnered with the folks at Zachariah's Acres in Oconomowoc to bring the CXy (relay) back this year.
Not only does Zachariah's Acres have a great name, it also has a great mission. The 48 acres of land in suburban Milwaukee provide a place children with special needs can go to experience nature. The cyclocross course at the venue weaved past chicken coops, orchards and woods, and if the course had been longer, it would have likely seen more of what ZA has to offer.
One of the challenges of designing a relay course is making it short enough to facilitate a lot of laps and entertaining exchanges, but long enough to make sure riders are not burying themselves with 45+ minutes of VO2 Max efforts. Laps for the Velocause Relay were about three to four minutes long, and riders were more than willing to report back that the efforts were "really hard." Perhaps the laps made for efforts that were a bit tougher than what riders wanted, but the lung-searing cyclocross efforts are only a week away, so they could not hurt, right?
Categories for the relay were much more laid-back than the regular Wisconsin Cycling Association Cyclocross daily calendar. The most popular category of the afternoon was the co-ed race that ended the day's events, and a healthy contingent of Cat 4/5 racers showed up earlier in the day, which is always encouraging for the future of the sport.
Andrea Cyr and Heidi Hardrath kicked off the afternoon's Elite races by taking the title in the Women's relay ahead of Jodie Prestine and Antonia Leal. The singlespeed race was a Belgianwerkx team practice, with the six blue-clad riders sweeping the podium. James Marshalek and Arlen Spicer got bragging rights on their teammates by finishing ahead of the duo of Robert Berry and Juan Esteban Tapiero Bernal (or just "Juan").
In the Master's 35+ race, Andrew Feuersthaler and Chad Hartley beat out Paul Warloski and Christopher St. Clair, who had the excuse of thinking about hosting the start of the WCA Cyclocross calendar next weekend at Cross-Shooshko. Michael Mayer of Trek Midwest and Dave Dineen of Team Wisconsin formed a team of rivals to take the win in the Master's 50+ race.
Speaking of getting ready for big events, Scott Daubert found time to sneak away from Waterloo and his role in planning for World Cup Waterloo to team up with Al Krueger (Linear Sport Racing / Trek) to capture the victory in the Men's Elite race. Daubert and Krueger were challenged early on by a fast start from the Trek Midwest duo of Alex Bedinghaus and Tim Hartung and a lasting challenge from Kyle Warras and Nathan Johnson, who appeared to have gotten lost after the CrossFit Games and showed up on a dual suspension mountain bike.
As previously mentioned, the biggest race of the afternoon was the Co-Ed Cross that finished the afternoon. Included in the field of 15 pairs were several partners looking to grab the crown as Fastest ’Cross Couple. The list included Sanjay and Anna Ganju, Mike Curtes and Heidi Beck, Amy and Kevin Plato and Susan and Patrick Uphill.
Not only was the Co-Ed Cross the biggest field, but it was also the best race of the afternoon. The teams of Kathryn McDicken and Nathan Knowles and Andrew Cyr and Steve Trebatowski battled neck-and-neck into the last lap, swapping leads throughout the affair. On the last lap, Knowles was able to outmuscle Trebatowki to grab the victory and do the rare "suitcase" race victory celebration as he hopped the barrier at the finish. Hopefully, it is only a matter of time until we see this from Peter Sagan.
The WCA Cyclocross schedule kicks off in earnest next weekend in Milwaukee with Cross-Shooshko on Saturday and Velocause Centraal's Humboldt Park race on Sunday. The full WCA Cyclocross schedule is available online. Hobby-blog quality coverage of Wisconsin cyclocross is available at the aptly-named Wiscrossin'.