Applecross in Winchester has long been an early season race, but with the juggled schedule due to the UCI World Championships in Richmond earlier this Fall, it was pushed back to mid-November. New this year was a full weekend of racing that featured two different courses and two different series.
Applecross Day 1
Series: Sportif Cross Cup
Conditions: Dry and cold
Sean was the sole VWS representative on Saturday which utilized a course similar to years past. His report from the Masters B race is below.
Such a fantastic course. Varied surfaces, singletrack, crazy steep hills, cold but good weather.
I am doing Day 1 and Day 2 and decided to drive back and forth for both days. 90 minutes each way. Alarm goes off at 0500 this morning and I was out the door and half way here before the sun even woke up. My race was not until 1015 but I was unsure how much preride time I would get before the 1/2/3 race at 0900 so I chose to try to get in all my preride before the 0815 juniors races.
Still hobbling on the healing sprained ankle so my mission today was to ride everything except the barriers. This course has a feature called the “Belgium Wall”. Last year it was a series of switchbacks going up a hill that is just under a 30% grade. This year they decided to just have one switchback at the bottom to bleed off anyone’s speed and then you turn left straight up the hill. I rode it 3 times in pre-ride, which would end up coming back to bite me, and rode it 3 of the 5 laps in the race. I may have been the only guy in my field who rode it. Not sure.
The other features I rode every time was the short kicker near the beginning of the lap and the couple of logs they put out.
My take away from this race is if I am going to be doing 49 minutes of cross racing I really should not have done 60+ minutes of preriding including 3 trips up the Belgium Wall. I took off hard from the start of the race and hoped to fly through the tech features I spent an eternity preriding leaving everyone in my dust. Turns out I am not the only guy who can go fast through tech today and the other guys are more than happy to let me push wind and set tempo for the first 5 minutes. Then my turkey timer popped and I was done.
Survival to the end for 9th.
Sean‘s handlbar camera footage from Day 1:
Applecross Day 2
Series: BikeReg Super 8
Conditions: Dry and Cool with a handful of very muddy sections
Dan was looking for one more excellent result before his category upgrade and got it with his first win of the season and his VWS career! Clay, unfortunately, holding top 5 position of his own on the last lap, took a fall and broke his OTHER collarbone — because anyone can break just one in year. Dan’s report is below:
Oh sweet apple butter. I’ve had dreams of holding it high. Apple CX was my last target race of the year and I decided to race the cat 5 instead of the 4/5 (despite the hard time) because I really wanted to win one before I took the leap to cat 4. I was lucky to have Eric lend me his magic wheels and my family able to come out and see a CX race. It was an awesome course that suited me well I think. It started out like most, I took the wheel of Clay as we headed into the grass in around 4th place. One guy took off, but I could tell he wouldn’t hold that pace, so I let him go and just hung with the rest of the group. As we approached the first choke point, I went ahead into 2nd to make sure I didn’t get hung up and then easily pulled back the lead man and we traded the lead a few times on the first lap. He suffered though and I pulled away from him and rode alone for 2 laps. This is when the fun starts. I took a spill on two consecutive laps in one of the “mud pits” giving another guy the opportunity to catch me around the middle of lap 3. I led him around, testing him numerous times on the hills and was able to get a pretty good gap each time. I might’ve been able to drop him completely, but I decided to take a risk and let him go ahead of me and set the pace going into the lead lap. I made sure to just keep his wheel, while saving as much energy as possible, and look for my opportunity on the final climbs to make my move. On the final climb I passed him easily before the log and prayed I didn’t mess up the extremely muddy section that was coming up. It went great though and I had a large enough gap that I was able to sit up and enjoy my first win! It was really the first race where I felt strong enough to think strategically instead of just full out the entire race. Elated over my win, I learn that Clay crashed in the mud pit and has broken a collarbone. AHHH! Thanks for the Buzz Kill, Clay!
Standing on the podium, I reach down for sweet nectar of life and there is none, WTF! “Cat 5s don’t get apple butter” so I’m told. “Upgrade!” Curses!!
Next year, it will be mine!
Chris was the only VWS representative in the 4/5 field and he had a great showing despite a challenging start to his day.
Day 2 of Apple Cross started as a very cold and windy morning. The course had been significantly changed from Day 1 and looked nothing like the course I raced last season. There were two impressively muddy sections with a lot of steep run ups and decents that made for a perfect mountain bikers course. I got a late start this morning and arrived at Apple Cross with only 45 minutes to get my number, pin my number, change, and warm up. Oh, and since I left both of my helmets at home, I had to parade around the parking lot in search of a strangers spare which luckily worked out. With my early 2000’s (definitely expired) Giro helmet, I pre-rode the course with 15 minutes to go before lining up. Needless to say, my legs were not warm at all. I started in the front row and sprinted from the gun to get into the course in the top 5. My main focus on the course was to be patient and minimize mistakes. The first lap I stayed with the lead group, tailing just a bit behind. Slowly, a few of the leaders blew up and I began pulling guys back and moving up. A few off camber turns and a steep singletrack climb were the spots I picked to attack and make up time, while I took it easier on other muddier sections of the course to minimize the chance of crashing. The last lap came down to myself and 2 other riders and I completely ran out of gas on the back side of the course running up the Belgium Wall. I kept a steady pace to finish the lap and soft pedaled across the line for 6th. I missed the podium by 19 seconds. Tough pill to swallow when I think I would have made the podium for sure if I had a real warm up and a helmet that fit. All in all, it was a great course and it was great to get out and race this morning. Two more chances coming up to redeem myself.
Sean has now gone through 3 tubular tires and one cracked Zipp 404 in six weeks. If not for all the snake bites, he would have had even BETTER results to date. His report is below:
Heartbreak of a race. Course was totally different from yesterday. More punchy hills and even more technical. More run up time. I would have loved to have raced this without my sprained ankle. I would have loved to race it even more with air in my front tire.
Woulda Coulda Shouldas ran all through my head 5 seconds after I realized my front tire had emptied in lap 2. Warm up had gone well. My legs were handling the fatigue from yesterday ok. I was sitting Top 10 with the race leaders well within sight. I was even hobbling better than yesterday. Ankle was not costing me as much time. Things were looking up. Then the flat.
Rode at least half the course on the flat front tubular while watching almost two dozen guys pass me by. Got the pit bike from the pit and did the last 2+ laps on it. I seriously need to take my pit bike more seriously. It has my extra wheelset on it which weighs more than my car and the fit was not right.
I wandered around the course half halfheartedly for almost half an hour and crossed the line.
The season has been highs and lows. Goal going in was a Top 10 and hopefully my Cat 3. I have more than met my goals. Today I got a result not too far off some of my results from last year and that was with a flat tire, 2+ laps on a horribly set up pit bike, and an injured ankle. Gotta keep things in perspective.
Three more CX race weekends. Plenty of time for some more results while chasing friends around parks.
So the team had some excellent races mixed with some misfortune. Huge congratulations to Dan on his victory and upgrade to Category 4. We all are wishing Clay a speedy recovery and looking forward to seeing him back on the bike soon!
Sean‘s handlebar footage of his first lap before he flatted is below.