I had heard rumors of a brutal Cyclocross course at the old Quarry Golf course in Brooksville, but how tough could a golf course be? I mean, it’s Florida so it’s just flat wide open Par 3’s right? When we pulled into the course on Saturday I could see this was going to be a new kind of race, with rolling hills and nasty off camber sections stacked on top of each other. And then there was this business about a run up, with corresponding drop off right after. The Panaracer Gravel King SK 38c tires were awesome for gravel and grass, but definitely suffered in the mud and extreme off camber sections. Oh well, run what ya brung right? Dropping the pressure below 30 psi definitely helped grip.
Work and life had me off the bike much of the weeks leading up to this race so I wasn’t on my A game, but I rolled around the course Saturday morning to check it out and see what I could do. There was sand, stairs, hills, mud, roots, off-camber grass and barriers: a classic CX course as far as I could tell. Lining up with the open Masters class I knew these dudes would be hammering out of the gate so I tried to keep the leaders close as long as possible (not long). Learning the best lines lap after lap made it seem like I was going faster even though fatigue certainly took its toll after 45 minutes racing. I was able to keep the top guys pretty close while learning the course for the Cat 4/5 race later, finishing 4th in Masters 35+.
I had a little break before the Cat 4/5 race so I tried to recover and cheer my friends in the other classes, with some heckling for some of the “favorites”. When I went to the line for the next race I was up against a big class but went as hard as I could out of the gate and had a pretty nice lead. There was a $25 prime in play for leading the first lap and it was looking like I might win that ¾ through the first lap, but another racer came up late and gave me a run for it. I made a business decision to save my legs and not sprint on the first lap, hoping that I could save some energy for the next 30 minutes of pain. Saving energy was a good idea, as I faded lap after lap, going from 1st to 4th by the end. There was just nothing I could do to stay up front of these fast guys, I must have left my legs at home.
After a good night’s rest and some tasty BBQ, we went back on Sunday to find a much warmer and drier course. Sunday usually brings bigger crowds as people who work at bike shops are able to attend, and we saw some familiar faces from the FSC mountain bike series showing up as well. I lined up with the open Masters class again hoping to do better, but after a couple laps it was pretty clear I didn’t have it so I pulled the plug on the race knowing I wanted to burn any last matches I had in the Cat 4/5 race later that day. It was kinda cool to watch those guys I had been racing against from the sideline, so I made sure to be loud and obnoxious as they raced around faster than the day before.
In the cat 4/5 race my buddy Tyler had eyes on the $25 prime prize for lap 1 and I was happy to see him get it as he did in Dade City in WAR #1. We took off so fast and he quickly established a gap on me in 2nd, but unlike WAR #1 he didn’t blow up spectacularly thereafter. Instead he picked a smart pace that was just out of my reach, so I quickly turned my focus to the chasers coming up behind me. The Cat 4/5 races are only 30 minutes, so it’s basically an all out sprint leaving little room for mistakes. Trying to maximize my speed and minimize errors I was able to keep the chasers at least 5 seconds back and by the end I was able to roll in to the finish 2nd place! Considering I felt pretty rough all weekend I counted that like a victory, but I know I’ll have to be more prepared in the final WAR race next month in Dade City if I hope to get on that top step for the first time in the WAR series.
It was really cool to see my mountain bike friends show up, some for the first time, and do really well at Cyclocross. I think the skills from MTB riding translate really well to CX, the pace is a little different and getting on and off the bike is odd, but you figure it out. If you’re coming from MTB and have the chance to race CX I would say DO IT! It’s really fun and you might be surprised how well you do. Regardless it’s a good scene of people who are stoked on bikes and appreciate a good heckle, and what else do you need for a good time?
Check out a sneak peek gallery here and be sure to enjoy and download the photos in the full gallery of 2018 WAR #2 Brooksville photos, taken by my wife, Jemma.