Racer X Report: Sun Prairie Cross Redux

Since I am old, slow and no longer racing, I have asked some friends to provide somewhat regular updates on the remainder of the WCA Crank Daddy’s Cyclocross racing season.  ’Cross is one of the most accessible forms of bike racing around.  Because it is relatively easy to set up a course, there are lots of races so you don’t have to wait long or travel far to compete. While the races are relatively short and typically have a party-like atmosphere, they will definitely test your fitness.
 
Below is a bit delayed coverage of last week’s race in Sun Prairie by Mike Heenan, who races for and works at Crank Daddy’s Bicycle Works.  The great photos are generously provided by award-winning photographer Clint Thayer of Focal Flame Photography. To see more of Clint’s great photos of races, or to purchase pictures, check out his race galleries hereNote: Reuse or duplication any of these images is prohibited without the express permission of Focal Flame Photography.
 
 

Sun Prairie Cup, Sheehan Park, Sun Prairie, WI

 by Mike Heenan

I went to Sun Prairie on Sunday expecting a cross race and found it replaced with a roller coaster…

 

Photo by Clint Thayer of Focal Flame Photography

One of the best things about cyclocross racing is that there are as many different course layouts and styles as there are racers and promoters. Not all courses suit every type of cross racer and on any given day their opinion of the course will differ based on their strengths, weaknesses, and mental state when asked. The Sun Priarie Cup was no different

The Sun Prairie Cup at Sheehan Park in Sun Prairie, WI was the seventh stop on the 2011 WCA-Crank Daddy’s Bicycle Works Cyclocross Series and having not raced this venue before I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had heard there was a “hill” and some off-camber turns…

 

Photo by Clint Thayer of Focal Flame Photography

Unlike the typical park sledding hill, Sheehan Park’s hill is more of multi-tiered water carved grassy playground for cross racers.  But you have to pay to play at Sheehan Park and that proved to be my downfall.

Queuing up on the narrow start at the bottom of the park parking lot I knew this was going to be a painful race. The fun parts of the course were a blast but to get to them required a bit of climbing, and at race pace that was going to be hard, really hard. As the gun went off and we made our way up the pavement start, up onto the grass, and towards the steep incline that led to the swooping descent off the hill. The incline was rideable, just barely, if you made even the slightest mistake it would not only cost you seconds to the racer in front but you’d also hear it in the heckles from the crowd that had gathered to watch the race unfold. If you managed to stay on your bike you could accelerate across the top and then were rewarded with being able to carry more speed into twisty downhill section that followed.

I was able to make it up and over the hill, whooshed around the backside of the course and made it’s way back to climb the hill again from another angle, and it happened… Right after a fast off-camber section that led to an uphill barrier dismount, I cracked and ran right into a plastic stake marking the course.

In cross you get bumped off your line, run into the course tape, fall down, but you always get right back up, turn your brain off and try your hardest to chase back to the group you were with. But not this time, I just stood there in disbelief as the race sped on without me. Physically I was fine, but mentally I was finished. I remounted my bike and tried to convince myself that I could chase back but I couldn’t.

Despite my spirit being broken, I continued on. Maybe it was stubbornness, or the fear of heckling from my teammates that spurred me on, but I think it was the promise of the fun parts of the course that kept me going – catching air over the whoops to the cheers of the crowd, the fast downhill turns that could cause you to giggle like a kid, and the high-speed sweeping off-camber turns. Then each lap the climbing would come back, the fun would temporarily go away, and the idea of pulling out would start to creep back in, then I’d catch a glimpse of the fun part and do one more lap.

 

Photo by Clint Thayer of Focal Flame Photography

I finished, but it was not my best race. When asked about the race right after it was over I didn’t give my usual excited Cliff Notes version of how my race went, nor did I have high praise of the course. I felt more like the kid who screams his head off in terror on the rides at the state fair and then runs around to get right back in line to do it again. Cyclocross races like roller coasters, emotionally and physically.  They are a blast despite what they put you through, and I can’t wait to get back in line to race at Sheehan Park again.

See you at the races.

 

If you are putting together your costume for the always fun Trocadero Halloween Cross Race in Washington Park on Saturday or plan on testing your mettle  against the “Equalizer” at the Sheboygan Bicycle Company Cyclocross Classic on Sunday, feel free to submit a photo or story of your exploits.  You could be our next Racer X…

About Dave Schlabowske, Deputy Director

Dave was the first full-time staff member hired to open the Bike Fed's Milwaukee office 15 years ago. A former professional photographer and life-long Milwaukee resident, Dave likes wool, long rides, sour beer, and a good polar vortex once in a while.

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