2018 Jingle Cross
A staple of the US cyclocross calendar, Jingle Cross has grown from a popular regional event to being one of the biggest cyclocross races in the world! This trip would be my fourth time to the race and I was hopeful that my success from Nittany would translate to flying form up Mt. Krumpit.
We started our trip on Thursday afternoon about an hour later than planned, thanks to my need for sleep and need for some pre-car ride openers. Packed up and loaded, Jordan, Ryan, and I rolled north on I-35 to Des Moines, where we spent the night at my Uncle’s house. The trip itself was fun, giving each other shit and talking all things life and cyclocross, both of which are not mutually exclusive. We awoke on Friday to steel gray skies emitting a steady drizzle of rain from above. It was two years previous that Jingle was a muddy mess on Friday night, and I was having flashbacks to the grime and clean up as we sipped our coffee at St. Kilda’s.
After a short trip to Iowa City, we dropped some stuff at the hotel and rolled over to the Johnson County Fairgrounds to partake in the muddy slip n slide. Boy was it going to be a fun one!
Friday Night Lights – Dust Yourself Off & Try Again (13th) (Strava)
Ryan raced early in the afternoon and if his bikes told the story, it was going to be a sloppy race. It was a few more hours before I jumped on course and got to test myself on the greasy track. The course itself was not much different from years past. A long start stretch followed by a series of turns, made more difficult by the rain, before the long trudge up Mt. Krumpit and the ensuing plunge back down. The course was aerobically demanding while requiring a healthy dose of diligence and focus.
My UCI points put me on the second row of the grid and as I took my spot, I felt ready to go. My goals going into the race were to make the front group, push my limits, and have some fun. Of course, I wanted a top 10 result and I knew that I could achieve that. But a healthy focus on process-based goals is paramount and if you can achieve those, the results will come.
As the whistle blew, I was in the pedals quick and wasted no time, pushing past slower starters to get to the front. Crossing under the finish line gantry for the first time, I was sitting sixth wheel and feeling confident in my abilities. I monitored my effort on the first pass of Mt. Krumpit, being cautious to not go all-in on the first lap.
“Just hold your spot,” I repeated to myself, gasping for air as I remounted at the top of the hill.
Next was the descent from the top of Krumpit. With only one pass of the descent in my pre-ride, I was not very confident in my lines and the greasy conditions in the dark were less than ideal. As the front guys went no brakes down the hill, my timid approach opened up a small gap on the top five.
“No matter,” I thought, “I can reel them in over the next few sections.”
I put the power down and kept the gap close on the next couple of sections.
Lap two and I was riding in the top 10 still but the course was starting to give me some frustrations. It seemed like I was riding some sections great, but didn’t have the measure of others. As such, I was sliding my real wheel and drifting through the turns. Still trying to close the gap to the leaders, I was trying to charge sections to catch back up. It was in that instant that I found myself on the ground. I calmly picked myself up and got back on the gas.
I was growing a bit more confident on the downhill, but still losing time and the lack of traction was messing with my head. I rode more cautious in an effort to limit damage, but in doing so I lost my ability to relax and drive my bike with any sense of fluidity.
I met the ground again. And again, another time.
As I crested Mt. Krumpit for the fifth time, I shifted to an easier gear as I pedaled towards the summit. But just then I heard the harsh sound of derailleur mixing with my wheel in a way that it should not. I hopped off and found my chain had sucked itself into the spokes. I decided in an instant to run, but stopped after a few steps, opting to fix the problem there. After a few moments of wrenching, I was able to replace my chain and get rolling back to the pits. I now had the fire under my ass and turned my fastest of the night on my sixth lap.
Unfortunately, time ran out and I was unable to make up enough places to get to the top 10. I was frustrated in the result and my effort for sure. But looking back, I noted my errors and resolved to make some improvements before the next race.
Saturdays for World Cups
The week after Waterloo, I reached out to the guys at USA Cycling on start spots for the World Cup. I had already submitted my entry a month before and was not planning on being involved in Saturday’s festivities. But with Stephen Hyde, Drew Dillman, Jeremy Powers, and others going out with various ailments, I thought there might be a chance I could sneak into the event. This time, I was not so lucky and instead had Saturday to relax and enjoy the second World Cup of the season.
I took a little ride to spin out the legs and get some coffee before heading to the venue. With so many cyclocross friends in town, it was nice to catch up with the folks I had not seen since 2018 Nationals v1 in Reno. Pleasantries exchanged, I traded my cycling shoes for mud boots and headed off to the pits to work for some Canadian friends. I can only hope they didn’t notice my fake-Canadian-ness!
If I couldn’t race the World Cup race, I was happy to help my friend Isaac Niles and Nick Diniz (NCCH Elite P/B MGCC). These young Canadians were working hard and I did my best to provide a few fire bike exchanges for them. Working in the pits is a whole different experience from racing, and perhaps even a bit more stressful. But it was good fun and was, perhaps, a little way that I could give back to the sport. With my pit and soigneur duties concluded, I met back up with Jordan, Ryan, and my uncle to watch the women’s race. A brief, pre-race rain shower made for some epic conditions and the intensity ratcheted up as the women ice skated around the course.
Be sure to check out the event replays at the links below:
Redemption Day (25th) (Strava)
I woke up on Sunday, tired and was, once again, greeted by rainy skies. My mind instantly started dreading the post-race clean up. Today’s Category 1 event carried a great deal of prestige, points, and a bit more money than Friday’s race, but the thought of cleaning equipment after a muddy race only to pack it up and ship it to the next race was anything but appealing.
After a few conversations with my friends and coach, I started to get my head in the game and approached the evening race as an opportunity to show off the work that I had put in over the past few months. The field was a bit more stacked on Sunday, with many of the Euros electing to race the final event of the weekend. No second row for me, but sitting on the third line of the grid, I was confident that I could get off to a hot start.
The whistle blew and I pushed through a few riders to move up, anticipating the plunge into the mud pit at the finish line. In pre-ride I noted the puddles and elected to stage on the left side of the grid. That proved to be a good idea, as several riders got tangled on the right side and I was able to insert myself near the top 30 as we passed up Mt. Krumpit for the first time. I rode strong and stuck to my lines on the first lap, and found myself in a good spot.
Despite my baller start, I was still looking behind me to judge my progress and my position. As I passed by the pits on lap two, Ryan stepped out to the rail to correct my focus.
“Race FORWARD!” he yelled. And again the next time past pit two, “The race is in front of you!”
It took a couple of times, but I finally got my head in the game and set my sights on moving up in the group. With eyes focused on closing the gaps in front of me, I turned the pedals a little bit harder and my running cadence increased ever so slightly. I was chasing guys down on the running sections, and turning the throttle on the flats. Working hard, I was feeling the power of my renewed focus, as if creating a loop of self-reinforcement. Self-belief powering the legs to catch riders which reinforced more self-belief. That is a cycle that I can get behind.
As I made up spots, a spectator informed me that I was in 24th position, much farther up than I had anticipated. Suddenly, a top 20 in a C1 became a possibility in my mind. I pedaled harder and ran faster, knowing that Nicolas Cleppe (Telenet-Fidea) was now over half a lap ahead of me. My time on course was limited. Time to make the most of it.
Bjorn Selander (Donkey Label/ Bingham Built) had been in the pits with a flat earlier and as we rounded the turn at the bottom of Mt. Krumpit, Bjorn came around and led into the barriers. I thought I could hang, but as we exited the barn, Bjorn stood up and put a few pedal strokes in, an effort I could not replicate. Passing through the final corners, I looked up to see the official step out into the course at the 80% mark just after Bjorn passed by.
Part of me was frustrated that I wouldn’t make it for another lap on course, but the other half of my brain was thankful for the gracious pull. Either way, I ended the race spent and needed more than a few moments to collect myself before pedaling to the car.
Muddied. Tired. Satisfied. That’s how I prefer my cyclocross.
Jingle Cross was a ton of fun and is one of my favorite races of the year! While it comes a bit early in the season, the race offers an opportunity to test myself against some European riders and leaves me with a sense of hunger and drive to go even better for the rest of the season!
Next up it’s off to Cali for the West Sacramento GP of Cyclocross!