Scenic Hartford, Connecticut was the center of New England cyclocross last weekend. Silk City (also the CT state championships) had a good deal of firepower in the elite race, with Austin Vincent headlining a robust field of very fit-looking dudes with intimidating thighs. Connecticut longs for the good ‘ol days of no starting grid and Wild West staging, as they lined up first come, first served, 15 guys across. When the whistle blew, Mike and Charlie had a bit of a start-gate sword fight and lost 15 spots before they could even clip in. In another scintillating display of teamwork, they also managed to delay Kevin, who wisely staged well behind the inevitable carnage.
The course was easily one of the most technical in the region, with plenty of dismounts, running, roots, chutes, hard corners, and off cambers, all topped by a two-inch layer of fine silt. Passing was essentially a game of “wait till the guy in front of you hits a landmine, and pray he doesn’t take you with him.”
Mike played the Human Pylon game for a bit after recovering some spots and creeping into the top 5 or 6, but an untimely explosion by an overenthusiastic Expo Wheel-man blew him off that train for good. He and Charlie settled into a small group, and Charlie – noticing our strength in numbers – attacked on the short road section, attempting to bridge to the leaders (sometimes, our guys DO understand teamwork!).
After a few laps, Mike started to really miss his teammate and attacked the group. Charlie played hard to get, and they both rolled in a few seconds apart – with Kevin a bit further back – just before the skies opened.
Riverfront CX was about as different from Silk City as you could get without actually paving over the course. Mike and Kevin were the only guys representing the ‘house, and long straightaways, deep mulch, and a super-steep power climb meant a commitment of power numbers generally unavailable to their only-occasionally shaved legs.
Significantly more excited about applying watts to their faces were ex-Canadian national champ Todd Bowden, Tim “everything is a nail” Ratta, and Sean Pantalleres Thighs. Seans Thighs went directly to plaid in the start, immediately drawing out a small group. He continued to eject dudes off the back, heaping hurt on an ever-diminishing selection of which Mike was surprised to find himself a part of.
After what seemed like an eternity of heavy breathing and holding on to Todds seatpost, Bowden seemed to sense the burning in Mikes legs and went to the front, dumping gasoline on an already out-of-control fire. This went back and forth for an interminable amount of time, until Todd launched an attack after Sean over-battleshipped the only technical corner of the race. His lead quickly balloned to almost 30 seconds, and with two to go, Mike couldn’t wait any longer.
He attacked up a small kicker after the (sadly indecisive) sand pit, went around the off-camber with both wheels locked and drifting, and prized out a gap of a few seconds on the downhill switchbacks. Fully committed, he spent the better part of a lap reeling in the Trek rider, and finally – with just a lap to go, he made contact.
And Bowden did the best, worst possible thing: he sat up. Forcing an unrecovered Wissell to the front, and biding his time for the sprint, he played the last lap perfectly. He came past Mike in the final meters, taking a well-fought and tactically savvy victory. It was a great race to watch, and the venue and organization were fantastic. We can’t wait to see you all in New Hampshire next weekend!