I have put off writing my race report from this past Sunday's Boulevard Cup and Wyandotte County Park, for a couple of reasons. One, I can be lazy and procrastinate. The 2nd reason has been for the sole purpose to calm down a little before I go spouting off from the 'hip'. I made some comments about Sunday's cx course during pre-laps the day of, immediately after my race and even more comments to the same friend(s) within the last 24 hours. So, I don't think my harsh opinions are going to subside....
1. 2/3rds of the course was unviewable from the main gathering point of the spectators(food and beer area)
2. The course was an absolute disaster as far as markings and being staked. People blowing thru high speed turns and off course because cones and hats were laid down rather than using stakes. On top of looking like a go-cart course from the Ozarks, the set-up(or lack thereof) looked like an after thought.
3. And what little grass was mowed, it wasn't even part of the final race course set-up. At least get the mowers out there. We aren't bailing hay.
Why on earth was 10 acres of land used for a course that could have been set up in 2 acres? Why would you run the racers away from the spectators, the food, and the beverages so they can't see anyone race? Its not a crit. There were no goats in the goat pasture to view us racing on the west side of the road. Yet, 2/3rds of the race was on that side in the 'goat' pasture. Me and a friend can find a ATV and a snow plow and make a cx race possible with 10+ inches of snow on the ground in 3 days notice and mark and stake the course, but 2 months of beautiful perfect weather with multiple volunteers and that is the course that I paid money to race on. Now if that is the only option, then I can accept that, but when promoters like Jeff Unruh can put out a 'Pro'-like product and Jeremy Haynes and Joe Fox up at Cycle City keep raising the bar....Then how long before the Boulevard Cup goes from the biggest fields of the season to the weakest. Free beer and cookies are great, but I and many other racers want a quality course, a quality product to spend our hard earned money on. And Sunday's race course wasn't quality. There are 20 races in the metro area and I can't do everyone. Very few people can, so people have to make choices. People can go race in Tulsa, Lincoln and Iowa. The customers, thats what we as racers are, can choose to take our money and put it in a different product. That is my less than 2 cents.
Enough of my rant, as I am sure I have offended many people reading my drivel. Let me remind you though. I am a paying customer, I have the right to bitch since I am forking over said money. Try taking my criticism for what it is and make a better product... or don't, be offended and scoff at me and others who may want more.
To the race. The goal after Saturday's hard effort in Topeka was to recover and get ready to chase the 360Racing master's train. As I expected, the 360 crew showed up in force. Hedjuk, Jenks, Songer, Lucas, Hammontree all showed up to race the 40+'A' race at 11:00am. My inital goal was to get a front row start and get off the line without any issues. Didn't need the 'hole shot', I didn't want to set the pace, but I wanted to settle into a 360 wheel and just try to stay smooth. With a few random call-ups, 25 racers lined up for the 30+ race. My 40+ group lined up immediately behind with 25 of us as well. Then came 25 or so of the 50+guys. There would the standard 30 second gap between age groups. Again, something else for me to think about. I didn't want to lose time or the 360 guys getting thru the slower riders, which would probably be at least 24 of the 25 thirty year old racers in the way at some point early in lap one.
So with the official's instructions and a word from our generous promoter we were ready for the whistle. The 30+ racers were off, and I was still not nervous, just anxious to get started. I was trying to protect my Series60 overall lead. 30 seconds later, the whistle blew for my race. Brendan Jenks of 360Racing immediately surged to the front and I settled into 2nd wheel as we raced down the long paved start headed for the left turn into the grass. Bombing down a hill and headed towards a high speed 90 degree right hand turn, the racers had to scrub a bunch of speed because we came to the courses' first barrier. A single barrier maybe 20 feet outside the 90 degree right hand turn. Remounting, the racers pedaled a slight incline thru the long grass to a 180 degree turn-around. Down the same slight hill and into a soft but fast left-hander. The course traversed thru a ditch to another grassy field section where 2/3rds of the course was set-up. Very non descript rollers and some high speed turns, a couple with some off-camber slope to them but all in all, a boring section thru unmowed grass with lots of acorns to go thru and over. After a series of turns, the course climbed up towards a sand volleyball pit that we went across the width of maybe 30 feet of sand. This is actually where our lead group caught the majority of the 30+ racers. all 5 of us in the lead group made it thru 'lapped' trafffic without being delayed too badly. Our group reformed as we remounted and headed towards the road crossing. Now the sand pit I elected to run every time, but it was ridable. Not necassarily faster to ride it, but some chose to anyway. Once thru the sand, the course crossed the main road to the east side of the course. We went across the road and back on the grass heading north toward the food and beer area where the spectators were mostly watching the race from. Some technical switch-back turns and a barrier section right after another series of 90 degree turns and the racers were remounting and heading towards the course only rear technical section of the 1.8 mile course. This amounted to one long off-camber sweeping left hand turn a section of wooptys in a road-side ditch that led to a 120 degree bottleneck turn. The course was now going back to the south to cross the road and back to the west side of the road for the last section of the course. The west section was poorly marked and I found racers blowing thru cones and course hats in multiple turns on the back side of the course. No stakes and tape thru some S-turns, so people were 'straitening' turns to their likeing in this protion of the race. We headed north past the wheel pit and up the hill towards the road the racers got a couple of technical 90 degree turns in before we hit the road for the start/finish section. Thru most of lap one, it was Jenks, Songer and me in the front group. After a bad start, Lucas joined us only to lay it down in an acorn infested turn towards the end of lap one. He rejoined us in the middle of in lap 2 again. Their teammate David Hedjuk went blazing by all of us towards the halfway point of the first lap, charging on and leaving his teammates trying to avoid him as he almost wrecked them in the course of passing us. So much for having to worry about any of the 360 team tactics...I guess Hedjuk had his own plans, that didn't include Steve, Andy or Brendan. Thru the start/finish line on lap 2, I was on the 360 train but working really hard to stay there. It was no problem staying in contact with the lead group thru the fast first 1/3rd of the lap, but once we reached the sandpit, the 360 guys gapped me a little there. Crossing the road they had maybe a 5 bike length lead on me. I got reattached at the 2nd set of barriers and stayed on thru the spectator section. But, when the course was heading south towards the street crossing, i got gapped a little again. I kept stretching the elastic, eventually it was gonna snap. Crossing the pavement to the back part of the course, i got back on only to lose the wheel of Brendan when the course turned uphill towards the pit area. So for the remainder of the race, I stayed tantalizingly close to the 360 group. Their teammate Hedjuk was up the road from them, so they were racing for 2nd. I desperately tried to get back to that threesome. A couple of times they seemed to slow but I just couldn't close the gap any more than 10 seconds back. With a lap and a half to go, Jenks fell off Songer and Lucas pace and now I was chasing Jenks for 4th. I got to within 6 or 7 seconds of Brendan and at the sound of the 'Bell' lap, the race was on. But he had more than me. I should have made more of an effort early to stay with that front 3. I just didn't have enough late to get up to Brendan. I settled for 5th behind the 4 horseman of 360. On a course i have never had much success on, in hindsite it was a decent result. I held off my charging teammate Jeff Unruh who took 6th, and my time gaps back from the Songer/Lucas duo were under a minute on a very non technical course. Definately a course that those guys have a distinct advantage over me. They beat me by a couple of minutes last year at this race.
So up next weekend is the Smithville Cx race up at Smithville Lake. Going to race the Open race again. Could be a really small turn-out this weekend because quite a few are headed to Louisville to race the USGP down there. I need to plan ahead better and ,maybe I can be racing at one of those USGP weekends next year.
See yah next time!
Steve Tilford Eulogy
10 months ago