We came, we saw… we got RAD as hell! As a cross racer, the Cincy3 UCI weekend is something that you look forward to all year. How often do you get a chance to rip it up in the morning, then spend the afternoon heckling the pros while they flat out destroy the course that nearly killed you a few hours earlier? For me, the UCI weekend was my first exposure to the mayhem and madness known as cyclocross. I watched on the sidelines of Harbin Park as JamesO got as rad as he could manage at time. With a double sand pit, technical off-camber, and a blazing downhill… I was hooked. That was 4 years ago.
Fast forward to 2011. Team Hungry is raging strong, breaking hearts, and robbing fools on the cross course. After the dust bowl races of last year, I think everyone was stoked to see the temperature drop and the rain come down in the days leading up to Friday’s race at Devou Park. Simply put, Devou is a killer. Non-stop climbing, tons of off-camber and a mud pit you could get lost in. It’s always hard. Alex Steinker and Billy Craig led the day out in the Singlespeed/Cat 4 Masters combo. Alex took the first CX podium of the year with a solid 3rd place ride. Not to mention, he got to share the podium with Craig Etheridge, one of the top ranked singlespeed racers in the country. Billy fought hard for 5th in the Cat 4 35+. Blair Barter was our lone woman of the weekend! She battled with the muddy conditions, and given the time she has been racing CX, I’d say she did well. Blair took 15th overall in the Cat 1/2/3/4 Womens race , 9th among the Cat 4’s, and plenty of mud for the ride home. Mike Starr and Thom Anderson gave it hell in the Cat 4 Open race. Mike laid down a solid ride for 7th and Thom hung on for 15th on day. And what would a local CX race with out Matt Harbaugh… the dude that races everything he can get his wheels on. If you’ve got a race, Harbaugh will do it. And in the Cat 2/3 group, he didn’t disappoint. With a fast field, Matt finished 28th overall and 11th among the Cat 3 riders. In the Ol’ Man Cat 3 35+, JamesO rounded out Team Hungry’s stellar opening day of the UCI weekend. He rode hard to 6th place finish on a bike he hadn’t ridden before! A total James move… Although Pardi didn’t race, I have to give him the Hecklers nod! It was clear from the start of the UCI Elite Mens race that Tim Johnson and his budding moustache didn’t know what do with Scott Pardi. Between the shouts of “Timmy” and the on course coaching Pardi provided, Johnson had all of the motivation he needed and couldn’t stop smiling.
Saturday’s race headed up to Middletown for a cold hammerfest. Despite the fact that this is typically the easiest race of the weekend, I have a developed seething hatred for this course over the last few years. It has somehow managed to beat me down on each of my previous attempts… but not this year. Billy and I rolled up to a cold dark morning with the Cat 4 35+ group. I had a decent call up, but quickly blew it after sprinting out of my pedals and having to ride the first quarter of the lap with one foot unclipped. I finally managed to get in to a good rhythm and starting picking people off. Somewhere during the start of the third lap, I looked around and realized that I was battling it out for 2nd with a little gap to Billy in 4th. In the final meters, I dropped the hammer firmly taking 2nd place (and my first podium finish) and Billy held strong at 4th. In the Cat 4 Open group, Mike and Thom rode hard for 14th and 15th. Harbaugh roughed it up in the Cat 2/3 for 22nd place in the 3’s. JamesO had a last lap crash a knock him off of the podium, but popped up quickly to finish 5th on the day.
Sunday, Sunday, Sunday! Harbin Park. A UCI C1 race. Always technical, always, hard, always fast, always fun! The weather was perfect. Nice and cool in the morning, and warming throughout the day. The course was rad. Just enough mud to get dirty, but not enough to slow you down. Billy and I were coming off of the strong day in Middletown and we were both feeling good. I had been so bold the evening before to tell my friends and teammates that I had one plan for Harbin… To win! Billy and I showed up good and early to do get plenty of time on the course prior to starting. We were able to get about 3 laps in before the call-ups started and I felt like the course really suited me. Between the technical off-camber and grinding tall grass climb… I had a good feeling about my ability to win it.
The ref’s had decided to change the call-up structure from previous day to put all of the elite singlespeed guys on the frontrow, which put me on in the middle of the third row and Billy in the fourth row… not where we were hoping to be. My plan was to sprint out of the gate and hop on to the back of the single speed group and hold on for dear life. At the whistle, I began hammering the spirit only to have my foot pot out again, but this time I managed a much better save and reclipped in no time. I charged up the up the hill into the first turn. I was setting 5th wheel, which is exactly where I wanted to be. Four back from the blazing fast Craig Etheridge in a tight group. By the time we exited the technical off-camber section, we had a little gap on the rest of the field, and I was the lone cat4 guy in the bunch. I dug deep to pace this group on the straight grass hill section up to the finish and through the sand, and within the first lap, I had about 10 seconds on the chase group. I started working with one of the singlespeed guys and really pushed it. During the next lap and a half I was able to extend the lead to almost a minute. My legs were on fire, but in a really good way. When I came around the technical section on the last lap I saw AnnieMac was screaming for me and at this point, I felt unstoppable. I had no idea where Billy was in all of this, but was hoping that he was crushing it too. As I cruised the last lap, I finally got a glimpse of Billy about a minute back and leading the charge. He had been battling up through the pack and had no idea that he was in second place. To say that Billy was digging deep, would have been a massive understatement. He was charging!
The rest of the team faired well on the day. Blair took 9th overall in the Cat 1/2/3/4 Womens race. In the Cat 4 Open, Tom McKenna rode to a solid 10th with Mike Starr close behind at 14th. In the Cat 3 open, Harball also squeezed in the top 20 at 22nd.
The whole weekend was fantastic and well organized thanks to Mitch Graham and the supporting teams BioWheels, Darkhorse, and Queen City Wheels! Can’t wait to do it again next year!