Thanks to team member Alex Carleton for this race report – (Click here to read her full race report)
A couple of members of the Steve the Bike Guy Cyclocross Team traveled to another new race to the #NECX scene, The Fruitlands’ Cup of Cyclocross.
The Fruitlands Museum grounds in Harvard, MA provided a beautiful autumn backdrop for racer photographs. The course was almost entirely hard cut field, very little dirt, no forests or asphalt. There was a good deal of climbing with a very challenging series of inclines being 2 just before the finish area and then a long uphill at the start. There was a great run up just as racers started to recover from the climbing and secret stairs in the middle of nowhere. The course was beautiful and incredibly challenging to race.
Jason was the solo member of the Steve the Bike Guy team in the Men’s Cat 4/5 35+. The combined field for the race was just over 100 starters. The Cat 4/5 started 30 seconds ahead of the 4/5 35+. The uphill start didn’t spread racers out much in the beginning and things stayed pretty congested until the downhill section on the farthest side of the course. Jason knew it was going to be a challenging race coming into it, but the physical demands of the hills and the thick grass exceeded his expectations. He was pleasantly distracted when Phil Fisher (aka power junkie / triathlete suffer brain) came past him. The men did 5 laps and Jason finished strong in the top half of the field, but his legs still haven’t forgiven him.
The women didn’t race until 1:15, so I (Alex) leisurely made my way to the venue around 11:00. The Women’s combined fields had just over 50 racers. The Women’s open started 30 seconds ahead of the Cat 4s. By the time the group entered the first turn there was plenty of room. Thanks to Jason’s feedback, I was mentally prepared for the suffering that was required to race the Fruitlands’ course. (The was much suffering.) Dame Nancy Gomes cheered her brains out on the hills just before the finish. She could not have been in a better place for support -#yayfriends. The women raced 5 laps (I had planned on 4), but I hung in and had a strong finish in the top half of the group.
After the race, many friends stayed and watched the Men’s 123 and shared our “internal” battle stories from the day. No one mentally conquered the long stretch of grass field leading to the far side of the course. It had humbled us all. Watching the men finish and collapse on the grass and lie there a while to recover summed it up nicely. It was a very physically challenging race.
The best summary of the course itself came from its designer, Gary David, after the race: “We know that this is not your average course, but New England is not your average cyclocross region. We wanted to do something that would challenge you in many ways, and bring the type of course that you may see on livestreams with Flemish-speaking announcers. Based on your reactions, we think we accomplished that goal. It was hard enough to be formidable, but not hard enough to be impossible or unenjoyable. Having raced on it myself, I know that it pushed limits and gave a great sense of accomplishment at the end.”
I would have debated the “unenjoyable” part during any part of the race. But after (days after) there is a certain sense of enjoyment from knowing we did that course, never backed off, and survived.