Race Report: HPCX, a Weekend in the Mud
The organizers of HPCX jokingly referred to their UCI-sanctioned C2 race this year as “the Purge of Cyclocross.” They have good precedent: Each year HPCX usually marks the “burnout point” of the cyclocross season, when the “off-season road-racers” have long-since stopped showing up, when motivation seems linear to daylight, and when only die-hards and New Englanders seem to race anymore.
And thus despite the promoters’ best efforts to draw local racers and what, honest-to-goodness, may have been the best series of “internet meme-based” race promotions we’ve seen at TBD, registrations this year were already low before the dismal weather forecast appeared; and then really slowed down once folks realized that Saturday promised to be among the wettest, sloppiest races we’d do all year. The Purge had begun.
The weather was predicted to be bad. In the end, though, it was far worse than that. The organizers woke up to the course having been nearly stripped of tape overnight by gale-force winds; large fallen branches littered Thompson Park; and an onslaught of torrential rain for the previous 18 hours meant the course was already soggy for the opening 4/5 race. By the time the pro women started later in the afternoon, it was still raining, and conditions were reaching near-Biblical proportions. The muddy slop extended tape-to-tape for the entire course; tire-pressure below 20 psi became mandatory, “pavement” sections became “recovery” sections; and about a third of the course was only passable on-foot.
Travis Burkel - 6th Place
The first five minutes felt like we were stuck in a pinball machine as we bounced off of one another, fighting to stay upright and clinging onto what little traction we could find. It quickly became clear that mechanicals would be the theme of the day. It seemed that everyone was getting tangled in broken tape or seeing drivetrains malfunction under the stress of the mud.
This was one of the harder races for me in recent memory. After several mechanicals I struggled to stay focused as I slid every which-way—except the way I wanted to go. The runs were slow and made harder by the extra pounds of mud caked on my bike.
When it was all said and done I’m pretty sure we spent more time off the bike than we did actually riding. But running and sliding aside, it was a good day. I was able to escape the city for a few hours to play bikes. Spending time with friends, meeting new people, and sharing the love of the sport, is, at its core, what bike racing is all about. A break from reality. As a community, we tend to sweat the small stuff and focus on the margins. Sometimes it takes a day of rolling in the mud like a child to remember that bike racing is about having fun. Win or lose we are all here for a good time.
Clark Fredricksen - 9th
I stayed up late on Saturday cleaning my bike, swapping brake pads, drying my shoes and laundering everything I'd worn the day before.
Unfortunately for me, Sunday’s course was still largely a mud-pit from the previous day, and virtually all of those new parts I’d cleaned or added would need to be replaced again before the weekend was finished.
Yet Sunday was incalculably better than Saturday. The course dried enough that clean, ride-able lines had emerged along the tape. Most of the uphill “running slogs” from day-one had been removed and replaced by the customary day-two sand section by the lake—which had been expanded for this year’s race. And enough mud remained that cyclocross skills and creative decision-making—knowing what to run or ride; picking a high-line or a low line; etc.—could save minutes for a racer (or, in my case, cost them!).
Speaking of skills, our pals at King Kog rode great races; with Mark Steffen finishing 2nd, Keith Garrison taking 3rd and both Bryan Banducci and Cesar Gallego making the top-ten. I was pleased to ride a somewhat clean race and snag my first top-ten in a 2-3 race.
Typically after the final races of the day, folks just pack up and head home. Yet HPCX felt a little different than normal this year. After braving such a crappy, lousy, no-good day on Saturday, there seemed to be an extra level of enjoyment on display in the post-race parking lot on Sunday — a few more hugs, a little more laughter, and, generally, a sense of satisfaction and surprise that, despite the running, weather and mud, we’d all had so much goddamn fun in the end.
Daghan Perker - 12th
What a crazy weekend. My first race lasted 1 minute 30 seconds. I got a flat when my valve hit a stake on the run up and broke off. Talking about coincidence.
Second day is pretty easy to summarize. Since I got a flat on the tubular the day before I didn’t have mud tires. Crashed 4 times in the same section - downhill left turn into deep mud by the pits - and once my rear wheels came off the quick release. My day was a mess. I’m happy I held onto 12th at this point.
HPCX was a real cyclocross race with real cyclocross conditions and I enjoyed every bit of it - even though I need a new set of BB bearings.
(also, the new course layout is great.)