Above photo by Joie Chen
The weekend cyclocross races for JAM/NCC resulted in a few lessons learned:
- Being stuck in the wind alone is really hard,
- Hand-me-down advice is some of the best you can get,
- Remember to bring the pressure washer,
- Coach Al can still whip your butt, and
- 8th graders really know the secret to fastness.
Jack Kisseberth had a good day at the UCI-sanctioned C1 race on Sunday at Charm City Cross in Baltimore. The ground dried up after the previous day's storms. He had good legs but was stuck out in the wind alone for most of the race. Still, he finished strong in 14th place among the best of the best.
"The course wasn't that technical on Sunday," Kisseberth said. "The most important parts of the track were all climbs, so fitness made the difference. Wind was also a factor-- I was just off the front group for most to the race and riding alone with nobody to draft behind, so that was hard. I know I could have finished better if I had a better start or pushed harder early on to get in the front group."
JAM/NCC elites Natalie Tapias and Rhys May pedaled through mud and slop during Saturday's rainy C2 race. They were a bit concerned about how to handle some sections, but right after their pre-ride they got sage advice from one of JAM Fund's proud alums.
"I definitely went into the sloppy race wary of the challenge but came away from it with a lot more confidence," Tapias said. "Stephen Hyde helped me figure out the fastest lines on the downhills. We broke it down after I rode the course. He took the time to talk to Rhys and I about the sections that troubled us most."
In addition to Kisseberth and Scott Smith, Tapias also competed in the C1 race on Sunday and had a lot of cleaning up to do after Saturday's mudfest. She says team mechanic Nate Lachance worked overtime getting the bikes ready for the premiere event.
"Scott didn't pack the power washer, so it was the craziest clean up conditions for us, super muddy crazy," she said. "We are never ever leaving the pressure washer at home again, regardless of the forecast. It's the new rule."
While the JAM elites were in the Mid-Atlantic, Coach Al Donahue and the devo team were racing closer to home.
On Saturday, Trent Blackburn, Chris Niesen and Donahue battled it out at the Uncle Sam Grand Prix, part of the New York State Championships. The three men were not so concerned about others riders in the elite 1/2/3 race as much as each other. That's because it was the annual pilgrimage to Troy, where Coach Al defies any member of the JAM Fund team to beat him. This tradition creates a race within the race, as he wrote in an open challenge:
"Excited to make my annual pilgrimage to Troy for NYCROSS.com," Donahue wrote. "It's an age old tradition where the new crop of JAM Fund Cycling Team aim to take me down. If you are looking for a great hidden gem of NE cross, meet me in NY. Too bad Anthony Clark and Jeremy Durrin won't be there like the old days."
When Saturday's race started, Blackburn, Niesen and Donahue were in a small group at the front but then Donahue put the hammer down with two laps to go.
"Once Al attacked, things started to hurt," Niesen said. "I missed that move and kinda got stuck in a group and put together a last lap to salvage the time."
Donahue broke apart the lead group but then slowed down so Blackburn and Niesen could catch up. Once he reached Donahue, Blackburn counter attacked and rode in for second place. Donahue was third and Niesen fourth with the same finish time.
"He's saving his energy for tomorrow," Blackburn warned.
On Sunday, the battle continued. This time, Coach Al would take no prisoners. The men started off in the fog and mist of Sunday's Minuteman Cx in Manchester, Massachusetts. Again, the lead group included Donahue, Blackburn and Niesen, but this time, Cycle-Smart's Adam Myerson was in the mix. While the JAMmers were busy marking each other, Myerson and some of the other guys seized the opportunity to get away.
"We started together and then I bridged up close to Myerson," Blackburn said. "I made a few mistakes in the middle of the race and ended up tailing behind Al for the last half. I had a decent gap on Al for a while, but I slid out as he was catching me and he just rode away."
Donahue finished 4th ahead of Blackburn and Niesen, proving once again, he is the king.
Jaden Wise is again showing us why he won a JAM Fund Grant this summer. He races a lot. The 8th grader from Belchertown, Massachusetts raced at Minuteman Cx on Sunday... twice. And he won the afternoon race over 24 riders in the cub 10-14 year-olds.
"I did a race earlier at 8:30 and the cub race at 12:15, so I was pretty tired," Wise said. "On the last lap the kid who was in second place riding on my wheel slid out on one of the corners. I'm pretty good in the mud. Every corner was slippery. There were two grass climbs; one at the beginning of the lap and one near the end. They were tiring, but I was able to ride both."
What's his secret to being fast?
"Have a good start because it's hard to pass in the mud," Wise said.
The 14-year-old Wise is on fire this season, winning back-to-back races at KMC Cross the previous weekend.
"I'm not doing much training during the race season," he said. "I ride the trails in my backyard, and I'll be doing soccer and basketball this winter."
It's also worth a mention that Anna Savage was the only junior woman racing at Minuteman Cx. She's been showing up rain or shine and is very active this season. She finished 10th in the women's Cat 3/4 at the Mansfield Hallow Cross race on Saturday. Case Butler also raced at Mansfield and finished 8th in the Cat 1/2/3.
You can find the JAM/NCC team at the Grand Prix of Gloucester next weekend.