Above photo by Katie Busick.
Above, Natalie Tapias applies the course tape; Jack Kisseberth grills sausages at the food tent; Rhys May sells the food and drinks; and Chris Niesen bakes the giant chocolate chip cookies for the race winners.
JAM/NCC riders were on both sides of the tape at the Northampton International Cyclocross Races on November 12 and 13. Racers pounded their pedals in their respective categories after long hours helping set up the course, tending to the food tent and a day of making cookies. Winning is a special treat at the oldest UCI race in the United States. Those who race to victory are awarded a giant chocolate chip cookie, and this year Rhys May and Chris Niesen used the kitchen at Tart Baking Company in downtown Northampton to craft the special culinary trophies. (BTW: We highly recommend "donut Wednesdays" at Tart!)
One of the highlights of the weekend for JAM/NCC came on day one. Jack Kisseberth chased the cookie and got really close. After spending a few hours helping out at the food tent, he finished second in the elite men's race behind Curtis White (Cannondale/CyclocrossWorld) in a big field of 81 riders. He nipped out JAM Alum Jeremy Durrin (Neon Velo) by three seconds after spending most of the race in the front chase group with Durrin and Jeremy Powers (Aspire Racing).
"Powers did some driving of the pace early, but Curtis attacked with a few laps to go and got a gap," said Kisseberth who finished 13 seconds behind White.
Kisseberth has been having some great race finishes lately. He also finished second in the elite men's race two weeks ago at HPCX.
Trent Blackburn had a strong weekend of racing with the elite men, finishing in 14th place on Sunday and in the top 20 on Saturday. Perhaps his improved finish was due to the sausages he ate for breakfast. Or maybe it was following Coach Al Donahue's advice.
"I started way harder than I have in a while, per Al's recommendation," Blackburn said. "Once the race settled in, I moved up to the group that was 14 to 20 and led them almost the entire race. I hopped the barriers every lap at full speed. On the last lap, I gutted myself attacking every corner and was still able to out-sprint the few riders left on my wheel. "
The previous day, the elite men's race was a bit chaotic at the start, and Blackburn was caught behind a pile-up at the very first turn. Despite that, Blackburn rode consistently with each lap at about eight minutes, to finish in 20th place. Teammate Case Butler was close in 22nd. With that, Blackburn and Butler finished 4th and 5th respectively among the U23. Also in the elite race was JAM/NCC's Chris Niesen, who was the 80th rider called to the start line. He made up for it with his eighth and final lap as his fastest and finishing on the lead lap. Not bad for standing many hours baking cookies and setting up the course.
Like Niesen, Natalie Tapias' engine revved up during the race with each lap getting faster and faster. Her fifth and final lap was 42 seconds faster than her first. She finished 20th on Saturday and 23rd on Sunday in a healthy field of elite women. Rhys May also raced on Saturday after a long day baking, but sat out Sunday in order to graciously volunteer at the sausage tent.
"I felt like this bowl of chocolate chip dough when I rode my bike today," she said after Saturday's race. "But it was worth it."
Anna Savage competed in the combined field of more than 50 riders in the women's Cat 3, 45+ and juniors. She finished third among the junior women 15-18 on Saturday. Sunday didn't go as well, but she still finished fourth.
"I had a good start but sadly crashed with two laps to go," she said.
Savage has participated actively in races this season, with no DNF's, and she has been improving week after week.
Jaden Wise came back to the start line after a few well-deserved weeks of rest and crushed the junior boys 9-14 year-olds on both Saturday and Sunday. He won Saturday's two-lap race of 48 riders and was the only one who finished in under 20 minutes. On Sunday, he repeated his victory, beating 40 other riders.