The Syracuse Cyclocross Grand Prix has been around for years. Since I’ve been an active member of the Onondaga Cycling Club that hosts the race I always went out to the help setup/tear down and take loads of cool pics during the race. I would always think that I should give cross a try, but leave it at “next year” which never really happened until now.
This year was my first race at the Syracuse Cyclocross Grand Prix in memory of James Konski and sponsored by etc etc. This has to be the longest name for a cyclocross race anywhere. James Konski was the founder of the Onondaga Cycling Club back in the 1970s. His great goal was to have a velodrome built in Syracuse. In fact he raised quite a bit of money for this goal. Not enough money to actually build a velodrome, but enough to buy half of a nice house.Jim Konski passed away years ago and I am not quite sure what he would think of his name being memorialized on a cyclocross which seems to be the opposite of racing on a track.
Going into the Syracuse race I am feeling that I have a general idea of what I am doing now. Which basically means that I know what kind of pain to expect during the race. I also know where to start which is at the very front.
The registration for the Syracuse race gave me only one option which was the Cat 4 race. The Masters field was limited to Cat 1-3 so I could not hop into that race. This would not be an issue, but the Cat 4 race was scheduled for only 30 minutes which felt kinda short. I’ve been able to race in Cat 3/4, Open Men and Masters fields in other races and always raced for 45 minutes at least. I felt as if I needed my full dose of pain and that 30 minutes just was not enough pain for a Sunday morning of cyclocross. I would be wrong.
At the start I was able to to line up at the front and got my game face on. I was going to have a good start for once. As the race started I darted out and kept within the top three guys. On the first turn I was almost the first guy out as the first guy took the hairpin turn too wide and got jammed in the tape. I burst onto the slight climb to the road trying to maintain my position. The air was getting colder as the sun that was out during the previous Masters race hide behind the clouds and rain started to sprinkle ever so slightly. At this point the legs are getting a little stiff front the violent effort and the cold combining to form a perfect storm of pain. I summoned my inner Jens and sent a message to my legs to quickly “SHUT UP”. The lungs however need some more counseling since they are not as forgiving when given direct orders in such a way.
The course for the Syracuse GP was changed from the classic course that was raced on for years. Ben Salibra, Bryan Blake and Dave Faso worked together to come up with some nice changes. We would ride Tuesday night cyclocross practice at the park and the new couse was unveiled earlier in the week. The one disappointment was the lack of mud at the race. The park has decent drainage and there was only one section with a slight amount of mud. After Kirkland and Ommegang I was now expecting all of my races to be glorious mud fests leaving me with legs that are caked with mud. This really was the way to complete the overall cyclocross experience of pain and mud and occasionally beer.
Luckily the soaking rain that we received for most of the week changed the course from relatively dry to another epic mudfest. Two portions really stick out. One is the giant puddle seen above. The other is the section leading up to the start finish that was only navigable by running. By the time my race started 95% of racers were running through this section. The mud was getting worse by each lap. The Cat 4 race win was contested as a running race through the mud. I saw a portion of this as I was slightly behind at that point at a point where I could hear the screams and see a bit of the finish.
As I rounded through the muddy section that I ran through for the previous laps I thought to myself that a 30 minute race was plenty on a course like this. I am not sure where I finished, but I did get compliments on my start which was a good achievement for the day. I never did look at the results. The scorers where having issues with the placings since there were quite a few racers bunched together. I don’t envy their job and thank them for going through the trouble of doing this when they could be doing pretty much anything else.