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Team Belgianwerkx Jingle Cross 2016 Wrap Up

Team Belgianwerkx Jingle Cross 2016 Wrap Up

Team Belgainwerkx had a great showing at Jingle Cross, September 23-25 in Iowa City, IA.  This year’s event got moved from early December to September due to it becoming a World Cup.  One of two World Cup cyclocross races in the US, the event offered amateur and professional racing on Friday and Sunday, with the highlight of the weekend being the World Cup race on Saturday.  The event went had a great turnout and went off without a hitch!

Highlights from the team include Robert Berry’s early podium on Friday.  The first race of the day on Friday, Robert lined up for the singlespeed race in soupy conditions and came away with a 2nd place finish.  Robert also finished 5th in his second race of the day, the men’s 35-39 race. And rounding out podiums for the weekend, James Marschalek took a win in the 35+ category 3 race Friday afternoon.

 

Other results from the weekend, Day 1:

Jessica Helmlinger, Women’s Category 3, 25th

Joe Viel, Masters 35+ Category 4, 17th and Masters 45-49, 33rd

Jason Reimer, Masters 35+ Category 4, 47th

Nicki Lock, Women’s Category 2, 17th

Arlen Spicer, Masters 45-49, 10th

Day 3:

Robert Berry Masters 35-39, 6th

Nicki Lock, Women’s Cateogry 1/2, 17th

Arlen Spicer, Masters 45-49, 20th

Nicki, Arlen, Jess and Jason shared some of their experiences from the weekend.

 

Nicki, Women’s category 2:

This was my second year racing Jingle Cross, and with the schedule change from early December to September, I figured we were in store for some hot, dry weather to contrast last year’s muddy races. Boy, was I wrong! Iowa City got dumped on with 2.5” of rain overnight before Friday’s racing got underway, so we were in store for some serious mud.

On Friday, the course was shortened for all the amateur races to avoid some of the hillier sections that were sure to be transformed into slip-and-slides. The race was a slog-fest. Thick, peanut butter-like mud made the flat sections of the course barely rideable for me and my relatively low-wattage producing legs. I had the good fortune of my friends pitting for me, so I was able to get a clean bike each lap. That was certainly one of the few bright spots in the race for me. Overall the race was memorable for the amount of mud. I didn’t so much race it as survive it, and I felt accomplished for finishing 17 out of 22 since the conditions did not suit me at all.

Saturday’s racing was World Cup-only, and the weather was hot and dry, so the best in the world were treated to largely fast conditions, with the exception of a few sections of unrideable mud. The crowds were phenomenal and the Jingle Cross crew certainly put on a race worthy of the World Cup status.

Sunday’s amateur races got to experience the World Cup course exactly as the pros rode it the day before, along with the warm temps. It. Was. Hard. Each lap saw you ascend Mt. Krumpit 2.5 times. The lap started off with a very long, very deep muddy section that was not rideable. I did my best to slog through it at a fast walking pace that dwindled to an I-don’t-want-to-do-this-anymore walking pace by the last lap. A few corners after that you were greeted with the steep and long Mt. Krumpit run up. That kinda sucked. This is where I felt the heat the worst. After our first time up it, the woman in front of my stepped off the course, and for a moment, I thought that was a good idea. But I knew the best part of the course was to come, so it was back on my bike and down Mt. Krumpit, only to have to ride up the back side. Then for the most fun – the technical downhill that the pros wowed us on the day before. This is where I felt the best on the course – I picked a good line, didn’t brake too much and bombed down the hill. The rest of the course wasn’t as much of a technical challenge compared to the first half, but there were stairs, another steep little bit, and plenty of corners. Thanks to the two running sections, I was nowhere in contention for placing anywhere near the top 15, so I ended up just surviving again without having enough in the tank to really put in a race effort.

While I would absolutely recommend this race to someone who hasn’t done it before, I am having second thoughts about racing next year if it continues to take place in September. I find that one of my weakest spots is racing in the heat, and these two days of racing really took it out of me. But what the race lacked in results for me was made up by the overall Jingle Cross experience!

Arlen, Masters 45-49:
Thursday: Arrive in Iowa City with Nick in the horned Suburban, pulling the team trailer in a monsoon rain storm. It was supposed to be dry all weekend! Maybe the course will dry up by race time Friday. It has been quite dry recently. We park the trailer in the vendor area, a great location for viewing and racing. I am forced to skip my Thursday pre-ride because the course has been closed due to lightning and pouring rain. Memories of December’s muddy Jingle Cross taunting me. Not again!!!!!!

Friday: It has been raining all night. This will be a mud race again, but how muddy? What kind of mud? Will derailleurs be snapping like pencils again? My bike only survived the first half of the first lap last year. Dirty bikes are SO much work to clean!!

The early races were in the rain and the course was quite wet and sloppy. This is the good kind of mud. It rinses itself off continually and doesn’t build up. Now I’m hoping it stays like this, much easier to ride in, and pitting is not that important.

It is now mid afternoon, time for my race. It stopped raining a few hours ago, and the mud is now sticking to everything. I did a warmup lap on my “B” bike and it gained 20lbs of mud. I look to Nick and Nicki and very apologetically suggest a bike change every half lap, every time by the pits. No pressure friends, but that would be SO AWESOME!

My first time by the pits there was a log jam on the course. The mud was so thick that most were forced to run on this pancake flat section. I swung wide and chose the pit lane which was still firm and grassy. I grabbed my pit bike from Nick and Nicki, and moved up several spots in the process. I had just pitted for Nicki earlier in the race. I knew how much work it was to get her a clean bike once a lap. Could they get me one clean and ready twice per lap? I wasn’t sure, but God please help them! This mud is so bad I found myself running certain sections just to keep the bike clean for one minute longer.

I finished the 5 lap race with 10 bike changes. I was staged in the 23rd spot and finished 10th. I put forth a monumental effort, but I credit Nick and Nicki along with my other cheering teammates for my great finish. Without their help my race would have ended like many others that day, with mechanic failure. Nick and Nicki, you…were…AWESOME!

Saturday: A day to rest and watch the World’s best in the UCI World Cup. I typically see these men and women race on my iPad while I frantically try to keep up on my trainer in the basement. This is a tough course and very worthy of a World Cup stop. As a team we were very eager to witness greatness on our home turf.

It would have been a lot of fun to see them race the mud that we were faced with yesterday, but the day was warm and sunny for the World Cup racers. The course was altered to add difficulty in some parts, such as Mount Crumpet, and made wider in other parts to allow a faster line where it was unrideable the day before. Both the men’s and women’s races were incredibly entertaining, and being close enough to touch the riders as they pedaled past was truly amazing. My hope is that the riders and World Cup organizers will come back and visit Jingle every year. We shall see!

Sunday: Our final day of racing and our chance to ride the same World Cup course as the pros. This course was by far the most challenging course I have ridden with the exception of last year’s Jingle Cross which was very similar but with a lot more mud. Today it is dry and warm.

We climbed Mount Crumpet two and a half times per lap. The main climb was a run-up and ridden by nobody. The other was a long grind with a couple false plateau’s that made your lungs bleed. The third was a short punch climb to a nasty off-camber ascent. The course had a firm and fast line all the way around, but the line was narrow and rutted in sections. Anything outside of this line was just as thick and wretched as it was on Friday. With two flyovers, sand, run-ups, steep descents, fast deep ruts in many of the turns and music blasting on top of Mount Crumpet, we were in the cyclocross equivalent of the “Field of Dreams”. Nick was faithfully there for me in the pits again, but thankfully the conditions didn’t require it this time. Thank you anyway Nick!

The day ended with another spectacular C1 cross race for the pros. Our fabulous team trailer location had one down side. We were locked inside the race course until the races were all done. The C1 races were the last races of the weekend which was a shame because the crowd had thinned embarrassingly. This was too bad for the event but great for spectating. Mount Crumpet was packed for the World Cup but very accessible for this C1 race. With many of the top Europeans still in Iowa City, we had a front row seat all afternoon.

The event was now over. All the anticipation was rewarded with unforgettable memories. The energy of the fans, the power of the racers and the camaraderie of my teammates. To be able to be a part of this great event, I am humbled and grateful.

Jess, Women’s category 3:

After being a spectator at last year’s Jingle Cross, I knew that I had to race this year. I registered for Friday only, and looking at the weather forecast it looked like a wise decision. The weather was forecast to be hot and dry on Friday- dry being my ideal racing conditions- and raining and cooler on Sunday.  Historically, I do not race well in muddy or slick conditions, so when the skies opened up on Nicki and I after only one lap of pre-ride on Thursday, I was a little stressed out.  I was even more stressed out when we woke up the next morning and another storm was coming through. Welp, what better time to practice riding/racing in the mud than the present.  Once the lightening passed, we headed to the venue in a steady drizzle.  I got some time on the course and felt surprisingly confident in the slop. I guess all of the mountain biking this year and technical skills work along with strength training, especially core work, have been doing something for me! I immediately felt a huge weight off my shoulders that this wouldn’t be a horrible experience after all.  After a couple of sub-par seasons, my cross results rankings have been poor so I was staged in the last row.  I could only move up from there! And move up I did! The race started and I managed to avoid a couple early, slow-motion crashes so I was able to pass a number of women early in the first lap.  Some of the flat sections were really thick peanut buttery mud which require some leg strength, which I have! Overall I had a great time racing, I think I had a smile on my race most of the race.  It was great hearing friends cheer all over the course, too! I finished the race almost 10 spots up from where I started.  The season is off to a great start!

It was such an amazing experience to watch the World Cup races on Saturday.  Watching how the pros ride different sections was a great learning experience.  I was actually sad not be racing the World Cup course on Sunday, although hard (and hot outside!), it looked fun!  Next year I will definitely sign up for both days.

Jason, Masters 35+ category 4:
This was my second pilgrimage to Jingle Cross—not sure what to expect now that the race was set three months earlier than in previous years. I hoped it would still bring some of the course conditions that have made it such a loved (and feared) event. Although my weather app continued to tell me it would be otherwise: sunny and dry.The weather app was wrong. We arrived in Iowa City on Thursday to a soft but constant rain. Which throughout the night and early morning alternated between downpour and heavier downpour. Perfect weather for me/racing (at least I tell myself this). Not necessarily what my mom, who was witnessing her first cyclocross race, was hoping for from a spectating perspective.
We got to the course early so that I could pre-ride, then race at 10am. The rain and sky had lightened up and the air was warm. My practice was heavy and wet—like wading through a bog with lead boots. My race was very similar…but with less air in my lungs and more mud in my cleats. A good start slowly faded as the course conditions took their toll on my legs. Lots of burning ensued. And, mouth-breathing. But there were moments of reprieve—charging the flyover, winding through the barns, sprinting down the asphalt finishing straight.
This year Jingle Cross combined everything I look for in a cyclocross race: flowing corners, technical off-cambers, tough run-ups/climbing. And, the weekend combined everything I enjoy about cyclocross in general: perseverance, camaraderie, laughter, and the need to sign-up for the next race. No matter if it happens to come in December or September.

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