90 degrees might be nice on the sand, but it is certainly no temperature for a mountain. Mother Nature posted up 90 degree temps all weekend at the Johnson County Fairgrounds in Iowa which made for fast and dry riding, and challenged riders to keep clear heads in the face of what felt like a furnace.
The course loomed large from the initial approach, with our first glimpse being the switchback turns down the face of Mt Krumpit - a hill larger than any we can find easily in Chicago.
Mt Krumpit's steep run-up (or ride-up if you're a pro) challenged riders with lovingly preserved ruts and bumps from last year's mudfest. Only this year, it was completely dry and dusty as riders scrambled up its 30 degree slope, inching ever closer to the sun.
Like Icarus with a new set of carbon wings, riders approached the dry, grass-clipping-covered turns of the steep, bumpy descent which managed to wipe out several xXxers on their pre-rides, and even caught Katie Compton by surprise during the UCI contest. Jessica Whiton earned her Tegaderm, as did Brian Piotrowski.
The start gave way to a gentle incline and winding turns through the aptly named Holly Jolly Hell Hole. Once truly in the thick of it, riders took on a set of barriers (go ahead, google Ellen Noble bunny hopping them) and a few zippy fun flyovers, followed by a trip through a barn, and sailed across a mixture of surfaces - dry mud, grass, woodchips, and gravel patches. Unfortunately the high temps persisted even through the Frostbite Forest, call it more of a forest fire than shady relief. The heat certainly made it hard to concentrate and a preview of autumn/winter cx conditions this was not.
For those who committed to dismount and run, the sandpit stretch was a nod to the opening credits of Baywatch. It was fairly rideable but had deeper, more treacherous patches. We spotted Jared Verbeke as he pedaled through the sand, though he and his jersey showed signs of hitting the dirt elsewhere. No matter the CCC or in Iowa, technical skills and a good line were absolutely key to staying upright on this course.
Despite the difficulties an event like JingleCross presents (it’s far away, it’s tough, any mud you happen to find there is insanely sticky, you’re not a Hawkeyes fan…), xXx riders should not fear riding the same course as the pros. On the contrary, we should take advantage of being so close to premier cyclocross opportunities (you know, like courses with actual elevation and lush world class event amenities like on-site showers).
No fear was shown as xXx brought a variety of riders to represent across a spread of categories. Brian Parache put in the effort and captured 10th in the Men's U35 Cat 5 race on Friday, but had an unfortunate flat in the first half lap Saturday and later pitched in to pit for Brian Piotrowski. Piotrowski had a tough first race, but finished 16th in the Men's Cat 1/2 race on Saturday. Scott Rothbarth also took 16th in the Men's U35 Cat 4 race, having spent an agonizing week waiting for Specialized to return his bike from California. After a frustrating crash at Caldwell, Lauren Jacobs attempted Jingle as her second cross race and snagged 6th in the Women's Cat 5, and what she lacked in bruises and scrapes, she made up for in maintaining a heartrate that shocked even seasoned rider Jessica Whiton. Whiton took on the Women's Cat 1/2 and Singlespeed races on Friday and Saturday and raced hard despite mechanical issues. Fresh off a win at Cross-Shooshko Cyclocross, Jared Verbeke finished a respectable 9th and 20th in the Mens U35 Cat 3 races.
After enjoying the UCI competitions on Sunday (wherein several pros crashed #prostheyrejustlikeus) and cheering on CCC graduates, we realized registration for Trek Cup was filling up... so, until next Sunday, friends.