Harvey Elliott's Race Report from the Waterford Hills Double Cross:
Waterford Hills is one of my very favorite CX courses and takes place on the same track as the Wednesday Night Worlds road race series. The course strategically uses sections of the track and in-field to give you some technical sections and climbs while maintaining a seriously fast average speed.
I know Danny also likes this course because he won both days last year and seriously kicked my ass. Thankfully, he’s now one cat up. This race is also a double header with the course on Saturday being reversed for Sunday. All these factors seemed to spell good news for Ann Arbor riders who took 29 spots on the podium over the course of the weekend.
On Saturday the sun was out and temperatures maxed out in the high-70’s. It was a gorgeous race in the morning, but winds grew gradually throughout the day and peaked at about 25 mph from the West during the Cat 1/2/3 race. This meant that the main straightaway on the track left you charging straight into a headwind and drafting was going to matter. In the Cat 3 race it was me and Tyler Trask (aka Junior) and looking at the standings I knew it was up to one of us to win it. Tyler just upgraded from Cat 4 after singlehandedly decimating the field at Alma. He was also “feeling good” which was making me a little nervous. The wild card was Dalton Guggemos who won Alma on a mountain bike and made the rest of us look like fools. On the whistle, I pinged the start and got the hole shot with Dalton and Tyler filing in behind. I felt better being in front, but the two of them were chomping at the bit back there. I was going hard hoping to get a break and in the second lap it happened when Junior washed in the hairpin and dropped his chain. With Tyler back it was me and Dalton and I pulled hard to get away. I had a few glimpses of daylight, but boggled a u-turn at the back of the course and ripped through the tape. Dalton was there and once he was there, he was content to sit behind me. I took an easy spin up the straightaway in the headwind and then hit the hairpin again and this time, Dalton dropped. When I saw him lose it, it was go time! I pulled as hard as I could for the lap and put 30 seconds on Marc Walters from Main Street Bicycles. Then I settled in and rode “safe” while continuing to put 15 seconds on him every lap. I got a clean separation from the group and rolled in un-opposed for 1st. Junior had a harder race, but recovered to take 4th. Dalton pulled out with a DNF. Ryan Mckinnie from TWT also had a good race and finished 10th. Matt Johnson and Sean Geary raced in the Cat 3 Masters 35+ and took 13th/14th respectively. Ken O’Day took 3rd in the Cat 3 Masters 45+. In the Cat 1/2/3 it was clear Danny Soltan wasn’t feeling well and he fell back to 7th by the end. For the Cat 1/2/3 Masters 35+ we had Simon Bailey take 2nd, followed by Alex Monte-Sano 3rd, and Tom Barrett in 5th. In the Cat 1/2/3 Masters 45+ Rich Stark took 2nd and Chris Winkler 8th. Rich Stark rolled even faster in the single speed race and took a second podium spot with the win. In the Cat 4 race, Tyler Carlton red-lined it and held 1st for some time, but was eventually caught and took 3rd. Jon Vibbart, a club member from Dearborn Heights, took 13th and in the Cat 4 Masters 45+ John Krauss took 4th, Craig North 6th, and Dan Hoffman 10th. For the Cat 5 race, we had Mick Jones 1st and Matt Raezler 6th. The women’s Cat 3/4 team did equally as well with Lesley Anne Newsted and Andrea Merlotti racing. Andrea took 1st again and seems well positioned to win the series. And last but not least, Jack Bailey won the Juniors 14 and under.
Sunday the course was reversed and that tricky hairpin that gave Tyler and Dalton trouble became a nasty little off-camber downhill. Add to that 1.5” of rain overnight and we had a slippery sloppy race following the best of CX traditions. Danny and Junior called in sick - cough - cough. Thankfully Brian Kearns and Ellie Sterne (our favorite Greyhound) showed up in their absence! Brian and I showed the value of team tactics in a CX race. Brian was quick on the whistle and took the lead with Dalton right on his heels. I fumbled off the line and was over geared settling in to 5th through the first turn. I knew from Alma that this was a death sentence and I tried to work through the pack quickly. Still, by the time I made it to 3rd, Brian and Dalton had a break and I was stuck 20-30 seconds back. By the end of the first lap I closed the gap to 10 seconds. I was close to making contact in the second lap, but a slip up in that off-camber turn took even more precious time. Thankfully in the third lap, Brian slowed the pace and I was able to catch Dalton's wheel. I took a few minutes at the back to recover and when Brian started to let up again, I attacked. I gapped Brian and Dalton on the straightaway and subsequent power sections, but Dalton closed it up in the technical stuff. Not wanting to drop Brain, I slowed the pace and we gained about 30 seconds on the 5th lap. With the three of us together and one lap to go I let Dalton take the lead and then attacked again. I was hoping that if Brian and I could both get in front of him we could force a break, but Dalton was fighting to keep us separated. I was able to get a jump on him in the central climb, and put 10 seconds between us but he closed it up on that off-camber once more. We were coming into the pavement on the final stretch it was clear the three of us were in for a sprint. I was in front, Dalton was on my wheel, and Brian on his. Knowing I had the power play I tried to dump Dalton in the wet grass and went big from the last corner. Dalton stuck and we had an all out sprint from the pavement. He finally got me at the line and took the win. I took 2nd and Brian 3rd with barely half-a-second between the three of us. Also in the 3’s, Ken O’Day finished 6th among the Masters 45+. After that race, Dalton and I went on to do the Cat 1/2/3 and I was ready for vengeance. While slow off the start again, I was able to get ahead of Dalton and Landall Proctor for third. We dropped Dalton, and I was holding Landall back when we were overtaken by the 1/2/3 Masters field. Unfortunately this is also when I flatted. I'm not sure what I hit, but I almost endo'ed as my front tire collapsed in a chicane. Craig North came to my aide in the pits, but I lost minutes to the leaders and finished 6th. Speaking of the Cat 1/2/3 Masters 35+, the finish order was about the same but with John Osgood moving up to 2nd. This pushed Simon Bailey back to 3rd, Alex Monte-Sano to 4th, and Tom Barrett to 6th. For the Cat 1/2/3 Masters 45+, we had Rich Stark showing off is handling skills in 1st. With him was Todd Frerichs in 5th and James Perren in 9th. Brian Kearns decided to forgo the Cat 1/2/3 in favor of the single speed and had better luck there. He quickly got out front again and took 1st with Rich Stark in hot pursuit for 2nd. Dan Hoffman also raced the sscx and took a respectable 10th. Those weren’t the only spectacular races of the day as Tyler Carlton finally got out front and held it - taking 1st in the Cat 4 race. He looked strong and had a couple seconds on the next guy by the finish. Jon Vibbart also raced and took another 10th place finish. In the Cat 4 Masters 45+, John Krauss and Craig North moved up to 3rd and 5th respectively. In the Cat 5, Mick Jones took 2nd and Matt Raezler 10th. For the women’s 3/4 Andrea Merlotti got knocked to 2nd. In the 1/2/3 Ellie also took 2nd, Rebecca Wissman 4th, and Adrienne O’Day 6th. Representing the Jr’s 14+ we had Greg Dearing in 2nd and in the 14- Jack Bailey finished 3rd. Talk about a weekend of racing!