West Michigan’s Kisscross cyclocross visited Richmond Park in Grand Rapids November 16 for race #6 of this unique and brilliant series. For the uninitiated, Kisscross is a grassroots series that puts a premium on fun, hard racing and the ability to count under pressure. That’s right, all those times you asked Mrs. Jones in seventh grade algebra why you need to know this stuff … well, this is why. In Kisscross, you score yourself. Each racer gets a nametag and is responsible for counting their own laps. When they have completed the race you put your nametag on the spindle and results are taken from there. Lose count and ride too many laps … better luck next week … or just make sure, if you can’t count in oxygen deprivation, that you are much faster than everyone else.
There’s also the allure of beer premes, low-entry fees and a trombone-playing gorilla.
Check out the site at kisscross.com.
‘In the Crosshairs’ caught up with a handful of folks from Kisscross Race # 6, Richmond Park (2.0). Here’s what they had to say.
1. What is it that makes Kisscross different from other CX series?
TIM CURTIS (Masters B 2nd Place): Kisscross(keep it simple stupid) is as it sounds, low cost, basic scoring and each week a different local group sets up and takes down. This way most everyone gets more involved. Make no mistake, when the gun goes off-It’s a race.
TIM KRONE (Masters B 1st Place): Kiss is the only cross I’ve raced, but the low cost and proximity to my home are huge draws.
ANNE GROFVERT (B Women 2nd Place): It’s like you have your own cheering section! They are super. The courses are often more technically challenging too.
MONICA TORY (B Women 5th Place): Promoter Rick Plite has perfected the ultimate grassroots ‘cross race: something for everyone (beginner through elite); friendly, social scene; low, low entry fees; and “prizes you can use” (like a 6pack of Founders or cycling related goodies) that do NOT necessarily go to the race winners.
ALAN BECKE (Cat C 5th Place): I’m new to the sport and Kisscross is the only series I have attended. Very relaxed and fun.
JILL GORKOWSKI (C Race 2nd Place, 1st Woman): It’s the only one I have done so I can’t compare.
2. What was the best/worst part of the course?
ALAN BECKE: I enjoyed the short descent and trail into the woods. Worst part was the 180 degree turn right after the barriers.
ANNE GROFVERT: Best: The muddy run up. Worst: The muddy run up, no really it was the downhill right after the muddy run up.
TIM KRONE: The mud pit worthy of monster trucks.
TIM CURTIS: Best and worst might be the same depending on your view, last week we had a run up with landscape timbers at the bottom and wet clay the rest of the way up.
MONICA TORY: The uncertainty leading into this race … would it happen at all? Which park? When would we know? Where was the next closest race if this one was cancelled? … that was by far the worst part of the event, for both participants & organizers. But on the day, the last minute venue change & improvised/recycled course were brilliant. True ‘cross weather (33 degrees Fahrenheit, flurries of snow, gusts of wind, and naturally…. MUD), Everything you could ask for in a ‘cross course (stairs, lots of grass, packed sand, single track, deep puddles, a gravel road, a slick run up , and a good stretch of slip-n-slide =oily oily mud). My favorite part? That slick run up, complete with trombone playing spectator.
JILL GORKOWSKI: The best part was all the mud, the worst part was the stairs and having to clean my bike.
3. Describe your winning (or losing) move.
TIM CURTIS: No big moves here, just steady hard pedaling.
TIM KRONE: My buddy said, “Quit screwing around start up front.” So I did, and it seemed to work.
ANNE GROFVERT: Hmm, racing forward. Always chasing down whoever was ahead. Then moving on to the next racer.
ALAN BECKE: Not falling down helped.
JILL GORKOWSKI: I lost right at the end to a guy, but before that I was just trying to push myself as hard as I could on the flatter sections.
4. Pre-race ritual, warm-up, food, etc.?
ALAN BECKE: Nothing special just a couple of laps to check the setup and conditions.
ANNE GROFVERT: Get in some laps to learn the course. Ramp up the speed. Get into the burn zone a few times. Do a race to warm up for the next one on training weekends.
JILL GORKOWSKI: I usually just do 1 lap to warm up, no rituals or special foods for me.
TIM KRONE: I made waffles for the family before I left the house.
TIM CURTIS: Try to save the beer for after the race!
5. What is something you saw a newbie do that made you think “I really need to have a friendly word with that guy”?
TIM CURTIS: Overdressing, but that’s part of cold weather racing
ANNE GROFVERT: Watching the C race and cheering them on. Encouraging them afterwards, giving kudos on something they did that was super. Offer a technique tip if there is something they are clearly struggling with. Barrier dismounts/remounts are often a good one.
JILL GORKOWSKI: Well, I am a newbie so maybe people want to have a word with me!
6. Are you sandbagging?
ANNE GROFVERT: No sandbagging here (unless rolling around in a sand pit counts). Been racing the B open rather than the age group, so often lining up against guys half my age. Some weeks to get more punishment in, er racing, I line up with the A guys and get crushed.
TIM KRONE: No. I just had a good day. The course that day wasn’t very technical, so it failed to expose my crappy bike handling skills.
JILL GORKOWSKI: No, I am not sandbagging, it was my first ever cyclocross race.
TIM CURTIS: I finally finished high in the Masters, I will race A group tomorrow. This after a broken collarbone in August. So, I’ve kinda been baggin’.
ALAN BECKE: Definitely not.
7. Racing next week? What will you do differently, what will you try to repeat?
ANNE GROFVERT: Two races left in this all too short season. Differently: Start more assertively. What will I try to repeat? An outstanding race at Nats.
TIM KRONE: I’ll race, but it’ll be the A race in which I’ll get my butt handed to me, perhaps on a collectable platter.
JILL GORKOWSKI: Yes, I will do the last two races of the series. I need to practice getting on and off my bike quickly.
TIM CURTIS: I’m going with the A group this week, Just gonna try to hang on! [ed.: Tim reports he finished 18th and still had fun.]
8. Do you have a coach?
ANNE GROFVERT: I’ve worked with Hunter Allen (Peaks Coaching Group) for quite awhile now. Making the most of limited training time has been great.
9. Is CX your main focus?
ALAN BECKE: No. , just a way to extend the cycling season.
ANNE GROFVERT: Yeah, it’s surpassed mtb riding. Though I love to mix up the season with endurance mtb. Perhaps an odd pairing of near opposites but it works for me.
TIM KRONE: No. I like lots of stuff in addition to cross.
TIM CURTIS: Mountain is my focus, this is for giggles.
JILL GORKOWSKI: No, mountain biking and some road.
10. Got a training/racing/life/stock tip you would like to share?
TIM CURTIS: Have fun with it, it all gets better then.
TIM KRONE: It’s all in the writings of Kurt Vonnegut.
ANNE GROFVERT: Find a life sport th