CX Nationals: The One With The Hills

The U.S. Cyclocross Championships took place the week of December 9 in Kansas City, Missouri. Racers were met with a festive atmosphere, constantly changing conditions and a week full of top-notch cyclocross action. At this point you already know who won, so I wanted to get into the weeds and find out about the travel, the preparation, the mindset, the ambience and, yes, the racing. To do this I talked to six racers with an array of experience. 

Enjoy. 

Natz, Natch.
Natz, Natch.

 Travel … 

(a) How did you get to Nationals? Did you travel alone?

AMY DOMBROSKI, Velo Bella-Kona (U23 women 1st Place and Elite women 5th Place): Drove in a Golf TDI (45 mpg!) with my mechanic Dave Drumm, and holder Colleen Flaherty.

WES SCHEMPF, C3-Sollay.com (Masters 30-34 3rd Place and Elite Men 22nd place): Drove from East Coast, with 5 others there and 3 on the way back. 

GREG KELLER, Boulder Cycle Sport (Masters 35-39 43rd Place): Three buds and I packed up our Honda Odyssey with equipment and enough beer to satiate a small Belgian town. 

ANDREW TROY, Virginia Commonwealth University (Collegiate A, 29th place): I flew out with my mom.

MARK BROADWATER, C3-Sollay.com (B Men 9th place): I was planning on driving but changed my plans at the last minute and actually flew. The ticket was not that expensive, under $200 with one lay-over round trip. Some tickets were cheaper if you booked them earlier. I did have my bike driven out which saved a lot of money. 

(b) What and how were your accommodations?

KRISTOPHER AUER, C3-Sollay.Com (Masters Elite 35-39 8th Place): Residence Inn Suites. Great set up. Dinner and breakfast plus a kitchen in the room and free wifi. 

WES SCHEMPF: We stayed at a hotel near the host hotel. 

ANDREW TROY: We stayed at a host hotel, I forget which one, I know it was a Hilton.

AMY DOMBROSKI: Gracious hosts Kip and Andrea LaMunyon, 8 miles from the course. 

GREG KELLER: We stayed at the La Quinta Inn (say it with the applicable accent). 

(c) How many days before your race did you arrive and how long did you stay? 

KRISTOPHER AUER: Got there on tuesday night to set up for the C3/DCCoD [Delaware Cyclocross Coalition of Delaware] crew. Stayed until monday morning. 

AMY DOMBROSKI: Arrived on Thursday night, raced Sat and Sun, left on Monday. 

WES SCHEMPF: I arrived a day before (Wednesday) and stayed until Sunday. 

GREG KELLER: We got there on Friday, the day before our main events. 

ANDREW TROY: I raced Sunday at 11, we flew in on Friday and left Sunday at 5.

MARK BROADWATER: I arrived 2 days before my race so I could check out the course and relax. 

Packing … 

(a) What was in your travel bag? 

AMY DOMBROSKI, Velo Bella-Kona (U23 women 1st Place and Elite women 5th Place): Coffee, caffeinated gels, IPod-izzle, down jackets and mittens.

MARK BROADWATER, C3-Sollay.com (B Men 9th place): My travel bag included skin suit, several base layers (2 Craft, 1 Under Armour), extra kit to pre-ride in, knee warmers, helmet, sunglasses, gloves (lots of gloves depending on the weather), and shoes. 

GREG KELLER, Boulder Cycle Sport (Masters 35-39 43rd Place): Besides my cosmetics and special hair creams, my race bag was stuffed with 3 pairs of Sidi Dragon SRS (white of course), two warm up kits, two skinsuits, Craft base layers, Specialized S Works helmet, 661 and Pearl Izumi gloves, Freddy’s Choice embrocations, Oakley M Frames and Radars and all kinds of leg warmers and waterproof crap. 

WES SCHEMPF, C3-Sollay.com (Masters 30-34 3rd Place and Elite Men 22nd place): Everything but the kitchen sink and a short sleeve skinsuit. 

ANDREW TROY, Virginia Commonwealth University (Collegiate A, 29th place): I packed one change of regular clothes and 2 kits with arm and leg warmers and a winter jacket. I usually pack light, I also had my bathroom stuff, toothbrush.

KRISTOPHER AUER, C3-Sollay.Com (Masters Elite 35-39 8th Place): Everything was in the bag. Cold weather, rain and regular gear. 

(b) What was the one thing you forgot that you missed the most?  

AMY DOMBROSKI: spare Challenge Fango, toe warmers. 

WES SCHEMPF: Nothing that I couldn’t get by without. 

KRISTOPHER AUER: For a change I didn’t forget a thing. 

ANDREW TROY: I forgot that little face plate thing from my stem so I had to get to a bike shop and get a new stem.

MARK BROADWATER: I didn’t really forget anything except some warm-up pants, it was cold!! 

GREG KELLER: I brought EVERYTHING (except maybe some legs! ha!), but one thing I wished I had was a small Honda generator to power the washer. 

(c) How many bikes and wheels did you bring and did everything make the trip unscathed?  

AMY DOMBROSKI: 2 bikes, 6 wheels – one Fango blew. 

MARK BROADWATER: I only brought one bike and it arrived in great condition, thanks Tom [McDaniel]!! 

ANDREW TROY: I only brought my one bike and the wheels on it, everything made the trip fine.

GREG KELLER: I had with me my two Rock Lobster Team Scandiums, 3 sets of FSA wheels with a mix of Dugast Typhoon and Challenge Grifo XS file treads. All made it A-OK. 

WES SCHEMPF: I brought 2 bikes and everything made it fine . 

KRISTOPHER AUER: I brought 2 bikes and 2 additional sets of wheels. Everything made it fine. Tom Mcdaniel drove it out special. 

Recon … 

(a) Did you get a chance to walk or pre-ride the course? 

KRISTOPHER AUER, C3-Sollay.Com (Masters Elite 35-39 8th Place): Walked the course on Wednesday.  Rode the course on Thursday 2 laps in muddy conditions. Opted out for pre-ride on Friday as the conditions changed then one lap on Saturday before the race.  

WES SCHEMPF, C3-Sollay.com (Masters 30-34 3rd Place and Elite Men 22nd place): I pre-rode the course Thursday when it was still sloppy and was excited about the conditions. 

GREG KELLER, Boulder Cycle Sport (Masters 35-39 43rd Place): We drove 10 hours directly to the venue and pre-rode for an hour or so. Maybe even too much as I felt it the next day! 

ANDREW TROY, Virginia Commonwealth University (Collegiate A, 29th place): I rode the course twice on Saturday after the races were done.

MARK BROADWATER, C3-Sollay.com (B Men 9th place): I did have time to both walk and pre-ride the course. 

AMY DOMBROSKI, Velo Bella-Kona (U23 women 1st Place and Elite women 5th Place): Pre-rode on Friday. 

(b) Did course conditions change at all between your recon and the race? 

WES SCHEMPF: The course changed from the pre ride to dry tacky conditions by Friday and remained for the rest of the weekend. 

AMY DOMBROSKI: The course went from greasy peanut butter on Friday to tacky on Saturday and Sunday from the wind. 

GREG KELLER: The course UNBELIEVABLY changed from the night before to the next day. It had changed an order of magnitude from Thursday to Friday before we got there too as it changed from mud to sponge. 

ANDREW TROY: The course stayed pretty much the same from when I rode and raced it.

MARK BROADWATER: The course did deteriorate a little between when I raced and pre-rode. I let some air out of the tires to meet the changed conditions. 

(c) What were your impressions of the course? 

WES SCHEMPF: I was not excited when i first saw the course as there could have been better use of the terrain from folks that walked the course. After riding it, much of those concerns were confirmed. As the course dried out it turned out to be quite fun, but still not a top quality course for a national event. 

AMY DOMBROSKI: Loved it in both conditions. The tacky course made for flawless riding and railed corners. The slick peanut butter made for an unpredictable and loosy-goosey ride. 

GREG KELLER: The course was interesting. Extremely hard (as a good course should be) but with the most vertical I have ever experienced in more than a decade of ‘crossing. It was all up, then all down. Nothing technical about it, just a slog up … albeit a slalom ride down! The sponge factor made it extremely hard for flatlanders like me to excel. This said, the park and course were beautiful for spectators for sure. 

ANDREW TROY: I thought the course was great, the mud was good and tacky so it didn’t stick to your tires and you could take turns pretty fast.

MARK BROADWATER: This was a great course, it was essentially race uphill then come screaming down the hill. The course was safe and fast from my impression. 

Pre-Race …  

(a) Was this your first Nats experience? 

AMY DOMBROSKI, Velo Bella-Kona (U23 women 1st Place and Elite women 5th Place): 3rd ‘cross nats experience. 

MARK BROADWATER, C3-Sollay.com (B Men 9th place): This was my first Cyclocross Nationals and it was a blast!!! 

ANDREW TROY, Virginia Commonwealth University (Collegiate A, 29th place): This was my first time at nationals.

GREG KELLER, Boulder Cycle Sport (Masters 35-39 43rd Place): I’ve raced a bunch of Nationals in the past but took a long hiatus from it. 

WES SCHEMPF, C3-Sollay.com (Masters 30-34 3rd Place and Elite Men 22nd place): This was not my first Nats experience. 

KRISTOPHER AUER, C3-Sollay.Com (Masters Elite 35-39 8th Place): I’ve hit most nationals since 1996 minus one or two. 

(b) What was your pre-race preparation and food, was it any different than the past couple weeks? 

AMY DOMBROSKI: cold oatmeal cooked the night before for the U23 race, as it started at 9am! Delish. 

MARK BROADWATER: My pre-race food was cereal, coffee, and eggs. I really didn’t divert from my normal race diet. 

WES SCHEMPF: Pre race prep was similar to other races with the exception of the master’s race which was earlier in the day (11am). Prep for that was the breakfast at the hotel and then a small snack of a bagel and gel before the race. 

KRISTOPHER AUER: Prep was about the same. 

ANDREW TROY:  my prerace was pretty much the same, small breakfast, on race day I always lose my appetite completely, I was hardly able to get down half of a waffle, even after the race I never eat much which is not good but I guess that’s what my stomach does on race day.

GREG KELLER: Pre-race was the same: Pancakes in the AM, pre ride at the allotted time to open up, bump up the sugars with a gel and race! 

(c) What tires and pressure did you run and do you think you made the right choices? 

AMY DOMBROSKI: Challenge Grifo 32 with 21psi were the bomb diggedy. 

MARK BROADWATER My tires were Grifos, at 35 psi. I definitely had the right tires on, they really gripped the muddy corners well. 

GREG KELLER: I ended up running file treads. The U-23 guy won on them and I watched him carefully. I pre-rode Typhoons and the File Treads and the latter hooked up beautifully and I assumed would help with lass drag up the climb. I think it was the absolute right call as they hooked up super well on all parts of the course. 

ANDREW TROY: I ran 35 psi, I could have gone higher because of how tacky the mud was.

WES SCHEMPF: I raced challenge Grifos glued to carbon rims for both races at 29 lbs front and 30 rear which seemed to be a good choice. 

KRISTOPHER AUER: tires were Challenge Grifo on the light carbon wheelset. I ran about 30 psi front and rear as the mud dried up.  

(d) Did you bring a pit bike and did you have somebody working the pits? 

AMY DOMBROSKI: One pit bike with the best mechanic in the world-Dave Drumm. 

MARK BROADWATER: I had access to a pit bike, thanks to Kris Auer who worked the pits for me. Thanks Kris!!  

ANDREW TROY: I had nothing in the pit, I thought about bringing a backup wheelset but I couldn’t afford to fly them out.

WES SCHEMPF: I brought a pit bike, which i used to pre ride the course and ride back and forth from the venue to the hotel. I did have a couple people in the pit for me for the races. 

GREG KELLER: Indeed we had a great pit crew who watched over all us Boulder folk and yes, my B bike was waiting for me just in case. There was no mud to speak of (absolutely no build up on the bikes) but nice to hear them shouting as we came through the pit area each lap! 

KRISTOPHER AUER: Pit bike was set up the same and I had full support in the pit. 

(e) Tell us about what was going through your head lining up for the start, did you approach it as just another race or something more? 

AMY DOMBROSKI: A race is a race is a race-a whole lot of jittery blah and screaming music. 

WES SCHEMPF: Nationals is always a big event and a solid result is good for you, your team and sponsors. I was nervous about the Master’s race, but with a front row start position all I needed to do was keep upright and try to stay at the front. 

KRISTOPHER AUER On the line I was a bit nervous with five minutes to go but that changed to complete readiness at one minute, full on adrenaline. Not just another race, nationals is about the jersey and testing yourself against the best in the country. 

MARK BROADWATER: I treated this race as any other race, I didn’t want to get too nervous. The start was very chaotic as every cx start is but after a half lap everything began to sort out. 

ANDREW TROY: Usually I have nothing going through my head before a race, if anything it’s a Rage Against The Machine song. I tried to make this race like the rest because I had a lot of good days during the season so i didn’t want to change that, but I think simply from the scale of this race compared to the rest I was a little bit more nervous.

GREG KELLER: My line up was 4th row and honestly, I had no expectations. I was just focused on being clean and riding my race and staying out of any hole shot hero mistakes that lead to crashes. When you race a series weekend in and out you get to know the moves of your regular competitors and can anticipate them. Nationals and like events are a crap shoot and can be dangerous with lesser experienced folk lining up. 

Race … 

(a) What were your expectations going in?  

KRISTOPHER AUER, C3-Sollay.Com (Masters Elite 35-39 8th Place): My expectations were for a top 20 after seeing the course and the competition.

WES SCHEMPF, C3-Sollay.com (Masters 30-34 3rd Place and Elite Men 22nd place):My goals for the Master’s race were to win and for the Elite’s to place in the top 15. 

GREG KELLER, Boulder Cycle Sport (Masters 35-39 43rd Place): No expectations….just a clean race. 

MARK BROADWATER, C3-Sollay.com (B Men 9th place): My goal before the race was a top ten. I had been riding well, thanks to good coaching and good luck racing (Thanks Kris, again, and ADG!!) so nevertheless I was shooting for a top ten. 

AMY DOMBROSKI, Velo Bella-Kona (U23 women 1st Place and Elite women 5th Place): Reclaim my U23 title for the third year and top 5 in Elite. 

(b) Did the race go as planned? 

KRISTOPHER AUER: The race went better than planned the key moment was after I rode into 4th spot on the second lap. 

WES SCHEMPF: Both races didn’t pan out as hoped, but that’s part of racing. 

AMY DOMBROSKI: I guess the races went exactly as planned. 

GREG KELLER: The race went as planned ONLY as far as cleanliness was concerned, yet the climb and how I felt on it was the direct opposite and totally unexpected. Warm up was ‘OK’ but race time proved that much was lacking in terms of my ability to attack where I’d normally attack. Thank GOD for that downhill! It’s where I’d re-pass the dudes who’d take me on the climb! 

MARK BROADWATER: At the start of the race there was a long flat road and it was pretty crazy. I got really bumped around but made the initial selection in the top 15. I worked up to about 13th and had a group ahead, so with Wes’s and Kris’s cheering, I caught up and passed the group. Then it was all about maintaining my position, no crashes. I sprinted it out for 8th position and unfortunately lost this sprint but it was still a blast to meet my goal. I placed 9th. 

(c) Was there anything you would have done differently? 

KRISTOPHER AUER: I stupidly hit the front and tried to crack the rest of the group.  I whittled a group of 8 or 9 down to 4 but was unable to follow an attack several laps later.  I held 7th for the remainder until another stupid mistake on the barriers let 2 riders catch up. I was able to outsprint one but lost the 7 spot for 8.   

WES SCHEMPF: In both races, I raced to finish not to win. I didn’t expend more energy than I thought I would be able to sustain. This worked as I finished both races, but had I raced with more “intensity” I may have gotten better placings, but that could have also cost me my final positions as well. 

AMY DOMBROSKI: Next time I won’t get myself into a head to head sprint with the sprint-master, LVG [Laura Van Gilder]. 

(d) Describe the key moment for you in the race? 

AMY DOMBROSKI: The key whoops moment: I made the selection with Katie, Georgia, and Rachel, and should have run the run-up, instead of ride it-bobbled and couldn’t close it down. 

WES SCHEMPF: Key moment in Masters race: I realized I was doing too much work towing the other rider around but instead of attacking on the climb and risking a counter I waited to see if it would come to a sprint. It was close to doing that when I missed a pedal on the final remount and lost 7 meters which i couldn’t get back. 

GREG KELLER: I wish I could say “it was when I attacked and dropped the guy to take the top podium spot” but in reality what was decisive for me and my motivation was hearing my name screamed at my ALL OVER the course by good people I do not even know! It was incredibly motivating and THE DECISIVE element for me pushing on. 

(e) What was the first thing that popped in your head after you crossed the finish? 

WES SCHEMPF: The first thing I thought when I crossed the finish line was, “3rd place again.” 

KRISTOPHER AUER Crossing the line I was just happy to be in the top 10 and race a solid race on a course that wasn’t ideal for my strengths. 

GREG KELLER: What popped into my head when I came across the finish was finding the quickest path to the Honda which had the beer cooler and within it a Duvel waiting for me. 

Post-Mortem … 

(a) Are you going back next year?  

AMY DOMBROSKI, Velo Bella-Kona (U23 women 1st Place and Elite women 5th Place): Heck yes.

MARK BROADWATER, C3-Sollay.com (B Men 9th place): I will definitely be back next year to race. I think the promoter did an excellent job with the course. Thank you guys! 

GREG KELLER, Boulder Cycle Sport (Masters 35-39 43rd Place): Not sure about Nats next year. We’ll see. With family, balance is key so it’ll depend upon how things are later in 2009. Frankly, I’d like to save up my husband points and go back to Europe to race again!

WES SCHEMPF, C3-Sollay.com (Masters 30-34 3rd Place and Elite Men 22nd place):Right now I’m planning on going to Nationals again, but we don’t know where it is so that may or may not play into the equation. 

KRISTOPHER AUER, C3-Sollay.Com (Masters Elite 35-39 8th Place): I’ll always go back, for support or to compete.   

(b) What will you do differently, what will you repeat?  

AMY DOMBROSKI: I will only be racing the Elite race next year, and I expect to be top 3. 

WES SCHEMPF: What I’d do differently is pay more attention to staying off my feet. We had plenty of people that were able to do things that I was doing, but I didn’t ask for help. 

KRISTOPHER AUER: I have a front row start position next year, I’ll try to plan around a solid race and go for the win. 

GREG KELLER: I wouldn’t change a thing for next year if I go to Nats. Maybe try to convince some more bros to go! 

(c) What was the coolest thing about being at Nationals?  

AMY DOMBROSKI: The support I received from friends and sponsors what overwhelming. Gotta keep the good ones. 

MARK BROADWATER The coolest thing about nationals was all the team camaraderie, C3 did an excellent job at helping each race perform to the absolute best of their ability. I couldn’t have done as well with the help of my teammates!! 

KRISTOPHER AUER: Coolest thing about nationals is seeing folks for the last time this year and the tension and relief as races are run and finished.  Some folks go on to Europe and worlds but for most of us it’s the end of the season.  Now we look forward to next season. 

GREG KELLER: The single coolest element at Nats is seeing buds from across the country I do not get to see often. We commune, geek out on ‘cross, get our beer on and just have these unspoken moments where we all realize how good this all is. 

WES SCHEMPF: Hearing your name being called out for the podium. Watching your friends stand on the podium, too. 

(d) Any funny moments you can share? 

AMY DOMBROSKI: Too many to share. I think I was laughing the entire time. Maybe one of Dave Towle’s shoutouts: “It is illegal in the state of Missouri to spank your kids as hard as Dombroski spanked the U23 Women’s field today.” 

GREG KELLER: Funny moments? Plenty that would require an R rating, but the après party was epic and hilarious. Tim Johnson grabbed me by the shirt collar into his circle, handed me a Guinness in one hand and a shot in the other and we celebrated a season ending with an Irish Car Bomb. Priceless. 

WES SCHEMPF: All I can say about that is “pounce and bounce.” 

Give some advice or words of wisdom for the person thinking about racing Nationals next year. 

KRISTOPHER AUER, C3-Sollay.Com (Masters Elite 35-39 8th Place): Roll with it. It’s a great experience and a great time. The whole Mid-Atlantic groups up and gives out support regardless of team affiliation.

WES SCHEMPF, C3-Sollay.com (Masters 30-34 3rd Place and Elite Men 22nd place):If you go, you should plan on fully committing yourself to the experience. In the end we are just pedaling our bikes in circles, so have fun and enjoy the event. 

GREG KELLER, Boulder Cycle Sport (Masters 35-39 43rd Place): Advice: GO! As the registration process is a crap shoot (unless of course you podiumed the year before and get the mad front row call up), go, set reasonable expectations, race hard and soak up the scene. These are good people playing in the mud. Talk to ’em about ‘cross in there region. 

MARK BROADWATER, C3-Sollay.com (B Men 9th place): My advice is to try to travel and stay with fellow teammates. The more the merrier, but seriously, the more people to help each other really goes far. 

AMY DOMBROSKI, Velo Bella-Kona (U23 women 1st Place and Elite women 5th Place): Take ‘er easy at the after-party. 

Give a shout out or any last thoughts. 

KRISTOPHER AUER, C3-Sollay.Com (Masters Elite 35-39 8th Place): C3-SOLLAY.COM and special thanks to the DCCoD. 

WES SCHEMPF, C3-Sollay.com (Masters 30-34 3rd Place and Elite Men 22nd place):Shout out to: Tom McDaniel for providing the transportation and laughs. Adam McGrath for coining the term “find your brown speed”. Aaron House for superb heckling skills. Lauri Webber for food and logistical support. 

GREG KELLER, Boulder Cycle Sport (Masters 35-39 43rd Place): Shout outs definitely for my wife manning the home front while I battle my demons in the mud, my sponsors at Boulder Cycle Sport, Shotty at SRAM and Lance at TRP and of course Dubba for taking the stars and bars in our race! We trained super hard this season and no one was going to beat him this year. Trust me on this. 

MARK BROADWATER, C3-Sollay.com (B Men 9th place): I want to thank C3-Sollay.com for their unwavering support and my coach Kris Auer for all the great coaching this year.

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