Tacchino ‘Cross: Podium Interviews

Tacchino 3/4
Men's 3/4 leaders. Photo: Joe Metro.

Here is the final Tacchino ‘Cross installment. These podium interviews are just what you need to get ready for this weekend’s races. Pre-ride strategy, race tactics, barrier technique, pre-race food. It’s all here. 

Thanks for reading. 


Under ideal conditions (you arrive on time, it’s not pouring down rain), how much time do you spend on the course before racing? Do you walk the course? Do any hot laps? What are you looking for during this time? 

Steevo Cummings (Indiana Regional Medical Center, 2nd Place Men’s Elite): 20-25 minutes is ideal. I ride around the outside of the course and watch the racers when I arrive. I got to pre-ride the course after the Elite Masters with Gerry Pflug. He showed me the lines he was taking, where bottlenecks were forming, where to recover, etc. That was like doing 3 or 4 laps on my own. Some of the stuff I would have not found on my own. 

Jared Nieters (Haymarket Bicycles/HomeVisit, 3rd Place Men’s Elite): I try to arrive early, during the ‘B’ race, and do the pit work for Tyler Karnes (he does a great job taking care of the task for me during the elite race). After the ‘B’ race, I ride one lap slowly, in my street clothes, and get a good solid look at all of the corners and lines. During the next race I get my number and throw my kit on. Before the women’s race, I typically try to take a lap at a comfortable pace and then another where I hit a few of the trickier corners at speed. Some of the lines I take aren’t the ones that get beaten in during the day (I take early-apex lines more than most people in order to keep exit speeds high), and that becomes more obvious when I’m warming up at speed. I hop on the trainer during the women’s race, and make sure everything is taken care of, before catching the end of the women’s race. 

Jennifer Maxwell (ATAC Sportswear p/b Bike Rack DC, 2nd Place Women’s Elite): Usually get to the race 2 hours before a UCI race and 1 1/2 for a local. I park, get the LeMond back-up bike ready, and ride to registration. If I can get on the course, I will do a few laps to get a feel for tire pressure and lines to take. I like to sometimes ride behind an Elite women/male to get a feel for which lines to take. HOT laps are for when I am running late and know that I will not get a full hour of warm up on the trainer. So I then register, drop off the LeMond in the pit, and head to the car to warm up on the trainer. I prefer warming up on rollers but with grass and uneven parking venues I need to use the trainer for cross. 

Tyler Karnes (Pioneer Racing, 1st Place Men’s 3/4): I usually try to arrive at the venue a little over 2 hours before my race, that way I can get out of the car and get straight on course to pre ride a lap before the early race starts. I usually try to get another lap before the last race ahead of mine. This weekend, some unfortunate events in a rider breaking his ankle allowed a lot more course time than usual. I think I got 6-7 laps in before my race, and I re-rode some of the more difficult sections numerous times. I usually walk some of the course on the way to registration, noticing how riders are taking lines and if they are avoiding anything on course. I will get a couple hot laps before my race just as a final warm-up prep. 

Patrick Blair (Adventures For the Cure, 2nd Place Men’s 3/4): After racing about 13 races this season I think I finally have my pre-race prep figured out! Before the CAT4 race I try to get in at least 2 slow laps, analyzing every aspect of the course. After the CAT4 race I try to get in at least 2 more laps at a faster pace but still taking lots of mental notes on the course layout. During the races before my race I spend time stretching, checking tire pressure, eating, cheering for teammates, etc. 

Tim Brown (The Bike Rack, 3rd Place Men’s 3/4): I normally like to get in at least 3 laps before racing… an easy lap, a hard lap, and one to work on tricky sections. I usually never arrive early enough to have time to walk the course. 

Meg Schiffman (Squadra Coppi, 2nd Place Women’s 4): I feel most comfortable if I get 4-5 laps in on the course…which usually means getting there about 3-4 hours before my race. I don’t walk the course, but get a few slower laps in and then one or two just below race effort. My objective is really just to gain confidence and familiarity with the course while getting the bod warmed up. The more laps I get under my belt prior to the race, the better I feel on the start line! I do try to test out lines, look for the dryer ones, etc. during the warm-up laps as well. Continue reading “Tacchino ‘Cross: Podium Interviews”

Tacchino Ciclocross: Masters 3/4 Podium

The leaders shortly after the gun.

I admit it. Of all the great ‘cross racing that takes place each week in the Mid-Atlantic, I’m a bit biased toward the masters 3/4 field. This is my race and the one that is featured in most of the videos on this site.

The podium at this year’s Tacchino Ciclocross was made up of five super-strong riders. These guys went hard all day and had a great battle at the end. At least that is what I learned by doing these interviews. The last time I saw them, as illustrated in the above image, was about 200 yards into the race. 

Having the top five weigh in gives us a great look at the decisive moments of the race. We not only get a peek at the winner’s strategy but how the other four reacted, and in hindsight, what they would have done differently. 

Thanks for reading. 

Under ideal conditions (you arrive on time, it’s not pouring down rain), how much time do you spend on the course before racing? Do you walk the course? Do any hot laps? What are you looking for during this time?   

Jay Morali (C3-Athletes Serving Athletes, 1st Place): I ride the course once when I arrive. I warm up on the road and then try and ride the opening sections of the course once more before the race. I am looking for the best lines since the start is so important and chaotic. 

Neal Sapp (Ben’s Performance Bikes, 2nd Place): I ride 2 laps. The 1st lap is slow just looking the course over and trying too find good passing zones and too figure out where I will be fast and sections I will be slow and what tire pressure I will use for that course. The 2nd lap is with some speed too see how it will all come together and flow.

Jeff Anderson (HPC/List, 3rd Place): I get out on the course right away and do 2-3 laps but at Tacchino I ended up doing 4. First lap is slow to ‘see’ the course and then the other laps I will go at a quick pace but not hot. I sometimes even go back and redo a section if I didn’t like the feel of it the first time through.  I pay attention to not only what looks like the primary line but any secondary lines that I might be forced to take to pass or due to traffic. I also watch others ahead of me. Sometimes I ride with another rider I know too. I am glad I did a 4th lap at Tacchino as they moved the course, so I knew what the change was. After that off to registration and the trainer. 

Scott Thompson (Squadra Coppi, 4th Place): With our race starting at 10am, I like getting to the venue at 8am and riding the course for a solid 30-45 minutes before the Cat 4 men start at 9am. I find this is a much more mentally pleasant way to warm up than spending the time on the trainer in the parking lot. It lets me get very comfortable with the course and warm up physically at the same time. I have been doing progressively faster laps to warm up, and I’ll usually test the key turns at speed. I’m looking for less bumpy lines, the fastest lines through turns, and also for places where back-ups may occur. 

Thori Wolfe (Route1Velo/Arrow Bicycle, 5th Place): I focus on the first turn or “bottleneck” after the start; the best or most challenging lines or turns throughout the course; and points along the course where wind, power, or passing (getting passed) will be a factor. Standard stuff. With respect to arrival time and time on course, I used to arrive about 20 to 30 minutes before the start, so I guess I’ve started putting a little thought into my arrival times … about an hour and a half seems enough to keep me busy the whole time and on a timeline to include bagging a couple laps and sitting on the trainer.   Continue reading “Tacchino Ciclocross: Masters 3/4 Podium”

Tacchino ‘Cross: Dee Dee Winfield

Winfield lining up the sausage preme.

Dee Dee Winfield (C3-Athletes Serving Athletes) is one of the fast women on the national cyclocross scene. Looking at the results for 2009 she has been on the podium in her last eight races. She came into the 2009 Tacchino Ciclocross a clear favorite, and did not disappoint, taking the win seemingly with ease. In fact, Dee Dee had established such a large gap on the field that she had time for a couple packaged meat hand-ups from host team Squadra Coppi’s “Suitcase of Sausage.” 

We caught up with Dee Dee to talk about her day. 

How much time do you spend on the course before racing? 

For a 2:30 race, I usually arrive between 11 and 11:30. It takes time to get numbers, trainers set up, chat with a few people, try to make sure I am not too rushed.  

Do you walk the course? 

If it is super muddy, I may just walk the course and not ride but usually I will ride around while others are racing, check out potentially difficult areas, see how others ride those sections. I will hop on the course in between races for a few laps. 

Do any hot laps? 

One or two before the 1:30 race. 

What are you looking for during this time? 

Areas where I can make up time or where time may be made up on me due to strengths or weaknesses in my abilities. Places that may be difficult to pass or challenging in general, what line to take.  Continue reading “Tacchino ‘Cross: Dee Dee Winfield”

A Chat With Joe Dombrowski

Dombrowski at the 2009 Charm City Cyclocross

Joe Dombrowski (Haymarket Bicycles/HomeVisit) may only be eighteen years old but he has already made his mark on the Mid-Atlantic cyclocross scene. He currently leads the MABRA ‘Cross series in the elite category and is coming off a nice win at last Sunday’s Tacchino Ciclocross at Rosaryville State Park, Maryland. Joe only started racing cyclocross in 2008, coming from a mountain-biking background to the road. Although his time in the sport may be short, he has crammed in a whole lot of experience in that time. This includes a two-week stint of Euro-style cross in Belgium, where he raced against some of the best young ‘crossers in Europe.

I talked with Joe about racing, training, and his experiences in Europe. Here’s one takeaway for those among you that are easily offended by a slight touch of wheels or getting squeezed off your line. That ain’t nothing compared to Belgium. As Joe explains below, if you aren’t chopping, elbowing and shoving, you’re just not racing.

Thanks for reading.

You come to cyclocross from an MTB background; do you consider either discipline your primary focus?

At this point, I think I am a little to young to specialize in anything.  However, I think I will probably focus more on road and ‘cross in the future. The switch to the road would be purely because of support; there are not nearly as many opportunities in mountain bike racing.

What do you think your strengths are as a cyclist? Do you think this favors MTB over ‘cross or vice versa?

I definitely excel at climbing, particularly on the road. This is probably more beneficial to mountain bike, and some road racing than cyclocross though. Unfortunately bike racing isn’t all uphill time trials. Continue reading “A Chat With Joe Dombrowski”