Weston Schempf (C3‑Athletes Serving Athletes) began the defense of his 2008 Men’s Elite MABRA Cyclocross Series championship by winning the 2009 series opener, the Ed Sander Memorial Cyclocross. The race benefits a college scholarship fund for Chris Sander, whose father was killed in a training accident. The late Ed Sander’s NCVC teammates put on the annual race at the Lilypons Water Gardens in Buckeystown, Maryland.
Schempf, C3 teammate Andrew “Bad Andy” Wulfkuhle, and the Haymarket Bicycles duo of Joe Dombroski and Jared Nieters, established an early lead group on the muddy, rutted Lilypons course. Wulfkuhle and Nieters dropped off the pace after a couple laps leaving Schempf and Dombroski to trade blows. In the finale, Schempf was able to outgun Dombroski, who pulled out of his pedal just as he started winding up for the sprint.
[Ed. Note: Periodically we have guest columnists here at In The Crosshairs. One of our favorites is Jay Morali, who last penned an article for us about this time last year. Jay returns with a column about the internal battle most of us find ourselves in each week on the cyclocross course. Simply put (and I’m paraphrasing Adam Myerson, here) the battle boils down to this: is the physical pain of trying to hang on to that wheel in front of you less or greater than the mental pain you will feel later if you let it go?]
“If you ain’t first, you’re last!”
Too often in life we subscribe to Will Ferrel’s lovable character’s motto from the movie Talledega Nights and we focus solely on the “winner” or “champion” and forget about the rest of the competitors. Look at the great Laurent Fignon, who just passed away. He will be remembered more for the one memorable race he lost instead of the many he won. And it’s not just on the professional level. Just last year I came home from a race after turning myself inside and out to come in second place. I get out of my car and my neighbor, who has no idea what a tubular tire is, asked me how the race went. I proudly told him I crossed the finish line a few seconds behind the winner to claim the second spot on the podium and his response was, “Great, first loser”.
If you race cross long enough and move through the various categories you will find yourself at some point in many different positions in the race. One year you might be fighting it out each week for a podium spot and the next just trying not to come in last. I am currently facing the latter. Last year, I was getting front row call-ups, winning holeshots and picking my own lines. Now, I am five rows back and “rubbin’ paint” as we fight to get past the prologue! (my second NASCAR reference. What do you expect from a Mississippi boy?) But as we all know, unless you are lucky enough to be leading a race, it doesn’t really matter where you are because one thing is always certain in cross: there is always someone in front of you to catch and pass. This is where most of us spend 100 percent of our race.
The purpose of this article is to look into the minds of a couple of the prominent racers across the Mid Atlantic and get a sense of what they are feeling during the “chase.” Do these guys hurt like we do out there? Do they have negative thoughts and consider packing it in? I think you will enjoy their insights and may even learn something from their experiences.
Wes Schempf, a fellow C3-Athletes Serving Athletes teammate, is considered one of the best in the area. He is a former overall MABRAcross and MAC Elite title winner. Wes has had a few memorable experiences racing against pro mountain biker Jeremiah Bishop. Wes explains what it is like for him to fight it out with the former U.S. Champion in MTB short track and marathon in a cyclocross race.
“As you mentioned, Bishop and I have had some experiences,” Wes told me. He explained that his battles with Jeremiah fall into a routine script. “I know that mental preparation is almost as important as physical preparation,” Schempf said. “For some reason, Bishop has a mental voodoo blocker on me. I just can’t seem to get around the fact that he consistently beats me. This has led to a negative feedback loop where if I know he’s racing then I start to think that I’m racing for second.” Continue reading “Through the Eyes of the Chaser”
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”
The MABRA Cyclocross Series dropped in on Chris and Fred Kelley October 4, 2009, to play in their backyard. Talk about a scene that would have driven my grandfather crazy, all those kids with their bikes on his property!
Kelley Acres ‘Cross featured lots of climbing, ridable barriers, and a Euro-style flyover. It was a great day in the country for cross racing. We caught up with some of those on the podium to see how the day went. Thanks for reading.
The Breast Cancer Awareness Cyclocross Challenge presented by Antietam Velo Club took place Saturday, October 3, 2009. The first race in a weekend doubleheader for the MABRA Cyclocross Series, the course featured several hairpin turns, good off-camber riding, a sand pit made unridable by strategically placed barriers, and a mean little hill. We caught up with the podium finishers in several categories to find out about their day.