Cat 1/2 Preview: Can Slack Reign Supreme?
There are a lot of fast cyclocross racers in Florida. On any given week anyone can win the 1/2s and prove to be among the fastest in the state. With cyclocross being so new in Florida there are a lot of people trying it out and the legions of roadies and mountain bikers that have legacy upgrades courtesy of USA Cycling have been known to show up from time to time in the cat1/2s. This makes the racing faster and faster every week, but in the overall series competition consistency is key and a few riders have proven to have what it takes to be near the top when the series winds down in early January.
The top cyclocross racer in Florida last season was Chris Slack (Infinity Bike Shop). How good was he? He only raced in the cat1/2s on eight occasions – winning at Winter Garden, Hobe Sound and both days in Orlando – and he still came away with the series overall title. Why did he only race the second half of the season in the 1/2s? Because he was busy racing in the cat3s for the first few races of the year, including a win at Tropical Cyclocross, before getting the courage to upgrade where he put on a clinic week in and week out.
Chris Slack finished on top in 2011. Can he repeat? (Photo: Michelle Blake)
Slack has spent his off-season training hard in Sarasota and has been seen at several road events rocking it on his cross bike – cantilever brakes and all. One has to surmise that Slack will be faster than ever this year and if all the wildcard 1/2s continue to show up sporadically the consistency of Slack will reign supreme and he will continue atop the podium as the best cyclocross racer in the Sunshine State.
He’s heard it all before
Keith Richards (352 Racing) fell just two points shy from taking the overall title in the Cat 1/2s in 2011/12. Taking the lead after Tally Cross and holding on all the way to the final day in Orlando when Slack had to rely on the assistance of his teammate, Jack Rich (Infinity) to score the necessary points to keep Richards from taking the coveted 1st Place Cowbell. Richards has been a man on a mission for the past few months with some lofty goals focused on consistently finishing on the podium to score the much needed points to secure the win in the 1/2s.
Richards is hoping to avoid a late season crash in the standings. (Photo: Best Photographer Ever)
As for the heckling and the name calling. He has heard it all before. No matter what you come up with you can’t phase KMFR. In fact, he listens to Wild Horses on repeat before every race just to get psyched up.
Stubbs and Renkema
Eric Stubbs (352 Racing) and Ben Renkema (Global Bike) have been all over the internet discussing their desire to race a full FLCX season this coming year. Both are insanely fast on the road who routinely place among the best in the state when racing on the asphalt. When they have dabbled in cyclocross they have put on shows and performed extremely well.
Renkema took two wins in 2011, both at Swamp Cross in Gainesville and he had two second place finishes to Josh Thornton at Kelby CX in Tampa and the second day of Tally Cross. Stubbs was unable to secure a win this past season, but he did manage two seconds and two thirds. Couple this with a win at the Southeast Cyclocross Single Speed Championships (SESSCXC) and it isn’t a stretch to think that Stubbs will feature in several races this upcoming season.
Stubbs claims he will be in it to win it this year. (Photo: Amy Horstmeyer)
Yet, in the end, will these two racers show up and put on a show? Or, will they lurk on the sidelines hoping for bigger prize money, or take some much needed rest?
The Mountain Bike Pros
Drew Edsall (Kenda/Felt) and Ryan Woodall (Top Gear Bicycles) are nationally known mountain bikers. They are among the fastest in the county when they are on the dirt and when they race cyclocross they put on quite the show. Edsall took two wins this past season, both in dominating fashion at the two day Tally Cross in the far reaches of the state.
It is hard to say what people would rather see at FLCX in 2012: Woodall or Woodall’s Stache (Photo: Michelle Blake)
Woodall raced just once in 2011 at Swamp Cross, but he seems to have caught the bug watching some of his fellow mountain bikers at Cross Vegas in September. If either of these two show up for some cyclocross races in 2012/13 it will surely be a race for second, or help us all, third.
If you ask anyone involved with Florida Cyclocross who we are most indebted to there would be one universal answer, Jason Guillen (Gearlink). The Southern Charmer is responsible for promoting and officiating several races and has served on the FRCA Board of Directors representing cyclocross for the past year. When he isn’t doing this he is busy ripping your legs off. Guillen is coming off a strong off-season where he has logged thousands of miles and recently won the 3 Gap Race in northern Georgia where he logged some record times. Guillen finished in third place overall last year and should be near the top again.
He will beat you. Then he will relegate you. (Photo: Michelle Blake)
The defending category 1/2 champion, Josh Thorton (St. Pete Bike & Fitness) is busy racing a national calendar and the schedule he posted on Facebook does not mention any appearances at Florida Cyclocross races, save for the Lakeland race. Despite this, if Thorton were to show up at a race he could walk away with a victory. If we can take anything from last year’s State Championship at Little Everglades it is that Edsall and Stubbs are the only ones that can stay with Thorton.
New Upgrades In Category 1/2s
Congratulations are in order for the category 3 racers that have taken the plunge to upgrade to category 1/2. While they may not compete for the top step right away it won’t take long for Rick Buning (352 Racing), Greg Buker (Florida State University) and Christian Ahrens (352 Racing) to feature and make things complicated for the above mentioned racers. Buning won the Cat3 FLCX Series title in a very close fight with Ahrens that came down to the last day of racing in Orlando. Buker is your 2011/12 FL State Champion in the cat3s and he took the win both days at Swamp Cross in Gainesville.
Ahrens (L) and Buning (C) have both moved up and are looking to make some waves. (Photo: Michelle Blake)