Winter Garden Spooky CX Race Report

On October 31, 2013 by Christian

When Jason Guillen and I began planning the Spooky CX race, we really weren’t expecting a huge turnout for it. The Florida State Road Race Championships were the same weekend ten or fifteen miles down the road in Clermont, after all. So, we didn’t do a huge amount of promotion for the race, other than our normal carpet bombing of the Florida Cyclocross Facebook page. Boy, were we surprised when we had 50 plus riders pre-registered and then the registration table was BUZZING all morning with walk up traffic on race day. It being the weekend before Halloween, and it being a CX race, there was a costume contest and plenty of lunatics racing in costume. There was a lot of great costumes, which I will mention in greater detail soon.

Spooky Cross 2013 from @CrossCopter on Vimeo.

We set the course up on Saturday afternoon, so we had an easy morning of it on Sunday. Jason promoted a race at this same location a couple of years ago, so we had a pretty good idea going into the event where we wanted the course to go, but we changed it up somewhat. The grass seemed thicker this year, and the park certainly has its share of burrowing rodents, making the straightaways seem slower, although a lot more corners really broke down and turned to sand soup, forcing a lot of tip-toeing, tripodding, and washing out in the later waves. The lap started on a wide-ish straight on grass that narrowed down to fit between the 10 foot wide fence posts of a split rail fence, leading onto some hard packed sand with scattered roots and a gentle bend to the left. Then onto the grass, and the first series of corners around some trees, around a big hairpin and then a fast straight leading into a wide, sandy 90 degree left hander (the best line was all the way right) that would bog you down pretty good if you tried the inside. The next section of the course was by and large fast and smooth, on hard packed sand under a canopy of big old oaks with assorted roots and some 6″ ridable barriers placed immediately after a 150 degree hairpin corner. The next corner after the barriers got pretty loose as well, but then it was fast and out of the canopy and onto the inner hairpin on the soccer field. Once off the soccer field, a lumpy straight up to a capital “R” shaped series of corners that led to a short grassy straight, the DEEP sand pit of the volleyball court, and then a long grass straight. At the end of that straight lay the Labyrinth, a section of off-camber and tricky-tight hairpins and loops over and around a 3 foot high grass mound that snakes it’s way around the park’s playgrounds. The off cambers got pretty torn up, as well as the same nasty hairpin next to the fence that gave everyone fits the last time we raced here- this time it got even worse. Once you exited the Labyrinth, there was a relaxing jaunt across the pavement of the basketball courts, a lump you could get boosty off of, and one more tight series of corners, before you trekked back to the soccer field to do the outer hairpin. The 8″ high barriers were placed right at the exit of the hairpin, then all there was left was a fast 150 meter long horseshoe shaped bend back to the finish line. I’m biased, since I had a lot to do with the course design, but I thought it was a super fun, fairly fast, and pretty fair course.

Masters getting a negative review for their costumes, pic by Kristin Apotsos

The first wave of the day got off 5 or ten minutes after the scheduled time with a big field of 35 masters racers toeing the line. Allow me to say that the Masters 35 field is getting pretty legit, their first lap was SCORCHINGLY fast. Zach Fout (GearLink) was close to the front for the first lap, but his lack of a proper warmup doomed him to his seemingly usual fade towards the end and he finished 4th. Jack Rich had his hands full, and finally looks a bit mortal. He ended up third. Tic Bowen (The Fit Lab), one of the local strava kings, showed up for his first CX race ever and after a slow start that saw him fall as far as 6th or 7th, then figured out the whole churn through the grass thing and began to pick off riders on his way up to 2nd by the finish. Andy Mills (The Fit Lab/PowerBar) continued his reign and took the top step convincingly, and had the fastest lap of the day to boot. In Masters 45, Steve Noble (Infinity) and Scott Atkins finished within a couple of seconds of each other with Noble getting the silver medal, and Victore Alexandre cemented his status as THE 45 PLUS GUY to beat with another win.

pic by Kristin Apotsos

In 55 plus, it was all about the guy in the Riddler costume, Ted Hollander, who called his shot by putting wanted posters up all over the park that said he was last seen on top of the podium. Ted is scary fast, even when he’s not wearing a green body suit with question marks all over it. Brad Scott had a strong ride for second, and John Torrey was third, both with a couple of minutes of Ted, which is quite respectable. I’m not even 45 yet and I doubt I could finish within a couple of minutes of Ted.

The Ryan Fisher trailing Chris Slack, pic by Paul Troyer.

Wave Two saw 10 123-Open men stand and deliver, including the triumphant return of Ryan Fisher (Swift Cycles/Captain Planet/ICE WORLD) to FLCX. Well, it was triumphant for about 10 minutes, then the heat from the long sleeve Captain Planet Skinsuit caught up to him and he yanked the ripcord (and hiked up his shorts because OF COURSE) to start an inexorable slide to the back of the race. Rich Dybdahl (Pure Cycles) battled with Tim Hayes (Swift Cycles) for a lap or two early, but it didn’t last and he went back towards Fisher. Chris SLack (Infinity/Pinnacle Wheelworks) hung out for a LONG time in the Behind Tim Hayes Zone, and there are still those who claim that he never caught Tim. In his 60 minute debut, Wojtek Dyszkiewicz (Birdsong Brewing) finished one spot ahead of Tim in sixth. In fifth was CLint Bridier, while in fourth, making his 2013 FLCX Season debut was Professor Ben Smith, getting out of his Master’s Racing comfort zone. In a fine third place, Dustin White from Jacksonville came in about 11 seconds after Andy Mills, who had already won the Masters race and might have been a little tired. Your winner was none other than the pride of Ocala, Ryan Woodall (Top Gear), who was never really threatened at the head of the race.

When the Wave Three riders lined up in staging, I looked at the how wide they were (as a group, that wasn’t a fat joke) and how narrow the gap was between the fence posts about 75 yards away, and made an executive decision that for the first time at a race other than the State Championships, we were going to do some call ups, to reduce or eliminate the chaos at that point of the course. I used the highly-scientific method of the order that riders pre-registered, and instead of a front row that was 20 riders wide, we had three rows of 8 or 9. Thirty-Three! Cat 4 and 5 Men toed the line, as well as 7 riders in the MTB class and 11 cat 4 women- it was a huge group! Thankfully, there were no incidents once we waved the green flag, as Kris Kouvaros destroyed the holeshot, as you can see in this video clip from Bob Croslin. Kris stayed up front for a little while longer, and then deployed a parachute and plummeted down the standings to 24th by the finish. The problem with holeshotting is that once you win it, you still have at least 29 minutes left to race. Rather quickly, the cream of this current crop of 4/5’s rose to the front of the race, however, with 4 of the eventual top 5 all in the top five by the end of lap one. William Shoulders ended up 5th. Justin Dileo (352 Racing) climbed as high as second, but slipped back to 4th by the end. Jayden Eckroth was third, and Cliff Kugler was second. Your winner was John Kingham (Bent’s Cyclery).

4/5 podium by
Paul Troyer.

In the MTB Class, there was a pretty good dogfight between Ted Hollander and Paul Lewis, but at the end it was Hollander with the victory. Michael Ploch was third.

In the Women 4’s, Nicole Carson led for the first couple of laps, but the inexorable pressure from Jennifer Kraatz and Melissa Isenman was too much and Nicole faded back to third by the end. Jennifer got the win over Melissa, which is three victories in a row, and should be enough for her to earn a trip up to the cat 3’s in the near future.

Next there was the under 10 year old’s kids race, which which continues to gain in popularity and contained adorable little children dressed up in halloween costumes for just about as much cuteness as anyone could possibly stand. It was around this same time that Rich Dybdahl unveiled his complete halloween costume: He was me. I’m him. Rich took it as far as he possibly could including dying his black hair a crazy shade of auburn/purple, augmented with a fake beard and an Orange State Cycling kit.

IT’S UNCANNY, RIGHT??? pic by Karen Dybdahl

Rich is rapidly becoming the awesomest dude in FLCX. Also, for the record: No one came dressed in a Tim Hayes/Super Rookie costume.

Wave 4 was my race, the Men’s Cat 3 and Women 123 Open. A small field of ladies took the start, including the long-time FLCX supporting Mother-Daughter team of Diane and Michelle Blake. It was Kristin Apotsos (Infinity/Biergarten girl) who took the win from Kate Adams (Gear Link/Bumble bee) with Michelle (Sassy Witch) in third. In the 11 dude M3 race I was third through the fence gap, and stayed towards the head of affairs until a bunch of people ran past me in the sand pit after I foolishly tried to ride it using the worst sand riding technique I’ve ever attempted. My defense is that I was pretty much at my limit at that point and if I didn’t get passed there, it would have been somewhere else. Mike Weimar (Orange State) snuck past me and rode away from me a little later, and ended up a fine fifth. Daniel Cleaver was fourth, and Taylor Norton (Orange State) showed that his form continues to improve with a strong third place. The real battle, and probably the best race of the day, was between Bob Croslin (Orange State) and Addison Zawada (FWD Set/Red Bull), who traded the lead back and forth several times until Addison managed to escape. At some point Bob ran into Addison and they tangled up, which may or may not have caused Addison’s tubeless tire to burp some air, which allowed Bob to finally get away for a well fought victory. Here’s the story in Bob’s own words:

let me set the record straight: Addison and I were riding together and actually having a nice chat believe it or not when I decided to throw myself sideways over the barriers in the woods catching Addison up with me. Somehow I managed to pop my rear wheel out of the frame and I had to loosen up my QR to remount the wheel giving Addison a solid 10 secs on me. I then preceded to claw my way back within spitting distance of Addison over 2 laps when his tire burped with half-a-lap to go. I felt awful passing him within site of the finish but that’s racing. Here’s the takeaway from the Cat 3 race: Addison is freaking fast and he’s going to continue to dominate the 3’s and then he’s going dominate the 1/2’s.

Allow me to add that Bob is going to continue to do that whole dominating thing that Addison is.

As far as my race went, I went as fast as I could in an anaerobic state, which allowed Drew Smith (Velo Brew) to catch and pass me with two laps to go, but to my surprise he never plunged the dagger in and was content to leave me in his wake. On the last lap, another rider was catching us gradually, and indeed had caught up to us at the final set of barriers, but by that point I was already back on the bike and in the drops and locked into the inside lane around the final corner, so I was able to outsprint them both for 7th place. Yay me!

m3 podium by Kristin Apotsos

Kate Adams, Kristin Apotsos, Melissa Isenman by Kristin Apotsos

The final race of the day was Single Speed and Juniors, and it was as much of a Halloween weekend goofball extravaganza as you would imagine it to be. John Hovius in a cheerleader’s outfit. Ryan Woodall in a wrestling singlet. Zach Fout in a tutu. Mike Weimar as The Jesus, Todd Leedy as the Dude, and Ben Smith as Walter, all from the Big Lebowski. Todd even did the entire race carrying a bowling bag. Taylor Norton as Ace Ventura. Brian Jenson as some hideous monster with a smaller hideous monster perched on his shoulder. Somewhere in the midst of all this silliness the Juniors raced- Eric Meucci took the win in 15-18, and Lachlan Hovius (AAA Tri Camp) stood on the top step with Jackson Mehr (Swift Cycles) and Joel Hovius (AAA Tri Camp) in third. In the single speed race, Woodall and Fout hung out together for much of the race, with Wojtek and Dybdahl-as-me slowly drifting backwards as the race progressed. There were all sorts of cookies and Little Debbie’s and who knows what else getting handed up at the barriers, but I never made it over that far. It ended up with Ryan taking the win from Zach, then Wojtek and Dybdahl as Me.

Jason and I really weren’t expecting a huge turn out for this event, considering that the Florida State Road Race was being held 15 miles down the road. Instead, we had 115 unique riders and 143 total entries, making this the second best attended regular season FLCX race in history. Imagine how big this event will get when the road promoters finally stop putting on championships in the middle of Cyclocross season.