High school English teacher and 3 time 'cross worlds competitor, Geoff Proctor sent us this excellent report of round one of the US Supercup cyclocross series.
In undertaking the 1999 US Super Cup Cyclocross Series, I feel a bit like Homer's Odysseus (which I'm currently teaching with my high school seniors). Vast tracts of travel, trial and tribulation, and the hope that the gods will be kind. Coming out of that "remote outpost of mankind", Montana, I can never really foresee anything: venue, course conditions, tire selection, pit crew assistance, luggage arrival, or how I'm gonna feel. But, like Odysseus, the journey makes the man; so I grin and bear the 6 inches of new snow and 9 degrees F, get myself and two 2 bikes out of Dodge, and head 2 time zones east to Super Cup #1 outside of Boston for the Daniele Pontoni pain clinic.
The fact that 2-time World Champ Pontoni (Selle Italia) is "in the house" is testament to how far US 'cross has come over the years. Not only do we now have a thriving national series thanks to many, many ardent supporters, but we've got world class American 'cross talent with the likes of World Junior Champion Matt Kelly, World Espoir bronze Tim Johnson, and our turf-charging, look-out-Worlds women.
So, as the weather gods of Olympus smiled down Sunday to light up orange, red, yellow and pink foliated magic, I, too, had to smile. Pontoni, 'cross stud supremo, had come across to New World cyclocross, and he did not disappoint.
If it's possible to inspire awe when you're 5 feet tall and wear size elf Sidi's, Pontoni's the guy to do it. It isn't so much the Italian tri-color 'cross champion's jersey, or his Guerciotti decalled, Dugast tubular adorned steed. It's the dude's legs. Svelte as shark meat, he imposes himself like a lean, finely veined Mercury. Of course it's only natural that he'd possess a divine set of legs with wings on his feet; Pontoni is, without question, the most consistent World's 'crossman of the last decade, never placing less than 9th in the last 9 consecutive world championships.
With my French just marginally better than his English, we parlez greetings at the start line. I ask about his wife Luisa and about his masseuse Gusto who used to be a fixture at all the Swiss 'cross races. In fact, I have the salient memory of stealing a close look at Pontoni's Sidi's back in 1991 after a race in Meilen, Switzerland. While he was on Gusto's massage table, I grabbed one to examine exactly how he drilled spikes into the underside toe area. Now every off-road cycling shoe comes pre-drilled with spike attachments. In part, we have Pontoni to thank for that. Equipment innovation has always derived from the racers. As it should be.
Nothing innovative about the race though. After a gracious pat on the shoulder from Steve Larsen (LL Bean) as if to say, "Daniele, be kind", we were off through a tunnel of deafening New England cowbelled craze. Pontoni laid down the law after a few laps and crushingly cruised. Early on, after the initial mayhem of tread jaw and spindle pool, I settled in with a group of five. We were racing for 9th in the second group. Mostly I could just hear snippets from the race announcers of the battle ahead. Larsen, Bowen (Saturn), Gullickson (Boulder Denver Couriers) and Johnson (CCB) were all up there in the first wave. It was also great to see Frank McCormack (Saturn) back in the mix after his horrific road crash this summer. Go Papas go! As for me, miscalculating that we had a half lap instead of one and a half to go, I surged but then faded to 15th.
Begrimed with salt, I again chatted with Pontoni, fresh as a leaf, after the race. I was curious as to how this first American Super Cup compared with the annual Euro 'cross opener in Berlin of the same UCI category status. He replied, in broken English this time, "Oh yes, this race magnifico...the people, many many more people here. In Berlin, yes we have DeClerq, Van der Poel, me, Simunek...but here you have, how you say..energia."
With 95 starters in the elite men's race, a lot of that energy is indebted to the New England cycling establishment. Promoters Lyle Fulkerson and Chris Zigmont have a crack team behind them: clam chowder voiced Dick Ring and Richard "the energy bunny" Fries (also classy editor of The Ride), ace course designer Tom Stevens, onlooking USA Cycling trustee Bob Beal and District Rep Tom Vinson, US 'cross pioneer Paul Curley (Gear Works) who won the masters 35+ race, up-through-the-system product Tim Johnson. The list goes on. They've got a good thing going.
My idea of an equivalent for Odysseus' journey to the underworld would be to fly into New York City with 2 bikes for Super Cup #2. So I'll steer clear of that Hades. With any luck, I can avoid the wrath of the snow gods, the Scylla of sickness, and the Charybdis of after-school meetings to get in some good training. Look for more of the odyssey after Super Cup #3 in Colorado.
Elite Men 1 Danielle Pontoni (Ita) 1.05.59 2 Stephen Larsen (OR, LL Bean/Mongoose) 0.49 3 Bart Bowen (NM, Saturn) 0.57 4 Marc Gullickson (CO, Voodoo) 1.23 5 Peter Wedge (Can, Canadian National) 1.52 6 Tim Johnson (MA, CCB/Independent Fabrications) 2.11 7 Frank McCormack (MA, Saturn) 3.15 8 Alex Candelaris (CO, Pro Peleton) 3.41 9 Shawn McCormack (MA, SRP/Cannondale) 3.53 10 Ken Hegelson (CO, US Air Force) 3.59 11 Johannes Huseby (MA, Independent Fabrications) 3.59 12 Justin Robinson (Can, Voodoo) 3.59 13 David Wyandt (WA, Palo Alto/Kestrel) 4.08 14 Brent Prenslow (Can, TCB/Steelmen) 4.16 15 Geoff Proctor (MT, Strong Racing-Montana Velo) 4.21 16 Jed Sheckler (WA, Valley/GT) 4.44 17 Benjamin Zambrana (CO, ) 4.51 18 Gregory Ferguson (NJ, Trek/WV East) 5.00 19 Christian McCarthy (CO, Boulder Denver Couriers) 5.17 20 Erik Tonkin (OR, Nutrafig) 5.20 21 Osmond Bakker (Can, Canadian National) 5.25 22 Andy Applegate (NJ, Ideal Tile) 5.27 23 Paul Martin (OH, Navigators) 5.33 24 Ryan DeWald (PA, Trek/WV East) 5.33 25 Richard Feldman (ID, Durance Cycleworks) 6.06 26 Tobias Nestle (GER, RSC Komet) 6.25 Espoirs: 1 Tim Johnson (MA, CCB/Independent Fabrications) 1.08.10 2 Jed Sheckler (WA, Valley/GT) 1.10.42 3 Ryan DeWald (PA, Trek) 1.11.52 4 Hugh Wallace (MA, BBC/Community) +1 lap 5 Ryan Pinkham (MA, Corner Cycle CC) 6 Douglas Gowen (MA, Cyclonauts) 7 Alex Grabeau (MA, STC/Pro Cycling,) 8 Saymon Niemotoko (NJ, Somerset Wheelmen) Collegiates: 1 Alex Plymouth State College (NH, Plymouth State College) 2 Keith Burgoyne (MA, U-Mass / Amherst) 3 Joseph Alachoyan (,MA, U-Mass / Amherst) B Race: 1 Tim Faja, (CO) 0.46.58 2 Maxwell Kullaway (MA, Essex County Velo) 0.47.09 3 Steven Dudley (CT, unattached,) 0.48.00 Masters 3: 1 Paul Curley (MA, MSCC/Gearworks) 0.46.20 2 Scott Wade (VT, MSCC/Gearworks) 3 Tim Rutledge (WA, Redline) Women: 1 Anne Grande (WA, Redline) 0.41.59 2 Carmen Richardson (CO, Sobe/Headshox) 0.42.02 3 Audrey Augustin (VT, Aegis) 0.43.12 4 Emily Thorne (MA, Essex County Velo) 0.43.24 5 Jen Dial (MA, Independent Fabrications) 0.43.37 6 Katie Blincoe (WA, Redline) 0.43.53 7 Candy Angle (MA, MLBC/Bicycle Link) 0.44.16 8 Mary McConnelough (CA, Gunnar) 0.44.28 9 Elizabeth Coleman (MA, Essex County Velo) 0.44.32 10 Jodi Groesbeck (NH, Heart of NE CC) 0.45.07 Jr. Men: 1 Justin Thompson (PA, ) 0.46.12 2 Dameson Donias (WA, Redline) 0.47.04 3 Josh Anthony (MA, Essex County Velo) 0.47.16