Saturday, February 11, 2017

2017 Cyclocross World Championships

Here's my post from racing the Cyclocross World Championships in Bieles, Luxembourg!

The Wednesday after the Hoogerheide World Cup team USA packed up camp from Sittard and drove in the fleet of vans and trucks 2.5 hours south to Luxembourg. The next day the rest of the junior squad and I opted for a spin around Luxembourg rather than over doing it on the course. It was pretty awesome to just wander around a completely foreign country with good friends. After the ride it was back to the hotel for food, rest and recovery. In addition to all of team USA, the Dutch national team was also staying at the hotel. It was pretty incredible to sit down to dinner at the table next to Lars Van der Haar, Marianne Vos, Mathieu van der Poel, and Sophie de Boer.

On Friday we went and pre-rode the course. It was a lot like Hartford in terms of the snow, but 1000x gnarlier and more difficult. There were lots of extremely tough off cambers, fly-overs, and steep technical drops. In summation it was, 'Shredtastic' -Maxx Chance. After opening up the legs with some final efforts we went back to the hotel for dinner, team meetings and number pinning.

Photo: Rob Jones/ASSOS/USA Cycling
Surprisingly I slept like a baby despite the anticipation. I was in the van at 8:00 am and ready to head to the venue. We all hopped on course and did a few laps. Slowly it began to sprinkle and since the temperature was right around freezing all the rain froze onto the course turning into one big ice rink. Literally the entire course was black ice! Those conditions combined with this course made it an unbelievably difficult and dangerous (and awesome). With final tire pressure and line choice settled we unfroze in the vans, did our warm ups on the trainers and went to the start.

I lined up fourth row and prepared for carnage in the first corner which was a big 180 that went from pavement to dirt (ice) and back to pavement. When the light turned green some people crashed right off the line. The majority of the 80 riders shot into the black ice 180 covered in saw dust at 30 mph. There were four or five separate crashes in that one corner. I was extremely lucky not to go down but I got stuck behind all the crashes pushing me back to 50ish place. (Watch video of crash here at 2:30)

Photo: Hamvas/UCI
I started to move my way up while battling for positions along side fellow USA teammate Sam Noel. We both moved up steadily but when I went to attack a pavement(ice) straight away section I hit the corner with too much speed and absolutely ate it. My bike slid a few feet down into a drainage ditch on the right of the course and I had to reach down and get it. Surprisingly the bike and I were both totally fine and I launched right back into attack mode.

Pure ice off-camber! Photo: Matthias Goossens
The next lap I continued to move up, navigating the difficult course with 100% focus and attacking out every corner. Anything less than 100% focus would result in tumbling down a giant icy off camber and broken bones. Anything less than attacking out of every corner would result in losing positions to the other aggressive racers on straight sections. Even on the straight sections you had to watch for icy ruts that could grab your wheel and you needed to be extremely careful not to enter the next corner with too much speed.

The most difficult and dangerous off camber behind me

The fourth lap I was mostly in no man's land until a Japanese rider caught me after pit one. I hung on through the start finish area but made a small error and lost some time.

Photo: Rob Jones/ASSOS/USA Cycling
Seeing that I was so close to cracking the top thirty ignited a fire in me and I poured my heart and soul into the final lap.  I hit my lines, hammered the flats and managed to stay away from the big group of chasers, with only one British rider passing me.

I finished in 32nd place. It was truly surreal to cross that line. There were so many fans cheering and everyone was going crazy. I was herded into the finishing shoot where I regrouped with the other USA riders. I felt so proud and accomplished sitting there with my teammates. These are the guys who I have been racing against since I was ten and spent weeks training together throughout the years. We'd all come so far from grinding up the mountain together at Montana Cross Camp. (Thank you Geoff Proctor!)

On the way back to the team camp I did an interview with CX Magazine which can be seen here.
Afterward we all rolled back together analyzing our races. I got some food, changed and went to talk with my sister before her race. I left her with all the knowledge I had about the course and wished her good luck before she went to the start. After I talked with my parents which was extremely emotional. It was a proud moment for them and I am incredibly grateful that they were there to watch me race and for their unwavering and unconditional love and support for me.

I watched Emma race, cheering as loud as I could with my friends to spur her on in the tough conditions. She had a tough but smooth and steady race finishing 37th.  Back in August she had a bad crash which gave her a concussion. She had to take over two months off the bike and it was amazing to see her cross the line. When she came out of the finishing shoot my parents and I met her and gathered in one big hug. We all teared up and were completely overcome with joy.

This has been an incredible season for me. I have grown so much as a rider and a person. I have worked so hard to achieve my goals and accomplished many of them this past season. It's hard to make sure I mention everyone but I will try. Starting off I'd like to thank my entire family, I couldn't do it without you. Next I'd like to thank my coach Joseph Maloney for always pushing me and knowing what I need to do to achieve my goals. I'd like to thank the entire Wisconsin cycling community. There are so many people who have stepped up to help this year through donations, advice and and have trained with me, pushing me and encouraging me. In addition I'd like to thank the whole Midwest and US cycling community. Also the generous people, some of whom I have never even met, who donated to my fundraising campaigns to help with the cost or racing in Europe and at Worlds. Thank you!

I really want to give a huge shout out and thank you to my sponsors as well. My team, Trek Cyclocross Collective and also the entire Trek family has been amazing. Thank you to Trek, Bontrager, Sram, Honey Stinger, Mike's Mix, Englewood Grass Farm who have all helped me in so many ways. Lastly I want to thank USA Cycling for helping make this happen. Thank you to Marc Gullickson, Jim Miller, Chris McGovern, Ken Whelpdale, Andrew Hawkes and the rest of the Team USA staff and mechanics for making it all possible.

Emma and I with Tim Vanderjeugd and our team manager Scott Daubert

Now it is time for the off season! A few more weeks of being off the bike and relaxing and then it's time to start training for mountain bike season! Thank you all for reading.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Hoogerheide World Cup

Here is a quick update before Saturday's race!

As usual I flew from Chicago to Newark and from there to Brussels. We took it easy Thursday and Friday and drove to Hoogerheide Saturday for pre-ride. The course was super fast and frozen, making it bumpy and slick.

Sunday morning we were up at 5:30 and on the road at 6:30 to head to the course. I headed out for a lap, dialed in my tire pressure and jumped back in the USA van to thaw out. Next it was onto the trainer to warm up and then to the start. I lined up fourth row and when the light turned green we charged up the start hill. I was in a pretty good position but got stuck behind multiple groups crashed and was pushed back to almost 10th from last.

I let the breaks loose on the downhill in the woods taking an extremely sketchy and alternative line passing four riders before slamming around the ninety degree turn at the bottom. I hopped on a wheel through the flat open section and jumped them before the 180 turn.

The rest of lap one I continued to move up but came through at the end of lap one in 50th place. My legs started open up and making passes was getting a little easier. I was faster in the corners and kept it upright but I would often get jumped by a ride as soon as we got to a fast open section.

It reminded me how aggressive I needed to be and I started to take those spots back, hitting it hard out of every corner and scrapping for every position. I continued to move up the rest of the race little by little, passing when ever I could which the course made very difficult.

Going into the last lap my dad(my parents flew over for the WC and Worlds!) told me I was two spots outside of the top 40. I hit the last lap as hard as I could, keeping the rubber side down and moving up steadily. I made one final pass on the famous Hoogerheide stairs and hammered up the finish climb leaving a Dutch rider in the dust.

I finished in 39th place, close to my Valkenburg WC finish where I took 37th. It was still not even close to where I want to be finishing but after taking the entire week after nationals off due to strep throat it was not too bad. It was great to represent the USA with my teammates and now we're in Luxembourg ready to bring the pain to the World Championships this Saturday!

I would like to thank everyone who has supported me and helped to make this trip possible, I really couldn't do it with out you all!  I would also like to Marc Gullickson, Andrew Hawkes and Chris McGovern from USA Cycling. Lastly thank you to my coach, Joseph Maloney, my family, and my team Trek Cyclocross Collective for all their support as well as Trek Bicycles, Bontrager, SRAM, Honey Stinger, Mike's Mix and Englewood Grass Farm!

Saturday, January 14, 2017

2017 Cyclocoss Nationals

Normally this is the grand finale of the season but not this time! So before anything else I want to announce that I have been selected to represent the United States at the 2017 Cyclocross World Championships in Bieles, Luxembourg! This trip is going to be extremely expensive and primarily payed for by what I have earned working at my job and at races. If there is any way you can contribute please donate here:

Now, time for the main event! We arrived in Hartford late Wednesday night and headed to the course early Thursday morning. It was bizarre to ride a course where all the deep mud ruts had frozen into gnarly trenches. Over the next few days the course conditions continued to change going back to full blown mud and finally settling on frozen ruts and ice covered in six inches of snow.

Photo: David Schlabowske
When I woke up Sunday morning on race day the temperature was 15 degrees. When we got to the venue I hopped on course for two laps to dial in the course and tire pressure. I nailed my warm up, bundled up, and headed to the start line. Unfortunately a snow plow had driven over the cable during the night so the live stream was spotty, but luckily there were also tons of fans.

Photo: David Schlabowkse
I got called up fourth and took my spot on the front row. After a few minutes of freezing they blew the whistle and we took off. I was top ten through the icy first corner and I started to move up as we passed pit one. First and second place got away through the huge off-camber while I was stuck behind traffic in 7th place.

I came through the finish in fourth place at the end of lap once behind Sam Noel. I came by him soon after and we started to pull away from the big chase group. During lap two I made a few mistakes and had a few wipe outs that kept me from getting a gap on fourth place.

I went into lap three on Sam's wheel again and made the pass before the large off-camber. I started to pull away from him and struck out on my own going past pit two. Ross Ellwood was the only left within range and he started to close in on me through the woods section. He passed me over the mini flyover close to the river and I jumped on his wheel.

Ross and I ripped up the fourth lap putting a big gap on the rest of the field. We were pretty evenly matched and we were both waiting for the final lap to make our moves. We came through the start finish together and I hit the big off-camber right on his wheel. I tried to make a difficult and risky pass by running below the main line around Ross. He remounted and started riding  before I could get around him, putting a five second gap on me. I started to close on him again past pit two but I slid out and went down in the corner after the pit exit costing me a few more seconds.

Photo: David  Schlabowske
We went through the woods and over the barriers. After the barriers I put in a major effort up the short climb and made contact again. We dropped down into the off-camber 180 turn and Ross opted to ride while I ran. Again I put it all out there and tried to sprint around him but couldn't quite make the pass. Still not panicking I continued to try and find a spot to get around Ross on the difficult course. We went up and over the fly over together, around the last two off cambers and into the final run up together. Ross had a small slip going up the climb and I put in one last surge to try and get around him but I just didn't quite get the advantage.

I crossed the line finishing in fourth place two seconds off the podium. Below is a picture of me shortly after crossing the line. I was very disappointing to have been so so close to my first ever national championship podium. It hurt a lot to miss out but the mistakes made were all my own and it was still my best national championship finish ever.

It was my last junior nationals and it was great to come away with a good result that showed all the work I've put in this year. I'd really like to thank my family, my coach and the whole Wisconsin and Midwest cycling for community for all the amazing support. I'd also really like to thank my team, Trek Cyclocross Collective and my sponsors Trek Bicycles, Bontrager, Sram, Honey Stinger, Mike's Mix, and Englewood Grass Farm. It's been an amazing season so far and I can't wait to finish it off with some great results at the Hoogerheide World Cup and the World Championships! Be sure to follow along on social media and on here to keep up with my adventures! Thank you for reading!

Monday, December 26, 2016

Heusden-Zolder World Cup

It was very different to spend Christmas away from my family this past year but at the USAC house in Sittard we made it as festive as possible with a secret Santa gift exchange, pancake breakfast followed by World Cup course preride! 

Monday it was spitting rain as we drove to the course. Us juniors kitted up in the vans before heading out for a quick few laps on the course to dial tire pressure and lines in. Next was warm up before heading to staging. I took a gamble and lined up second row on the far right, knowing I would be pinched off in the first corner unless I had a killer start. Sadly my foot clipped out of my pedal 
and I lost valuable time causing me to be cut off  y other riders in the next two turns.

Near last place I started to move back up through the field. Due to all the traffic I was forced to run many sections that were easily ride-able for the front of the race, putting me a minute down after only one lap in 42nd place.

I felt okay for the next two laps but my back started to tighten up on me causing issues with my hips. I lost power in my left leg and was having a lot of trouble running.

Kurt Van Hout

I slid back quite a few spots and finished in 45th place. I was extremely disappointed because my legs were feeling great and I felt super good on the course. It was not how I wanted to end my trip but the fitness gained would pay off greatly for nationals.

As always big big thanks to my coach Joseph Maloney, my family, and my team, Trek Cyclocross Collective for all the support! Also huge thanks to my sponsors Trek Bicycles, Bontrager, Sram, Englewood Grass Fed Beef,  Mike's Mix and Honey Stinger.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Diegem Superprestige

Here is a quick race report from the Diegem Superprestige before the Zolder World Cup on Monday.

After the short week of training, my body was back to normal and the legs were opened up and ready for Friday afternoon's race. After nailing my warm I lined up second row, ready to charge up the start climb. When the light turned green we flew up the hill into the 90 degree gravel left hand turn. It was total chaos through the next few slick 180 degree turns, with bikes and bodies flying everywhere.

I hung onto the front pack sitting in about 20th until we reached the sandpit. I got bogged down and stuck behind other riders making the group stretch out as we headed over the barriers and onto the pavement. Since the course mainly consisted of full gas pavement climbs and descents into sketchy 90 degree turns, it was a challenge to maintain your position without risking a high speed crash on pavement or on a slick muddy section.

Photo: Kurt Van Hout
As the race progressed I let a few people slip by me each lap, which was frustrating because there was a group of seven or eight riders that formed 15 seconds ahead of me. It was really vital to try and hold onto the riders that came around me but my legs were pretty taxed.

In the end I finished 27th out of almost 60 riders, out sprinting an unsuspecting Belgian rider with a bike throw at the line. In my last Superprestige I finished 42nd so this was a big step in the right direction and hopefully building towards a great result at the Heusden-Zolder World Cup on Monday!

Photo: Kurt Van Hout
Again, I really want to say thank you to USA Cycling for making organizing this trip as well as thanks to my family, my coach Joseph Maloney and my team, Trek Cyclocross Collective for all the support! Huge thanks to my sponsors Trek Bicycles, Bontrager, SRAM, Englewood Grass Fed Beef,  Mike's Mix and Honey Stinger for all their awesome support!

Happy Holidays from Sittard, NED!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Namur World Cup

I've been in Europe for a little over a week so it is time for an update! I arrived Wednesday morning in Brussels along with the other riders, and the mechanics drove us the two-hour drive back to Sittard, NED. After some breakfast and bike building Lane, Ross, Gage and I went for a good little spin finding an awesome castle and an old amphibious WW2 American tank.

The next day we did some skills practice and Friday we all went for a good easy spin together. On Saturday we drove to Namur to preview the famous course which is at a citadel I'd watched the race a few times and knew what to expect but it was amazing to be there and actually ride the course. Right off the line you power up a steep cobble climb followed by a long, technical, rocky descent down to Pit One. Right after that you launch down the first steep drop followed by a gentle climb into another run up and steep drop. Next up is the infamous Namur off-camber, after that there's two more run ups, one more steep drop and finally a long climb back up to the finishing straight. Below is a video I made from my pre-ride.

Pre-ride was awesome and I felt ready to race the awesome course. Unfortunately on the long car ride home I started to feel a little sick. I thought it was just motion sick but when I got home it didn't go away. I suffered in bed for a few hours before losing my lunch and everything else I had eaten that day. I immediately felt a bit better and managed to keep some eggs down before going to bed. I didn't sleep very well and was pretty uncomfortable most of the night. When I woke up at 5:00AM to head to the race I felt completely devoid of energy and appetite. When we got there we hopped on course for two laps before retreating back into the warmth of the vans until it was time to warm up.

After my warm up I worked my way through the crowds of people and over to the start. I lined up third row surprised to have such a decent call up. When the light turned green I charged up the rough cobbles of the first climb with the rest of the juniors. 

I lost a few spots having to dismount and run around the steep first corner to avoid crashes. That first descent was the only time I would pass anyone for the rest of the race, I stayed upright and ripped around crashed riders. When I got to the bottom I passed Pit One in thirtieth place.

Photo: Vic Geerlings
The rest of the race I held my own in the technical sections but lost places left and right on the climbs and straight sections. Not only were my legs totally empty but my entire body felt like a limp noodle. I just absolutely had nothing to give and was helpless as I watched wheels slip away from me. My race lasted 33 minutes, completing only four laps before being waved off the course by the officials. I was grateful to be done but that was overshadowed by the shame and sadness any rider feels when they are pulled from a race for being too far behind the leaders.

Photo: Willem Beerland

Although things didn't go my way it was still an amazing experience and I am grateful to have even made it to the start line. Now I am back to full strength and ready to race the Diegem Superprestige tomorrow!

Huge thank you to USA Cycling for making this trip happen and facilitating everything. Big thanks to my coach Joseph Maloney, my family, and my team, Trek Cyclocross Collective for all the support! Also huge thanks to my sponsors Trek Bicycles, Bontrager, SRAM, Englewood Grass Fed Beef,  Mike's Mix and Honey Stinger for all their awesome support!

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Major Taylor Cross

After four weeks of hard training it was off to the Major Taylor Cross Cup in Indianapolis. The race took place right at the Indy Cycloplex on the Marian University campus, my future school!

We arrived on Saturday and hopped right on the course. It was super fun with lots cool features and challenging sections. After a few laps and my warm up I toed the line with the rest of the small 17-18 uci field. I took the holeshot and slid back to third wheel. Part way through the first lap, Gunnar from Canada broke away solo. Over the next two lap I put in some work to try and bring him back but it proved to be too much of a gap. I sat on Lane Maher and George Schultz and recovered for a few laps before putting in a big dig on the last lap. George countered my move and brought Lane with him leaving me to finish in fourth place.

Overnight it sprinkled a little bit and the course started to get a little slicker. In the last 30 minutes before my start it absolutely poured, completely changing the course and conditions. This time things stuck together a lot longer. Gunnar had a few issues pushing him back to sixth and we formed a group of five at the front. Unfortunately after Saturday my back tightened up really bad, putting me in a lot of pain. With three laps to go I fell off the front group eventually getting caught by Evan Clouse, pushing me back to finish in sixth place.

Although I had tired legs and a bad back it was still a blast to rip up such a fun course and get muddy. Speaking of mud... I am leaving on Tuesday to head back to Europe! I will be racing the Namur World Cup, Diegem Superprestige and Zolder World Cup, I can't wait! Be sure to follow my adventures on Facebook and on Instagram and Twitter @cswartzz!

Big thanks to my coach Joseph Maloney, my family, and my team, Trek Cyclocross Collective for all the support! Also huge thanks to my sponsors Trek Bicycles, Bontrager, Sram, Englewood Grass Fed Beef, Mike's Mix and Honey Stinger for all their awesome support!