Between the Tape: Team Bluemont Connection's 2016 Cyclocross Season
- By Chris Tank
"Go Team Sperry Top Sider!"
It only took a couple laps into the Men's 4/5 race on Day 1 of Charm City CX for some clever heckler to come up with that gem. But the kit was getting noticed and that's what it's all about, right?
The newly formed Bluemont Connection Cyclocross Team (#bccx) came together late in the summer of 2016, when a couple sophomore privateers and two newbs decided it would be fun to don matching kits and take on the upcoming season with all the Style and Grit™ we could muster. #crossiscoming... #crossiscoming... #crossiscoming...
The 2016 Bluemont Connection Cyclocross Team’s founding members are Nick Wood, Eric Channing Brewer, Adam Hoey, and myself. Nick and I raced for the first time in 2015 whereas this would be Eric’s and Adam’s inaugural season. Nick led the early season charge to get us out after work and on weekends for cx skills practice which was a huge help after a summer of riding mostly road and gravel.
Early season races can be a mix of apprehension, excitement, and suffering. Lots and lots of suffering. But there’s beer at the end which makes it all better. In hindsight, our first race as a team, Charm City CX, wasn’t our best showing. But that meant lots of room for improvement and based on our late season results, I think we have a lot to be proud of in terms of improvement.
Before the first holeshot could be contested, we had to come up with a kit. It was too late for full custom so that meant finding a suitable off the rack option. We all got to work scouring the interwebs and spent way too much time discussing our findings over group chat.
Ultimately we settled on a small, relatively new (at least to Americans) brand out of Italy called Push Hard. There were a couple PH pieces that caught our eye but it was the Sailor jersey that won out in the end. While it didn't occur to me at the time, the sailor motif is rather fitting for an intrepid group of upstarts setting off as a crew for the first time. So with the important decisions made and our kits procured all that was left to do is race.
Getting Ready to 'Cross
Sidelined with a knee injury I suffered during a mid-September bikepacking trip meant I'd take on the role of supporter and unofficial photographer for the team's first race of the season, and Eric's first race of his 'cross career (Adam was off gallivanting at the Jeremiah Bishop Gran Fondo).
SykloCross, as it's now called, provided Eric a great introduction to the sport with a challenging course that featured a number of steep run-ups and off camber, root-infested corners. The boys in stripes were having fun ripping it up and looked pretty damn good in the process. Most importantly they had a blast and were looking forward to what the rest of the season had in store. #crossishere... #crossishere... #crossishere...
The highlight of the season, at least for most 'cross racers in the DC area, was DCCX. Like Charm City, DCCX is held IN a major city, unlike most local races that are typically held at regional parks in outlying areas. This leads to bigger fields, bigger crowds, and a bigger party.
Don't get me wrong, the racing is a lot of fun and gets the competitive juices flowing, but one of my favorite aspects of the sport are the post-race hangs. I mean, where else is it acceptable to crack a beer at 10:00 am on a Sunday? Seriously though, what we all love about 'cross is the chance to be part of a great community of racers, fans, and probably most important of all, the volunteers. I know it sounds clichéd, but without them none of this would be possible.
While the flyover didn’t make its return to DCCX this year, the challenging and dusty “W” section sent many a rider tumbling downhill head-over-heels, and proved to be a crowd (hecklers!) favorite once again.
The course at Rockburn, with its sweeping turns, wooded singletrack, and steep but rideable off-camber sections, was my personal favorite.
AppleCross takes the cake for having the longest run-ups and the most awkward/difficult remount following a steep wall of a climb passable only on foot. Our decision to race the second day of the event had us racing into gusting winds that scattered fall leaves across the course and made its presence known in every corner and exposed hilltop section. The one-of-a-kind, spectator-filled pirate ship in the center of the cold and breezy Bikenetic CX course was a great place to seek warmth, drink beer, and watch racers zig-zag their way through a corners-filled course that gave us our last challenge of the season.
In the end, the season's outcome was determined by the amount of fun we've had (a lot), the number of friends (and rivals) we made, and the support and encouragement we provided each other along the way.
While this season may be over, I feel like we're just getting started and hope we continue to progress as racers, teammates, and friends. So don't back up the van just yet, this party's just getting started.
Chris Tank is The Bluemont Connection ride leader, gravel grinder, cyclocross racer, bikepacker, and Instagram master.