A New Jersey diary: mud, mechanicals and bad luck

Nov 18, 2009 by

(Seventeen-year-old Andrew Bennett of Eugene rides cyclocross for Team Redline and competes in the OBRA senior men’s A and junior races. He recently traveled to New Jersey for the USGP Mercer Cup, the third weekend of the four-weekend series that concludes in Portland Dec. 5 and 6. Bennett raced the Junior 17-18 category in New Jersey and finished 10th both Saturday and Sunday. He sent Cycling Action this report).

By Andrew Bennett
The USGP in Mercer County, New Jersey, was hard on most Oregonians. Although Ryan Trebon took first and second and Barry Wicks finished in the top 10 both days, Sue Butler, Adam McGrath, Kolben Preble and myself all had mechanical issues or bad luck.

Andrew Bennett at the OBRA state championships in Salem.

Andrew Bennett was tailed by Kolben Preble recently at the OBRA championships in Salem.

I got to New Jersey a little earlier than everyone else to go check out Princeton. The school is amazing. I was able to talk to the cycling team’s coach about his experience there, because he was working the pits for me at the race. The early arrival also paid off when we discovered my dérailleur hanger had broken in flight. We finally got a replacement hanger fabricated from another after visiting several bike shops. However, that would not be the end of my mechanicals.

The clouds constantly barraged the ground with a light mist throughout the day. It was nothing like the rain we have in Oregon, and neither was the dirt. The mud was thicker and sandier than what we’re used to; riding through it was slow going, with hardly any traction.

Everything went well up into the first 100 meters of the race. I flatted. I first thought my front tire was getting squirrelly on the muddy pavement, but once we hit the grass, it was clearly flat. I pitted in last place on the first half lap. Quickly my mom and mechanic threw on a wheel from Sram, and I pitted every half lap the whole race. My mom and mechanic worked hard and did a great job in the pits. Working my way up from last position, I finished 10th.

On the second day, the sun was shining and the temperature was rising. It was way too hot for November.

In the morning Sunday the sun began to dry the mud, making it thicker and slower. By the time I had to race it was slow, but still wet enough to fly up and stick to the bikes. Today I didn’t flat, and more people entered the race. The off-camber sections on the course were slippery and slow — what a combo. I managed to pull out 10th again.

After my race we talked to Sue Butler, and promised to cheer for her. Cheer I did; being from Northwest I was more in-your-face than the Northeast spectators. Yelling my head off for Sue, I nearly lost my voice. But she ran into some bad luck early in her race. When she came into the section where I was standing she was clearly breathing too hard; she was having an asthma attack. Luckily the EMT’s got right to her along with her husband Tim. We talked to her later, and she said how bummed she was to drop out of the race.

We flew home at god-awful early the next day, so there was much frantic stuffing of clothes and bikes into suitcases and bags. In the airport I was able to read about Molly Cameron losing the Cross Crusade; it’s a spectacular way to lose a race. And on the final flight home I sat next to Adam McGrath, we geeked out about bike racing and life, and how we all hope to do better at the Portland USGP.

You can check the USGP results HERE.

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