Nittany Lion CX: East Coast Stop #1

There something special about the East Coast and cyclocross. Its like eggs and bacon, steak and grilled zucchini, or pasta with homemade meatballs- sorry…I’ve still got food on my mind after spending time with Kerry Sr. and his amazing cooking (more on that to come). Anyway, it might be the tight knit community at each race or potentially the passion behind each of the race organizers. For some reason the East Coast is the Cyclocross Mecca, home of some of the best CX racers and most organized races in America. But yet there is still something special, something that feels like home each time I travel there. Everybody’s friendly, relaxed, and the national races feel more like a very well put together local race. I can’t really put my finger on it but it keeps me coming back each season.

Mid Atlantic Cyclocross puts on some great events year after year.

Last year was my first year traveling to Nittany Lion CX, and even though both Josh and I had complications with our races, it was still one of my favorite trips of the year. This year I had the same plan as the last, and I stayed with Kerry Werner Jr’s dad who lives just 45 minutes from the course. Even though it would have been fun to have a friend to travel with, I went solo this year, and would meet up with my sister at the race and spend some good time in the hospitality of Kerry Sr.

Kerrys house sits in the rolling hills and trees of Birdsboro, PA.

Lots of Birds around Birdsboro, coincidence? I think not.

Staying with Kerry Sr. is honestly one of the best experiences a bike racer could ask for. If you go hungry, you must be lost in the woods somewhere, and if your uncomfortable, well then you obviously don’t enjoy good quality company and a relaxed schedule. Every time I came home from the races or woke up, there was amazing food hot and ready, and every time I thought about winding down after good conversation at the dinner table, Kerry Sr. would often make clear that I am on my own schedule, the days done, and he’s going to relax. Kerry’s passions include cooking and good conversation, and it’s a pleasure spending time with someone who rarely doesn’t have a smile on their face.

Kerry Sr. and I post race on Sunday.

Probably one of the most well known creations from Kerry Sr. – his homemade mustard. Something that took him probably half a year to master, and if your lucky enough to try it then you would understand why…nothing compares. My sis and her friend were the lucky recipients of this jar-you should have seen the smile on her face.

As an athlete there are so many things that have to come together to succeed. Training, time management, diet, sleep, travel logistics, equipment- just to name a few, and amongst all of the preparation, sometimes to make it all come together all you need is a clear and relaxed mind. Staying with Kerry and spending time with my sister kept everything relaxed and fun, and that’s all that I could hope for during the beginning of my travel heavy season.

Success meet reward. In this case the reward after my first UCI podium of Day 1 at Nittany CX was a cone from Ice Cream World.  Better believe this was before my actual dinner.

Alright so onto the quick race recaps. Both days featured some very fast racing due to a quick dry/ dusty course with not many technical features. These courses are not as easy as they seem though, due to fast turns that require constant finesse. Cyclocross is all about dancing on the edge of fitness and technical ability and if you push it too far at high speeds, there is no coming back from it.

Day 1 featured much of this and claimed many of the competitors of the field in the first few laps. In order to stay out of the mess, I focused my strategy to riding at the front of the race to avoid getting taken out by another rider. Within 3 laps to go, Durrin capitalized on an opportunity that left me and Chance scrambling for his wheel. Working together, we did all we could to bring him back, but with the finish line in sight it came down to a sprint between the both of us. There was no disappointment in my eyes as I crossed the finish line, because I had secured my first UCI podium of the year- finishing in second place.

With some breaking the ice with Day 1, Day 2 featured the same competitors but with a different aspect. With most everyone having a very smooth start, the front group grew to a pack of more than 8 riders, up to 11 or 12 at times. This made the race very aggressive and positioning was key. Tactics resembled crit racing but on a much tighter course, and it was very common to be bumping and leaning on others while slightly drifting around grassy corners. I commonly positioned myself within the front three to try and avoid tangling with others, but sometimes getting swarmed and pushed out of the top five was inevitable. The race came down to the final half lap and the pace and aggressiveness reached an all time high. Burning a match or two at the beginning of the race with a poor start, I did all I could just to hold my position in the group and fended off others that tried to take it from me. With the finish line in sight, an untimely crash by another competitor opened up one more spot within the top 5. Downshifting and giving everything, I held my new position in fourth with a bike length or two off the podium. What a weekend!

Alright so I’ve got more photos to share but not sure where they fit in. Check them out below!

Puppy at the race site? Of course I’m going to take a photo.

The course weaved in and out of the woods, with little climbs here and there. Roots scattered the course, and riding “light” was the key to avoid too many rim strikes.

Steph locked in a battle for third place with one other competitor. She made quick work of the finish with confidence that sent her drifting around the last corners of the course.

1.5 laps to go.

1/2 lap to go.

My lil’ sis got third!! So proud, she inspired me to go fast during the weekend.

Steph post race, stoked on her finish. She had a worn out inner chain ring that caused he problems during Day 1. After, she told me she was just going to keep it in the big ring for tomorrow, and big-ring-it she did. Big ring = 46t, that’s like World Champ power right there.

Food vendors, beer, announcing, lap counter, and timing, Nittany had it all. My sister wrapping up her race under the start banner.

A rider in the shadows. The weather played with us during the morning, making us think the rain was coming. A tease was all it ended up to be.

A shot from the beginning of the trip, but not a bad end to the blog either. The sunrise from the airplane window just over MN.

Looking ahead I go back to the grind for three days and then off to Jingle CX! Its going to be amazing to drive just 4 hrs to a world cup venue and take a break from flying for a bit. Highlights to look forward to: Heathers coming, the Thompson family will be there in full (including dogs and Aunt and Uncle!), Mexican food, local MN friends, the Jingle CX course, the Grinch, and so much more.

For immediate updates and additional content, be sure to give my social accounts a follow- Facebook, Instagram, & Twitter. Also, make sure you check out all of my amazing sponsors that make this season reality.

Thanks for reading!

-E

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