After all the Power Rankings and talk of the “first day of school,” the domestic (and parts of the international) cyclocross scene headed to Rochester on Friday for the afternoon course inspection.
The afternoon started with a cyclocross clinic hosted by Becca Fahringer and Kerry Werner of the Kona Maxxis Shimano team, and then the course was opened up for Elites and amateurs to pre-ride as the afternoon moved into early evening.
Perhaps the biggest news of the day was that it rained on Friday, which is something that has not happened on Rochester weekend in some time. Several previous editions were noted for being dust bowls, and in fact, the climate in Upstate New York has been so friendly, actual grass has grown in the second half of the noted “Double Trouble” section.
More than one person who has attended multiple Rochester weekends could be heard saying, “I barely recognized it,” when talking about the section.
I caught the clinic right when Fahringer and Werner were taking the riders through “Double Trouble.” The section features first, a downhill off-camber with a rooty exit that both pro riders provided advice on.
Then the second part is a steep descent that turns hard right. Two actual lines were burned through the section, with Werner suggesting riders take the outside. When his partner Emily came flying through on the inside line, Kerry could be heard yelling the instructions he had given the clinic attendees. Emily made it just fine, for the record.
The course at Genesee Valley Park is nestled in between the Genesee River to the north and the historic Erie Canal on the west. The two waterways help provide some steep elevation change, while the course features a mix of power straights, flowy fun and challenging technical features.
According to the race director Scott Page, the section known as “The Jungle” got a makeover in 2019 to make it more challenging for the riders. One cool aspect of the section is a “Flyby” Page built to elevate the course above a path below and allow the course to squeeze through a narrow section under a bridge.
The Flyby is the entryway to the technical section, for which the name The Jungle is kind of apt. The section is thick with trees and underbrush and is probably the most challenging of the course. The entrance is an off-camber into an incline, and then riders go up and down a section called, not surprisingly the “Half Pipe.”*
*For the record, from a race-reporting standpoint, it is always easier when race directors name their course features instead of leaving the hapless journalists to come up with less fun names.
How hard is it? Fresh off racing Mountain Bike Worlds in Mont-Sainte-Anne, Jenn Jackson could be seen offering up a petition to the cyclocross gods while surveying one of the features.
Back from last year is “The Wall” run-up, which takes advantage of the banks along the canal. The run-up follows a descent into a corner Stephen Hyde defined as “toight.”
Due to Science! a descent follows the run-up—what goes up must come down and all that. Page put a slab of granite in to help slow riders on the way down. The descent is steep enough that it is a bit unclear what is on the other side of the granite, so it was interesting to watch riders slowly approach and peer over before turning around to get some speed and hucking it with varying levels of send.
Once clear of The Jungle, it is a straight drag to Double Trouble, so named for the series of consecutive drops and ascents. The first part of Double Trouble requires riders to snake through a few roots, while the second is a steep drop that requires just the right amount of sendiness to take on. Elites and amateurs alike were game to give both parts of DT a try starting with the clinic and extending into pre-ride.
Page noted that as his team has added more and more challenging technical features to the course, riders have been more willing to try riding them and less willing to complain about the course being too hard. Certainly an interesting insight in terms of how modern cyclocrossers approach the sport.
Next after Double Trouble is a trip through Pit 2 and the Trek barriers (host bike shop Full Moon Vista is a Trek dealer). The barriers are tall, checking in at around 40cm. Showing how well domestic riders know one another, one of the Elite men was explaining who and who would not be hopping the barriers. He finished with, “Cody [Kaiser] will definitely be hopping them,” in case you were looking for some insight into the bunny-hopping hierarchy.
“The North Section” that follows the barriers has some more flow, and the last big feature of the lap is the Belgian Staircase sponsored by Full Moon Vista because, well, Page, the shop owner, built the stars himself.
Are they painted Belgian Blue? Of course they are.
Most riders ran the steps, but several tried to follow in Ellen Noble’s footsteps by hopping up the two flights. With Club Row located at the top, it would not be surprising to see the spot draw a good crowd this weekend.
That is the Rochester Cyclocross lap. All that is left to do is race the races. Or roll in your team truck. One or the other.
To help build your #hype, you can read our race preview, check out the start lists and hear from Stephen Hyde before he took the course Friday afternoon.
For more from course inspection, check out the photo gallery below.