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A Taste of Belgium in New Jersey: Bridgeton Cross Race Report

A Taste of Belgium in New Jersey: Bridgeton Cross Race Report

Bridgeton Cross, formerly Beacon Cross, is an iconic New Jersey cyclocross race held at the southern tip to the state. Between a wicked run up, heart-pummeling beach runs, and get-lost-in-the-woods tracks, it is a race not to miss. The Jalapeno Cycling team ventured down last weekend. Both Kate and Andrew have offered their race reports below. All photos by Andrew Reimann/Jalapeno Cycling


Kathryn Cumming’s Race Report:

I got the hole shot!!!

After Nittany Lion, I was really focused on improving my starts. I spent a significant amount of time in the off-season working on all aspects of my top end power, from strength to speed, from five second power to one minute power. I improved and have enjoyed using this power around the course. I’m accelerating faster and gapping riders on short straightaways.

My starts, however, have needed more than just power. UCI cyclocross starts are chaotic and aggressive. There is a battle for position and with precious points on the line, everyone is eager to get the upper hand. If you leave an opening because you’re being “safe,” someone will take it. That is smart racing, and while I sometimes back down and settle in, I’m excited to get in the mix a bit more at the starts.

Last Sunday the New Jersey Cyclocross Cup kicked off with Bridgeton Cross. Bridgeton has one of the best courses around for racers. The promoters manage to connect some crazy run ups and a beach to wooded double track. The course rides heavy and while it is technical, there’s still plenty of room to pass.

This race offered the perfect opportunity to work on my start. A long, paved prologue followed by a wet corner offered a start that mimicked a UCI race. With some great competition toeing the line (we are fortunate to have a stacked lineup at local races), I wanted to attack from the whistle and be at the front around the first corner. From there, the rest of the race would be about enjoying the fun course.

Mission accomplished! I got off the line first and held my advantage into the dirt. Once we were in the woods, I was passed and lap one was a back and forth battle. After we started the second lap, I opened up a gap and was sitting in first, but Laura Van Gilder was on fire. She looked like she was cruising on dry pavement when she passed me towards the end of lap two (I think, races blend together a bit for me) and the gap just continued to open.

I worked my way around the course, enjoying the turns, running, and trying to embrace how heavy my legs felt. It was enough to roll in for second.


It was a perfect day to improve your handling skills. Grit was causing brake pads to fail all over the course, which meant you had to plan your lines, make good decisions, and stay relaxed. It was important to pedal through the slick sections and avoid oversteering. I was caught fish tailing more than once, but was pleased that all of my time on the trails has me feeling composed in these situations.

For me, local races are treated like practice. I focus on one key aspect of the race and other than that just enjoy the ride. Cyclocross racing takes significant energy and it is tough to push yourself to the limit every weekend. The details really do make a difference, but there is only so much time you can put in to prepping bikes, food, and clothing. Local races offer a chance to go out to dinner the night before and throw a bike on the hitch rack in the morning with the same relaxed nature as if you’re heading out for a training ride.

On Sunday, this approach offered the added “benefit” of my lacking mud tires on a slip and slide kind of day. Between deteriorating brake pads and a lack of traction, I definitely learned a thing or two about line choice and maintaining forward momentum.


If you raced on Sunday afternoon, you got a taste of what racing in Europe feels like. My experience there is incredibly limited, but the courses are heavy, you’re running a lot, and you pretty much feel like your legs have been weighted with cinder blocks. We are lucky to have such a great course right here in NJ!

Andrew Reimann’s Race Report:

Last year at Bridgeton Cross was a bit bittersweet for me. My fitness and technical prowess weren’t anywhere close to where they are now, but I gave everything to keep away from being lapped by Philly’s UCI male cyclocross hero, Dan Chabanov. I barely made my goal, crossing the finish line just before Dan turned on to the finishing pavement for his final sprint. Because I was so close to being lapped, the USAC officials opted to pull me from riding my final lap anyway. I was plenty bummed not to get my full hour-plus race in.

This summer, I trained my threshold far more than my high-end power. Fresh sprinting has always come natural to me, but maintaining power and recovering from loads of lactic acid surges are not my strong suit.


Kate helped me put together a training program leading up to the cyclocross season to train my weaknesses. I also opted to take the Alec Donahue/Scott Smith approach, and train all summer on 32mm road tires off-road.

I’m not suddenly at the front of every Elite race, and I’m not foolish enough to think that gains come that quickly, but I could feel that the training more than paid off this year at Bridgeton. I was able to fight my way up the pack at the start. It wasn’t anywhere close to Kate’s holeshot, but I slotted into sixth after the prologue.

Then came the corners. They were an absolute joy. I felt almost spoiled getting to grip around those muddy Bridgeton corners with a meaty tread rather than the slicks I was used to. Both the tight course and getting pummeled with rain meant that the pack split up fully in the second lap, and everyone was doing their own time trial in the woods with other riders barely in sight.


I was really having fun in the woods. I completely ignored that stupid voice that comes on in the middle of a cyclocross race, telling you that you’re falling behind, or that it would be easier just to pull off and create some excuse for the bad showing.

Still, I figured that people were pulling out behind me, and it was inevitable for the leaders to come around and almost lap me like last year. I just made peace with it, and tried to perfect every corner. There was a downhill hairpin into a flat back section where I was dabbing a foot and taking off much faster than I would have been trying to ride it. There were a few sections I experimented with, seeing if I could intentionally fishtail my back tire around tight corners.

Instead of worrying about getting lapped, I was just trying to have the best ride I could, finding an overwhelming sense of calmness in the chaos of the mud and cheering.

By the time I finally finished seven laps, I raised my hand to the promoters, and thanked them for letting me finish the last lap instead of pulling me. I got a few raised eyebrows, and the promoter started laughing and joking around.

I didn’t realize until soon after that I had finished more than comfortably ahead of getting lapped. Pulling me wasn’t even in question. I had split a proper Mid-Atlantic Elite field in half for the first time in my life.

As one of the co-owners of Jalapeno Cycling, I should reiterate that we are the exclusive New Jersey dealer of Sage Titanium bikes, so obviously I have a bias (added to this is that Kate is the exclusive UCI rider on Sage Titanium Bikes). However, I would be remiss in not mentioning that I was able to take out the shop’s Sage PDXCX demo bike for this race. Its back-end tracked those tight corners insanely well, and descending singletrack is a dream on that machine. We do have several demo sizes in stock that we are happy to bring along with us, so be sure to reach out to me by email if you are looking to see how West Coast titanium rides out here!


Test Your Functional Threshold Power to Help Your Training, Not Hurt It

Test Your Functional Threshold Power to Help Your Training, Not Hurt It

Starting next week, Jalapeno Cycling will be spending several days devoting our classes to testing Functional Threshold Power (FTP) for athletes. Because the vast majority of training plans use FTP as a baseline measurement for drills and targeting zones, you may have already heard of the test, but before signing up for a class, you may want to see if performing the test makes sense for you.

To begin, we should mention that the formal test isn’t a walk in the park. Its goal is to give an accurate indicator of how much power a rider can exert over the course of an hour. Because attempting to hit the gas for a full 60 minutes is an impractical assessment for the majority of riders (it’s far too easy to overcook or underperform early in that kind of long effort), the test instead involves warming up and executing a full 20 minute effort that coaches base the FTP around.

Even though it isn’t a time-consuming effort, the test is stressful on the body, and isn’t for all riders and situations. Here is a list of common times when you should NOT take an FTP test:

1. “Right before a big event.” This is an understandable mistake: riders may second-guess their power numbers just before the big day, especially when it comes to the solo efforts of time trials and triathlons, and want to know what targets they need to hit after several long cycles of training blocks. However, a hint of uncertainty and tapering towards the event is far better than putting additional fatigue on your legs.

2. “If you are about to engage in dedicated training for the first time.” Unfortunately, some programs often have beginning riders perform an FTP test right off the bat. The test is difficult without spending much prior time in the saddle, and the data it provides riders won’t be useful for long. When new riders begin dedicated training for the first time, the gains not only come fast, but are incredibly volatile for each rider. There are far better and accurate methods of tracking progress and determining zones than this immediate trial by fire.

3. “If you recently took the test.” We are amazed at how often we see pre-made programs that want you to perform an FTP test every other week. There are several major problems with this: while a 20-minute block is a great way to find a baseline for the rest of your training, it’s not the end-all be-all interval that you only need to gauge your performance by. There is no reason you should be taking this test more than three times per year (and even that is borderline overdoing it). It is a test that will monopolize several days of your other training, which is not a good thing if you could use some One-Legged-Drills, Base Riding, or VO2 Max Intervals instead. Secondly, by constantly measuring yourself with this test, you’ll inevitably catch a test on a bad day, and demotivation will strike hard when you believe you are regressing after months of hard work.

Those were the bad times to take an FTP test. On the other side of the spectrum, there are some ideal times that your future training could benefit from the test:

1. “Early into your building period before your season begins.” This is a great time to allocate some training time towards one FTP test, especially because this is usually the time when you or your coach is planning out your training schedule, and it helps give more direction. It is also a period of time where you are not interfering with any big events. Be forewarned, though, that there is one drawback to performing an FTP test here. Usually this time frame comes a little after an extended off-the-bike recovery week or two from the season before, and you shouldn’t be too surprised to find that your numbers will likely be about 10-20 watts lower than the power you were putting up after tapering for the big event at the end of the prior season. Remember that this drop is natural and necessary; don’t let it demotivate you.

2. “A few weeks after you get a power meter for the first time.” In reality, this shouldn’t conflict with any of the three times not to take an FTP test above (you REALLY shouldn’t buy a power meter right before a big event; I promise that it won’t improve your short-term performance.) After you purchase a power meter and get familiar with it and the numbers for a break in period, you might as well put it to good use. A FTP test gives you an even better meaning to the numbers you are seeing and can help you chart out a training path in ways that “perceived effort” cannot.

3. “During your season if you feel that your power numbers have already drastically changed or you believe you are training in the completely wrong zones.” This is very difficult to correctly gauge without an experienced coach. It could mean that you’re overtraining, or possibly feeling under the weather. Still if you are deep within a hard interval block and you feel like you could carry a normal conversation, you may want to consider taking an FTP test. Again, there are plenty of other factors that can trigger an unexpected drop or rise in power: a miscalibrated power meter, low batteries, or an error in an earlier FTP test. However, if you feel like you went through the full troubleshooting gamut, and you feel like you’re working well out of your zones, it might be time to see where you now measure up. This is especially true if you are basing your current zones on an FTP test you took a year or more ago.

If you find that this is a good time to take an FTP test, consider booking an appointment at Jalapeno Cycling. While you can set up individual sessions where you can take the test all by yourself, Kate is also hosting small-batch sessions as a more economical option. You can email her at or click here to create a profile and reserve your spot next week.

Jalapeno Cycling is a bike shop, sales, repair and fitness center located in Bloomfield, New Jersey.