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Chasing Back On: 2018 Nittany Lion Cyclocross Race Report

Chasing Back On: 2018 Nittany Lion Cyclocross Race Report

This year at Nittany Lion Cyclocross, Jalapeno Cycling Co-Founder and Main Faux Pro Rider, Kathryn Cumming, grabbed to top-ten finishes in an international field. At both days, the start of her race did not go as planned, so this week, Kate’s race report looks at coming back from the unexpected.

words by Kathryn Cumming, photos by Andrew Reimann/Jalapeno Cycling

Both days of Nittany Lion cross played out similarly for me. The short version of the weekend is that getting caught up in the chaos at the start left me chasing the lead group to get a good place at the finish.

On Saturday, while we were hammering the prologue, I heard a loud clang and hoped it was no big deal. Turns out that the fork of the rider behind me went into my rear wheel, leaving me with several broken spokes. I tried to stop a few times in hopes of suddenly becoming a race mechanic, but with no ability to fix the wheel and keep the spokes out of my brake rotor, I pedaled with loud noises to the pits. My friend Willem was waiting with my second bike and away I went, about one minute or so behind the back of the field. With nothing to lose I went all in, picking off as much of the field as I could. I made one final pass with half a lap to go to ride in for eighth. I proceeded to fall over soon after.


I enjoyed chasing so much on Saturday that I decided to let everyone pass me at the start of Sunday’s race. We hit a mud bottleneck pretty quickly in the lap and I did not battle aggressively enough for position prior to this point. Well out of the top ten, I set my sights on the lead group and started digging every chance I could get. I gradually made up spots and was sitting in 9th with 1.5 laps to go. I could hear words of encouragement all over the course and went all in on the stairs to make up ground on a group of three. I eventually caught this group during a series of tight turns that came near the end of the lap. With nowhere to pass, I recovered here and jumped the group through the start/finish chute as we heard the bell. I knew I had to go crazy in the straightaway that followed to make the pass stick. Fortunately this effort put 5th place in my field of vision.


Knowing the stairs are a strength of mine and wanting to get ahead before the tight woods section, I took the longest, most powerful strides I could to get up the stairs, telling myself that cramping would be better than not trying. This allowed me to slide into 5th. I held my position in front through the woods, then put in an attack to give myself room before the final corners. The effort was rewarded, and I held on to 5th, once again hitting the ground as soon as I rolled off course.


The cyclocross community continues to amaze me every weekend. Hearing my name around the course was a huge motivator and truly kept me going while my mouth hung open, desperately trying to grab any oxygen I could. Friends showed a contagious enthusiasm for everyone’s race efforts. And when all the competition wrapped up, post race hugs, high fives, and watermelon slices were shared amongst the field.

Nittany Lion Cross was the perfect reminder of why we race. I truly loved taking on the course and seeing how hard I could go. At one point I was so exhausted my head dropped and I almost hit a course stake on a straightaway. Fortunately, words of support from a photographer brought me back to life at the right time. This feeling of being completely depleted is something I cherish.

I would be lying if I didn’t mention that I’ve spent the last few days trying to figure out how to be more aggressive at the start of races. While I do enjoy the chase, losing 15-20 spots in the first 300 yards can pretty much remove any chance at a podium. However, I can still walk away from the weekend with complete clarity regarding the way I spend my time and energy. Regardless of the result, I will continue to dress up in bright colored lycra to ride circles in grass fields with friends.


“We definitely did NOT win, but there were snacks!” These words of wisdom came from my five year old nephew, Noel, after his first soccer game on Saturday, and pretty much reflected my race weekend. Noel told me all about how hard he worked on the soccer field, how he kept trying even though he was losing, and how he and his friends had snacks after the game. As I processed that conversation, I realized how similar our weekends were. As a 32 year old, I am lucky enough to share the same enthusiasm for my weekends as a 5 year old.

It’s Just a Ride in The Park: Why You Should Try Cyclocross in Words and Photos

It’s Just a Ride in The Park: Why You Should Try Cyclocross in Words and Photos

It has been three days since Jalapeno Cycling released our announcement for two development teams (a men’s and women’s) geared for riders who have never raced cyclocross before, and we’ve already got a great group of people from New Jersey and New York City (and even well beyond) who have filled out the application. I’ve spent the last few days chatting with local folks from running groups, roll-out bike clubs, women’s cycling groups, and a triathlon club to drum up interest. In a lot of cases, I get both excitement as well as a quick follow up of “OH DAMN, I couldn’t do something like that.”

To me this is a strange reaction, but I’ve been racing cyclocross for a good while now. During the offseason, I proudly compete in 10K runs and triathlons. Both cyclocross and these running events are some of the safer forms of competitions. Certainly you might find someone getting medical attention in both places, but due to the low speed of these competitions, injury through falling is just not common place. And yet, cyclocross is seen as an X Games worthy endeavor while some people see a January Resolution Run as a harmless way to sweat out their New Year's hangover.

I have griped enough on how cyclocross promoters, racers, and spectators have a tendency to push and promote the crashing that happens on courses or sections that amateurs are not even allowed to race on. Instead, today I want to focus on what I think runners and triathletes are usually doing right, and how cyclocross can fit into this picture.

Before, during, and after, the focus in triathlons and running events is personal achievement. Whether you get in the top 10%, beat your old time, land on the podium, or just want to finish the race, the focus is on preparation, training, willpower, and accomplishment. (Even a quick search of crash reels in running usually showcase someone falling, getting back up, and finishing the race in first against all odds). As far as disciplines that play out in a similar way, the only thing that even comes close to cyclocross in this regard is perhaps gravel racing.

So if you are looking to give yourself a challenge, why bother with cyclocross when you already are engaged in a safe athletic competition? Here's why...

1) Every cyclocross course and venue is drastically different. Some courses are in an open field without a hint of shade in sight. Others are winding through nothing but trees. Some have steep climbs you have to run up, and others have thick grass you have to try and push through. Every course gives you a different mental challenge. You can’t just expect to show up and systematically count your splits. The more you try and shut your brain off and muscle your way through something, usually the harder you are making the race for yourself.

And because cyclocross is becoming global, the more you seek out adventure, the more you’re rewarded. From the dry earth of Colorado races, to the bogs of the Northwest, to the city parks of the lower Mid-Atlantic, to the epic coastal scenery of New England, the challenges only get better, and I’ve only touched on one country.

2) Cyclocross is a game of do-overs. Preparing months for an event only to come down with the flu the day before a race is heart breaking, or perhaps you had a mechanical that you had to get off your bike and fix, or a shoe lace that broke. These problems are not so drastic in cyclocross. Usually there is two races at the same venue every weekend, so a bad Saturday can be followed by a personal best on Sunday. If you’re lucky enough to live in the NYC area, you can practically find several different cyclocross races every weekend from September to November and still race into December.

This do-over idea can even be applied to a more micro level! The length of every course is different, but you’ll likely be racing between three to six laps when you start racing for the first time. If a corner, or a run up, or some other feature trips you up on one lap, it can be your next challenge for perfection on the following lap. If you want it, cyclocross can be a game of chasing perfection.

3) Breaks up your winter perfectly. Enough said. Cyclocross is the reason I look forward to the waning daylight instead of dread base mile time in the basement.

4) You are always fighting for something. No matter whether you’re avoiding being lapped at the back of the race, or you’re vying for a top ten, there is always something to fight for during the 30-40 minutes you are out there. With the advent of, you can even track the other riders who are very close in ability to you in order to paint a friendly target on a rival’s back for the next event.

5) Cyclocross is a social sport. Racing is only part of the fun. After you are done, it’s time to pull up a chair and see how the more experienced racers take turns and features. Cheering and friendly heckling is all par for the course in one of the most fun disciplines to see play out.

Still wondering if cyclocross is safe enough for you? Rather than focus on some of the hardest pro features that you won’t see unless you are an elite racer, I wanted to show off an honest look at the spirit of cyclocross in pictures. If you enjoy them, consider putting your name in the running for our development team before July 25th

Jalapeno Cycling's New Cyclocross Devo Program is Now Accepting Applicants!

Jalapeno Cycling's New Cyclocross Devo Program is Now Accepting Applicants!

2017 Application for Cyclocross

Jalapeno Cycling’s Cyclocross Devo Program

Jalapeno Cycling is expanding our cyclocross team in 2017 to include two development teams: a women’s team and a men’s team. Our goals for the program are as follows:

  1. Discover self-motivated people who have either never tried cyclocross, or those who have only raced less than five races.

  2. Prepare the development riders ahead of the season, giving them the tools they will need to both safely navigate cyclocross courses and have the most fun possible.

  3. Have all members of the team compete in six different local races during the season, helping to grow the sport in New Jersey.

  4. Help grow a community of cyclists who cheer on each other’s accomplishments.

  5. Develop a competitive but respectful spirit against other devo programs.

Jalapeno Cycling is not just a cycling team, it is a fully integrated program organized by a couple passionate about growing cyclocross. Kathryn Cumming is a dedicated coach and the highest ranked cyclocross athlete in the state of New Jersey. Andrew Reimann is a high-level bicycle mechanic and an elite cyclocross racer as well. We are not just offering insight into our vast experience, but some training and bike shop perks for your first cyclocross season as well.

However, be forewarned that you should not take this application into the program lightly. Accepted applicants will be required not only to commit to their own season, but those of their fellow devo teammates. Cyclocross is a fun discipline, but it can also be a very tough challenge on the motivation, which is doubled by the days getting darker and colder. We ask that you see your first season fully out, both for yourself and the support of your teammates.

You will be required to have a bike for the season. This can be a dedicated cyclocross bike or a mountain bike. Loaner bikes from your friends for the season are acceptable, provided that it will be 100% guaranteed available to you for all practice and race days.

Practice will be held twice a week before the season begins; a hard indoor training session in the morning during the weekday, and an outdoor skills practice in the morning on Sunday. Both of these sessions, but especially the indoor class, will become increasingly challenging as the season approaches. Riders who miss more than two training sessions may be asked to leave the program at directors' discretion.

You’ll buy a team jersey and bib shorts. You'll race in that kit for the 2017 season with your teammates, including the six required races. Dues are $25. Team jersey + shorts are $150. Expected race fees are ~$280 (annual license at $70 and six races at $35 each).

*Weekend AM rides may be substituted with a race on select weekends, as per schedule below.

**Team commitment is for the CX discipline, for the remainder of this season. Participants will be welcome, but not required, to race other disciplines as part of Jalapeno Cycling.

Cyclocross DEVO Schedule

Nittany - 9/16
Bridgeton Cross (NJ) - 9/23
Hippo Cross (NJ) - 9/30
HPCX - 10/28
Bubble Cross - 11/11
Supercross - 11/18

At the conclusion of the season commitment, participants are welcome & encouraged to continue racing as part of the Jalapeno Cycling Devo team.

Sound like it is for you? Then be sure to fill out this application by July 25th!

Faux Pro (moters') Response to "Cyclocross is Still My Favorite Bourbon"

Faux Pro (moters') Response to "Cyclocross is Still My Favorite Bourbon"

Cyclocross Worlds is upon us this weekend, and we at Jalapeño Cycling can't believe that we'll have to start using the #crossiscoming hashtags already. (In the area and want to watch the World Championships live? Be sure to swing on by our store starting at 7am on Saturday and 8am on Sunday for some coffee and pastries and fauxpro commentary.)

A few weeks ago, Kate Cumming and I wrote a piece called Cyclocross is Still My Favorite Bourbon, mainly in response to reports of the stagnating participation numbers for the sport of cyclocross, and possible solutions. We were overwhelmed and gracious about the number of readers and replies. One of our favorites came way this morning from a couple of self-described "fauxpromoters," who responded to our thoughts with a full article. They promoted their first race this year, and their cyclocross vibe gets our serious thumbs up of approval (we'll overlook the pinwheel for the first year). They offered a few more thoughts that some of the salty faux pros here at Jalapeño Cycling overlooked, as well as made a few points that ran counter to ours. We appreciate the ideas and keeping us honest. Be sure to check them out with their links at the bottom of their response.

By Gordon Jones and Colston Jones (title photo courtesy of Marci Fulton)

DISCLAIMER: The authors are not experts (on cyclocross or anything else). In fact, neither of us had ridden in or even attended a 'cross race before last year, but we put together a team of fauxpromoters and hosted the Rustbucket Races in our hometown of Norfolk, Virginia on December 17 of last year. 89 people came out to ride; we are grateful to all of them and can’t wait to do it again next year.

Here is our reply to “Cyclocross is Still My Favorite Bourbon” by Andrew Reimann.

1) Cast a Wide Net

Gordon: We sold 35 one-day USAC licenses for the Rustbucket Races. Since this was our first time promoting a race, we didn't know what that meant, but our lead official informed us that it was a big number, especially for a first-time event.

Our race had a broad reach in part because we are outsiders to the sport ourselves, so many of our contacts in the local bike community are commuters and people who ride for fun. Getting a few riders who typically wouldn't race or weren't familiar with cyclocross to sign up for the race really helped spread the word locally. Getting involved in your local bike community and going on new or different group rides can really pay dividends. 

Colston: At the same time, it’s important not to be a stranger to the existing cyclocross community. We volunteered to help with set-up at the local races, and were rewarded with great support from a strong local club, Rogue Velo Racing (four-time Virginia state champions, by the way). As a practical matter, it would be difficult to start a race without some established support, because the cost of stakes for the course could be prohibitive otherwise.

To your point on attracting people who are new to CX, it was important to me to offer true beginner categories, so our Novice races were only open to Cat 5 men and Cat 4 women. (In theory, if you have raced more than one season, you have "experienced out" of your initial USAC category with a mandatory upgrade.) Setting up the Novice categories this way may have put off a few experienced racers, as we didn't offer a Men's 4/5 race. In the future, we may offer that in addition to the Novice category, but the beginner-exclusive races will likely be a fixture. 

2) Promote Cyclocross as Inclusive

Colston: After race day, one of the folks who rode in the Rustbucket reviewed the race on Facebook. He wrote that our race showed that cyclocross is an "extremely inclusive" bicycle discipline. He nailed one of the great things about 'cross: inclusivity.

Andrew touched on inclusivity when he argued that 'cross should be promoted as an affordable sport. No one should feel like they can't try a CX race because they don't want to shell out for high-end gear, and that's a great thing to emphasize.

Inclusivity goes beyond cost, though - 'cross is for different types of bikes: not only CX bikes, but mountain bikes, vintage road bikes, singlespeed bikes, even fixed gear bikes. 'Cross is for people of all ages and all levels of fitness and bike-racing (and promoting) experience. We were really welcomed warmly into the awesome community of cyclocross, even though we didn’t know a run-up from a hand-up. 

Another piece that experienced CX racers who want to promote the sport might be overlooking is that the pro racing kit may scare people off. By having different categories on the course at different times, it seems like most races can accommodate both people who want to ride in (regular) shorts and a t-shirt and people who want to ride in a skinsuit. People who own a bike but not spandex make up a big group of potential cyclocross participants. It wouldn't hurt to aim some promotion at them.

3) Find a Way to Stand Out

Gordon: We found a unique site for the Rustbucket Races: a site owned by the Norfolk Public Works department that has been used for unloading trucks, impounding cars, and storing parade floats and hurricane debris. We'd like to take credit for hand-picking the site, but we didn't know it existed until our contacts with the city brought it to our attention. 

Because we wanted to keep the race in Norfolk, options were limited after the city parks, our first choices, were ruled out due to access and use concerns. It worked out in our favor, however. I think it's safe to say that not many ‘cross races are held in industrial areas in the middle of cities. Tying our name to the site gave us some immediate visibility (thanks, Sean Freeman!). 

Second, we were not part of a series. This gave us more control over the categories we could offer, like the World Heavyweight Championship of Cycling, and allowed us to have some fun with kit contests and the like. It made the race seem less intimidating, at least to me, a first-time bike racer.

Also, by not being part of a series, we stumbled onto a date that was open for lots of possible riders. December 17 was an open date for our local series, the Virginia Cyclocross Series (VACX), but also the MABRA and North Carolina Cyclo-Cross series. If you're an aspiring promoter, don't think you have to be part of series right off the bat to be successful.

Please visit our website,, or find us on Facebook and Instagram @rustbucketraces. Thanks for your support!

The Charm of Baltimore Cyclocross in Photos


The Charm of Baltimore Cyclocross in Photos

We just wanted to show off a quick photo gallery of day one of Charm City Cyclocross Day One just before we head to the races for the big C1 race on Sunday. If you look very closely, you can see some great details, including great course features and friendly faces!