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 Portland Mud Fest

Photos by Matt Hale

2004 US Cyclocross Nationals
by Brent Prenzlow


The Week before Nationals - Sick

After scoring a 10th at the Nor Cal UCI Cat 1 (CCCP @ Coyote Point) race, I felt like I was on form and ready for a good Nationals. On Monday, I was very tired, but that is typical so I didn't think much about it. Unfortunately on Tuesday I woke up with the beginning signs of a cold. Not good. I started stressing, but tried to keep it to myself. On Wednesday I woke up feeling worse and even stayed home from work to rest and try to quickly kill it. By Thursday I was back at work and feeling ok (mainly just a runny nose). My riding for the week was pretty much non-existent so either I'd have super legs or be flat.

Friday, Natz Day 1 - Warm Up

I flew up to Portland with teammate John Behrens and was picked up at the airport by Mark Salmon. We felt like rock stars as Mark had driven our bikes up to Portland and we simply had to fly up with our suitcases. This was quite a contrast from the many hard, long solo trips I did this year with both bikes and a wheel bag along. It was lightly raining (as expected) and we suited up at the hotel and rode over to practice the course. Already after one day of competition, the course was extremely muddy and chewed up. I rode 5 laps and it took a lot of energy to just get around the course at any speed.

Saturday, Natz Day 2 - Masters 35-39

Although I had trouble sleeping and was nervous for the race, I was still aiming to win and was pretending nothing had happened earlier in the week. I had the pro pit crew working for me; Mark was giving me bike hand offs, Lee Willmore was catching, and Chuck Morris was spraying down bikes. Matt Hale had my #1 bike on the line and I rolled up after a good warm up ready to go. They started call ups and I was surprised to roll up 3rd! Everything seemed lined up for me to do well. After an all out sprint down the paved straight away and onto a gravel right hand turn, I took the inside line and hit the first section of rutted "turf" (mud) near the lead. We were going so fast that my bike shifted 20 degrees underneath me and I almost went down. I immediately had negative thoughts that I shouldn't have been running the yellow tufos in this much mud. Just like last year, they felt slippery.

I couldn't believe how hard it was to push through the mud. I had watched an earlier race and it didn't look that bad, but it was worse than in practice the day before. I think I tried to ride too much of the course and should've gotten off and ran more because I got stuck a few times and I was off the pace around 10th place at best. I switched bikes and got my #2 bike with the Challenge tires on it. I was hoping this would help bring me back up to the leaders, but they were out of sight already. I was pretty much struggling on lap 2, both physically and mentally. I was passed by a few more guys and now barely in the top 15. This was not where I wanted to be. Crossing the finish line I saw "2 to go" and was shocked that it was half over already! I started to get mad and picked the pace up. I was now running where I knew it was pointless to ride, and I was passing guys again. I think I figured out the course on those last 2 laps, but it was too late as I could only move up to 8th. I was disappointed it was over so quickly (later I found out that the duration was only 37 minutes instead of the listed 45 mins). It just wasn't my day.

Sunday, Natz Day 3 - Elite Men

Strong overnight winds had partially dried up the course and made much of it rideable. In addition, the officials had cut out some of the bad mud and made the course shorter. I got to the course early to check out the new lines and to make sure I had everything lined up to redeem myself after yesterday. I was motivated and felt pretty good with the exception of sore calves from yesterday's mud running. As the Women started, I warmed up in Lee's motor home with some hot tea and a Clif Bar. Richard Murphy and Leo Sandoval were hanging out too and we were glad to be out of the wind for a little while. Soon I started warming up on the trainer, and I had a stomach ache -- nerves or last night's Thai food maybe?

I rolled over to the staging area where there is a swarm of guys and no room to get up toward the front. Fortunately I have decent UCI points and am getting a call up. One-by-one the top names in cross are called up to the start line and I get well positioned in the third row. The race starts fast and furious and I sprint all out to get into the top 15. Things are going good and I'm right where I needed to be, but I can't hold the pace and a few guys passed me. I was still near the low 20s when I lost my chain on the inside on my single chain ring set up. I was forced to stop, get off, dig it out and put it back on by hand. This is the first time this year I have lost it on the inside and I had trouble getting it back on. I lost about 15-20 places and was now racing with the guys back around 40th. This was frustrating as these guys were pretty fast, but just slightly slower than me in many technical "one-line" sections. Because of this, I was held up and had trouble passing. With 2 laps to go, I started to hear the crowd get loud and I knew Page was coming from behind.

Sure enough, about a minute later I was passed by Page and Trebon and then pulled out of the race by the official. Say, what!? Pulled. Yes, because the course got so much faster (and shorter), lap times for Page/Trebon were 5 1/2 minutes. With all the traffic I was racing in, it is not so surprising that I was caught. I had another good 15 minutes of racing left in me so I was a little bummed by getting pulled and was not as tired as I should've been. I had yet to give my final push. The officials ended up scored me in 34th place at -2 laps.