The Cyclocross Race
I've been hearing people rave about cyclocross so I gave it a try today. The race was at Draper and the course is a good one for mountain bikes (I don't have a cyclocross bike). And with dry ground and sunshine it was a nice day for it (although cyclocrossers are known for their love of bad weather).
I arrived before 9 AM and took a lap around the course. I was familiar with most of it from the ICup race held there this Spring. At 9:20 I joined the other C flight (beginner) racers at the bottom of the hill for the start. I chatted up some fellow riders including fellow UMB rider Jason, Rob Sunderlage (Rick's brother, but probably not his real name either) and Josh. We received some final instructions and off we went.
I started slow, like usual. The folks on cyclocross bikes had the advantage going up this 0.3 mile paved slope so I just settled into a decent pace back with the back of the pack. On the dirt I pushed the speed since the wide, knobby tires and full suspension gave me an advantage. Unfortunately I couldn't capitalize on it much because all of the rough parts were single-track and usually downhill so I couldn't pass. I wised up and pushed to pass as many riders as I could before the rough stuff so I wouldn't be stuck behind them, but often this wasn't possible.
There was one steep-ish slope that I could take in middle ring and one run-up that wasn't too bad. I practiced dismounting, running up and remounting and it seemed pretty easy. I just followed the technique Andy told me he learned from the cross clinic. As I approached the barrier I clipped out and swung my right foot back over the rear wheel then brought it forward on the left side and clipped out the left foot to start running. Works slick. But I don't run much and that run-up worked me over. I was panting at the top every lap.
I was also stoked to see Mark and his son Alder at the top of the pavement climb and the run-up cheering me (and others) on. It may not have looked like it, but I gave a little more when Mark urged me on. Thanks for the support, man!
Working from the back of the pack I passed a fair number of other racers, and was only passed by a few. I didn't crash. I went through the weeds once to pass a gal who stalled on a steep little up. On the 2nd-to-last lap I passed Josh, which drew some words of (mock?) annoyance from him. On the last lap I had the dirt downhill to myself and was finally able to fly it MTB style. The last climb up the paved slope got my thighs burning and I passed a few racers but I didn't have much to give (my body thinks it's the off season). Jason says I finished 24th, which puts me mid pack - sounds OK to me.
Overall I liked it more than I thought I would. I expected the dismount, run-up and remount stuff to be lame, but it actually added some fun spice to the race. There was a good vibe as most racers just wanted to have a good time and weren't getting so serious as to be obnoxious. But mostly it just felt like mountain bike race - you go as hard as you can until the finish. And while I hanker for a race now and then, it doesn't turn me on like it does for others. I had a good time, but I didn't catch the bug. There's one last race in January - I may do it if the weather is good.
Before the race I talked to Rob about wanting to hit the Crack Cocaine downhill trail. Rob shuttled me up after the race (big thanks, Rob!). Three DH guys headed down it just before me and I followed.
(Photo stolen from dug. That's Brad and Kenny in the hole.)
The first part is a bunch of switchbacks, then it crosses a dirt road and goes down an old, rocky double-track. The first stunt is a short ladder but I didn't have enough speed to drop the end so I bailed. Then I noticed the safety ramp at the end - I could have just blooped off the end. At "the hole" there was a new trail to the left that we checked out, but it's a section of the uphill trail that's still being built so we went back. I was a bit psyched out by the first little drop in the hole, but it went easier than expected. The rest of the trail had sweet, high-bermed corners, a variety of stunts and dips through gullies. I nearly ate it on one sharp corner that plunges downhill (after the sidecut we worked on in the Summer), but somehow rolled it out. It ends with some fast, cruising trail down to the road.
After Crack I went 30 yards or so down the road and dropped into the gully with the Maple Hollow trail. And who should I run into? Brad Keyes. He was heading for Clark's to meet up with the core team for a run down Crack. Not surprisingly, I couldn't keep up with Brad (only because I was blown from the race, yes, that's the only reason), but he waited for me to catch up to make sure I wasn't eaten by the Suncrest Chupacabra. After the last climb by Castle McMansion I was just able to stay with Brad. He's such a smooth rider and I tried to follow his line and learn from his riding. At the bridge we parted ways. I rolled down Corner Canyon back to my car.
Back to Cyclocross
I spotted Fox and watched him hand out some cash to the juniors. $5 and $1 bills mean a bit more to the young ones. Props to the #1 Utah cyclocross fan.
Starting 'em young.
The Cyclocross Race