First Cyclocross

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.

Crack Cocaine

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.


JoshuaMcC said...

Slight correction, you got 24th(one spot in front of me) and I nearly killed myself trying to catch you on that last paved climb. But I can admit defeat when somebody shows up to a race and humbly talks about how he's not expecting much, then passes me while my life is flashing before my eyes. Your an animal. At least more of an animal than I am.

KanyonKris said...

Correction noted - thanks.

You know how it goes, I show up curious about cross but when the race starts it's game on. Good job chasing me down. I was feeling pretty worked at the end.

There's always a bigger fish. I'm in pretty good shape this year, even though I'm on the decline. And I didn't even see Jason after the start. And Rob I saw once as he put his chain back on, but that was it. And I tried to keep up with an MTB guy I met at the start, but he got away. So I had plenty of humble pie myself.

Anonymous said...

Cross is freakin awesome but you wont catch the bug on a mountain bike. its all about the feeling of "beating the crap out of your road bike"
If your interested in ridding jan 6th cross call timpanogos cyclery 801-796-7500 they have been letting people try out cross on their brand new cannondale x bikes for FREE!!! But they are really popular so you need to call in advance to reserve them.
as far as racing only if the weather is good...... phfff good weather for x would be just like last years january race. Giant puddles, snow falling. and mud everywhere. this aint no ICUP

KanyonKris said...

pat t cakes - I respect your opinion and am glad you enjoy cross. Note that I didn't say cross sucks, I just said it didn't do much for ME. If I'm in the mood come January I'll see if I can reserve one of those demo bikes and try cross on a proper bike. And I think I know a thing or two about beating a road bike.

Anonymous said...

Always happy to help someone become a crack head.

Good to meet you.


Kat said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Here I try to do you a favor and just get attitude in return. Thats fine, Ill go race my first crit on a mountain bike and then say It doesnt do anything for me too>

dug said...

pat t cakes, you sound like a fun guy, especially to ride with.

KanyonKris said...

pat t cakes - Attitude? I reread my reply and I'm not seeing it.

I'm OK, you're OK. Live and let live. Ride and let ride. So I didn't fall in love with cross, why is that so incomprehensible / blasphemous / offensive? A cross bike would not have made a big difference - I just don't thrive on racing like others do. A few races each year works for me. I liked cross more than I thought I would so I may do one or two each year.

StupidBike said...

I like puppies

Indohran said...

Pat T Cakes is right. The crazy thing is that a Flat bar cross bike would be fastest. But that is not the Tradition of this really old sport from europe. So with that said. Traditional Cross bike being your weapon of choice. You will have a blast. We also try and design courses to give a cross bike the advantage. That is also according to what we have to work with at each venue.

Cross Party will be fun as well.

You should come.