Been rethinking approach to Ironcross this year. I did this race the inaugural year on an MTB. The course was pretty brutal that year, and many CX purists were quite bitter after suffering multiple pinch flats. The course was touted as favoring a 'cross rider on a 'cross bike. I was soooo glad I went with my hardtail. Chris Eatough won it on a hardtail.
I came back last year for Ironcross-VI. The field was much larger, the course longer, but refined to remove some of the bony ATV track stuff. I brought my cross bike this time. I ran uber high pressure in the tires, something like 50-60psi. Got beat up pretty good, but I didn't flat. A couple of the descents were quite treacherous on my tall 'cross bike with super inflated tires. It was light weight though, not a lot of baggage to lug up the 20 minute run-ups.
I'm think of switching back to MTB this year, perhaps going full mountain biker with Camelbak and all. I lost half my water in bottles last year. In a pack of riders, you can't see the boulders in time to avoid them. A MTB has several advantages. Risk of flat is much lower, even with lower pressure. Front suspension has value on several portions of the course. It is geared lower, which would let me ride more of the final climb. It comes with several penalties too. My hardtail is five pounds heavier than my 'cross bike. That will destroy my shoulder after 20 minutes of hiking. Heavier and less aero means I will probably loose contact with the front of the race earlier. Fat tires may have higher rolling resistance on the paved portions of the course.
So why go MTB route? A lot of it boils down to creature comfort. If I'm comfortable longer, maybe I'll finish stronger and make back any time given up earlier in the race. Fat tires may roll faster on portions of the course. It's really hard to say which bike is faster in the end. This will be an interesting experiment. I'm not a 'cross racer purist anyway. Ironcross is a non-sanctioned race, just like the VT50 is non-sanctioned. Some of the best events out there are not strangled by sanctioning bodies.
I will have my work cut out for me at IC-VII. There will be a boat load of fast people there, despite it being a Verge weekend in Providence. Half the CCC/Keltic team will be there, guys like Ruiz, Butler and Sumner. Jeremiah Bishop is in. He not only won the SM100, but shattered the course record. Andy Applegate, coach of Brett Rutledge, signed up. I think Andy's won the master's field several years running now. There are only four divisions, men under 40, men over 40, women and singlespeeders. We all go off in one massive wave into traditional 'cross course with barriers for one lap, then it's into the woods for a four hour, 62 mile loop.
There are many barriers along the course, most are natural, like downed trees, some are man-made, like gates across fire roads. Two run-ups entail 20-30 minutes worth of hoofing it during the race. The race is really a hybrid between road and MTB racing. There are fast parts where pack dynamics come into place, and there are bony singletrack descents where full-on MTB skills are needed. The climbs eventually bust everything up, with minutes in between top finishers. I thoroughly enjoy single loop epics like this. None of this zillion laps with people throwing beer on you stuff. Ironcross may be my last race this season. Won't rule out a traditional local 'cross race, but it's time to do some long fall rides. This is my favorite time of year to ride. The days are cool, the trails are packed in and dry. Before long, the studded tires will have to come out.