Monday, September 24, 2012

I should do this more often

It's been at least a few years since I've done a traditional cyclocross race. I'm not very good at the whole dismount, hurdle barriers and remount gig. Then I busted my ankle in 2010 and thought better about messing around in this domain of competitive cycling. Way too easy to roll an ankle and suffer another major setback.

But with a couple years running under my belt now, I feel much more stable on my feet. Even if my bone density hasn't improved much, having better control and strength in my ankles must reduce my chances of injury, right?

There was a CX race at White Park in Concord, NH this past Saturday. Field sizes were small, there'd bit a bit of climbing in the course, weather was nice, so I thought why not?  My friend DaveP registered for the 35+ age category, so I decided to join him in that field, mostly so I could heckle him if he screwed up.

Only a dozen riders lined up. There were a few fast guys who I would be no threat to. There were others who I had no idea how I'd stack up against. I lined up last row. We go off, and I'm second from DFL going out onto the course.

Dave, Sean and me. All photos by Beth Penney.

I hung back there for a lap checking everybody out. Also in the race were teammates Carl Ring and Matt Wilson, and Gewilli too. After snickering at Dave a couple times around the first lap, I decided to pick it up a notch. It took a while to catch Carl and Matt, who got a nice jump on me in the first lap. The next thing I knew, Carl was suddenly in front of me. Seems he had a mishap. I trailed Carl for a lap to observe his lines and barrier prowess.  Carl gained at least 3 seconds on me over the barriers. Over seven laps, that adds up to 20-30 seconds, which is no small chunk of time in such a short race.

Just after passing Matt

Bearing down on Carl

After about three laps around, I was in no man's land. I gained on fourth place finisher, came close to overtaking him, but my back started killing me. The course had some pretty rough root sections in it. I still have clinchers on my CX bike and ran them at 45+psi after hearing reports of flats in earlier races. I took a beating. Mashing a big gear up the climbs several times per lap exacerbated the problem. I rarely experience back discomfort while riding. This race presented something a bit novel and my back didn't much like it. I backed off a bit for the remaining 2-3 laps, feeling pretty confident that nobody was going to catch me and it was a huge time split to a podium finish anyway. I was there to have fun.

Is it any wonder I had problems with my left IT-Band
a while back?

And fun it was. I managed to stay upright on a course that Carl described as quite technical. Carl took a couple spills I believe, and Dave slid out too. One cool thing about a cross race is it's over in about 45 minutes. I'm pretty good at burying myself for 45 minutes. This is a pretty typical hillclimb event duration, something I aerobically train for. It was interesting to look at the Garmin data afterwards. My first lap was over 8 minutes, then the rest around 6:30-6:40 minutes per lap. A very steady effort.

The new 'cross bike also performed flawlessly. The handling is precise, and it seems to be very well mannered on rough terrain. My only two peeves with the bike so far are these: bottom bracket bearing seals and saddle clamp. It seems some moisture got into the bearings during the D2R2 ride a few weeks ago. The bike then sat, and two nights before this race I found my crankset completely seized up. The left bearing would not spin at all, the crank spindle would turn inside the bearing race! That was what, my fourth ride on the bike and only a little bit wet? I did manage to free up and repack the bearing, but this problem needs a remedy.

The seatpost has a worthless saddle clamp. Every bump I hit hard on the course cause the saddle to angle a little further back. I even roughed up the clamping surfaces to give them more bite and used a carbon prep, a gritty compound designed to increase locking force. Still not there. I think the Bontrager seatpost will have to go. Crappy design for a cross bike, maybe ok for a road bike. The rest of the bike though, spot on.

1 comment:

Alby King said...

True dat with the back! CX feels like a 4-5 hour effort in that respect.