For the fourth Wednesday in a row, I headed over to the Tech Trails, aired down my tires and got ready to suffer. It was harder to suffer this week, since the weather was 60 degrees and sunny, but I tried really hard anyways.
One thing that was going to be different this week was that I had mounted a Specialized The Captain CX Pro tire on the front wheel, keeping the Bontrager Jones CXR on the rear. The Bontrager tire’s tread pattern is very similar to the Specialized Fast Trak mountain bike tire and this gives me a setup on the ‘cross bike that is extremely similar to the setup on my mountain bike. I’ve found this setup to be a good all-purpose one, regardless of the trails. I should be careful here to mention that for CX courses comprised mainly of grass, pavement and hardpack dirt that this combination would likely be overkill.
I went out on Sunday and rode the singletrack at the Tech Trails on the Tricross with this setup for about an hour. After about 20 minutes, I settled into a groove with the bike. Really, it was the first time that I felt really good riding in tight quarters… well, ever. I stopped riding the ‘cross bike like a full-suspension mountain bike and started choosing my line more carefully, braking differently and finessing the bike rather than just plowing through everything.
This all helped immensely on Wednesday, as our course had a very extended section of singletrack that I was riding faster than some people on hardtail mountain bikes. I also became a counterpoint in the after-ride conversation. One of the really fast guys suggested that one of the hills we rode up was only rideable on a mountain bike, but it was pointed out that I rode it all 8 or 9 laps. To be honest, during the last few laps I didn’t have any easier gears to fall back on, but I was still riding the hill. There was only two guys ahead of me on ‘cross bikes, and everybody else was on a mountain bike. I only got lapped by 3 riders, including one that’s off to Collegiate MTB nationals, so I don’t feel too bad about that.
Here’s the thing. I have wondered constantly this year if I am not cut out to be a good mountain bike racer. Part of it has been riding these really long distances that I am not at all used to against some of the best regional and national (in the case of the Cheq40) amateur racers. But I have seen my best results at races when I was on skinny tires and rocking the Tricross. It’s not just that they were shorter races. The 55miles of the Superior Bike Fest took me 2.5 hours, just like the Deer Chase. It would be kind of nice to keep the MTB fun and just race the skinny tires. Oh well. That’s too much thought for me on this Friday afternoon. I’m just going to prep for my upcoming CX races, keep hitting up the Wednesday World’s and have some fun on the bike.