I’ve not done as much ‘cross racing this year — at least it doesn’t feel that way. A couple of days at the Trek CXC Cup, and the very wet and muddy Sherman Cross. I have made it out to most of the Wednesday Night Worlds practice races at least. I’ve been sticking pretty closely to the Time-Crunched Cyclist cyclocross plan and been seeing some good progress there.
One of the weirder things has been my performance on my Raleigh/Twin Six Dark Horse singlespeed. I went out to the trails, set up a small ‘cross course and timed myself riding my geared bike and singlespeed. I was uniformly faster on the singlespeed, oddly. I’ve been doing a lot more riding of the Dark Horse as a result, including a completely bonkers practice course that just went up and down a hill. So today, I brought both the Tricross and the Dark Horse up to Copper Harbor, still not clear on which one I would ride. A couple of practice laps later and was still seeing faster laps on the Dark Horse, so I saddled it up.
The course was largely similar to the course of previous years, with a couple of minor tweaks. Perhaps the most significant one for me was the elimination of this old bridge:
It wasn’t eliminated because of a reroute but because the bridge itself had been replaced. That was fantastic, because it was just a pinch flat waiting to happen.
Those practice laps during the Men’s B race were in the sunshine and all the extra clothing I was wearing was making me really warm. So as we went to line up, I dropped off the jacket, hat and heavy gloves. Simultaneously, a bunch of dark clouds started rolling in.
First lap was a big line of riders all strung out, without many gaps developing. Separation started during the second lap and I stuck close to the wheel in front of me. Surprisingly, a bunch of people were dropping chains, borking wheels and crashing. This let me move up a bit. Eventually, a group of four of us settled in for 4 laps. At one point, I put in a little dig to create some separation and only the guy in the bridge picture up there could stay with me.
It was at this point that those foreboding clouds opened up and started dumping a ton of cold rain on us. The grass sections were getting slippery. The singletrack cut into the field (part of the excellent Copper Harbor Trails system) turned into rivers. The fast turns were getting muddy to a point that even my Clement PDX tires were sliding and drifting worryingly. The sand in the pit was sticking heavy to wheels and bikes, making my brakes sound like sandpaper.
Rain and my single riding partner were the status quo for another couple of laps until one of those dropped riders clawed his way back on the penultimate lap. After we went through the sand pit, my bike started making a discomfiting noise. My group mates started riding away from me as my bike continued to grind and complain. The rain had passed and the sun was coming back out. There was a lovely rainbow that appeared on the course. Finally, the belt dropped off the rear cog after the final trip through the sand pit and I ran it in. It was only supposed to be 45 minutes, but turned into 56. I came in 11th and was riding in 9th until the belt started complaining. ‘Cross is about the reliability of your equipment, so I have no regrets.
Cold, rainy, slippery and hard. But altogether, I was pretty happy with how everything turned out and think the rest of the season is just going to get better. I think I’ll be riding the Dark Horse a lot more too.