October 20, 2008

Vancouver Island Cyclocross

Russel Anderson hammering on his way to the expert category win in the 3rd race of the Cross on the Rock series. For more pics of the race please take a look at my shots here: 1, 2, 3. And pictures of the 2nd race at Juan de Fuca here: 1, 2. I raced in my first cyclocross race on the weekend. That will make a total of three races I've done on a bike, one Alleycat, one Super D and one Cyclocross race. Hopefully there will be many more to come. The Cross on the Rock is a set of cyclocross races on Vancouver Island, BC and the goal of the organizers is to introduce people to the sport. Therefore the rules are slack and there's great atmosphere at the races. You can race whatever you want to. If you want to race a full suspension 29er, go ahead. I've seen anything from full carbon cx rigs, road bikes and even a touring bike with aerobars which the Bike Snob would most definitely not have given his seal of approval. This time I even saw a Santa Cruz Nomad, which seemed slightly out of place to say the least. So after watching the last race I figured I might as well try this cyclocross thing out, and see what's so great about it. I brought out my Cannondale M500. That Cannondale started out as my mountain bike in Iceland and has been my singlespeed commuter for a few years here in Victoria, and enjoyed a second life as such with chopped bars and slicks. But now it was time for it's third life, so I threw on a flat bar (which is 4 inches wider than my commuting bar), as well as a pair of Bontrager Jones XC tires that came with my Fuel EX-8 and were kicking around in my apartment. After stealing the Shimano DX pedals off the Fuel, the bike was close to being ready. I tried to think of a good gear ratio to run, and was advised by various websites to run a 2:1 ratio which would have meant and 32 tooth chainring in the front since I'm running a 16t in the back. By looking at what was offered stock on commercially available single speed CX bikes I saw that most were running 2,3 to 1 ratio, or 18t cog and 42 tooth chainring. I had heard that the race coming up would be a fast one, so I went with a 36t ring in the front giving me a ratio of 2,25 to 1, "and I even have smaller diameter tires than those CX bikes," I thought. I was worried that the ratio would not be fast enough for that course and I'd be spinning like crazy the whole time. These worries turned out to be unfounded. There was a loooong hill on this course and I had a really hard time with it to say the least, so as my vision was blurring and I had slowed down to nearly a stand still on the last lap, I was certainly thinking about how nice a 2 to1 ratio would have been. The only thing that got me up that hill that last time was picturing Geoff Kabush's amazing show at the last race, as I reported on in this blog. I thought: "if Geoff can ride up unrideable hills, I should be able to ride this lame ass incline one more time," and that got me over the hump. I was so drained by then that I could not get any closer to the leader and had to admit defeat and be happy with 2nd place, some 40 seconds behind the leader. That was in the beginners race mind you, and those four laps we did were peanuts compared to what the other categories did, but certainly enough for me. In fact, I'm surprised I didn't puke. After I sort of caught me breath, I grabbed my camera gear and photographed the rest of the races that day, which was fun as always, even though it was a little bit harder than usually, not only because my legs were reduced to jelly, but also because of the unusually long laps, which meant a lot of running around for different angles. A good day at the races though all things considered. Here's my Cannondale before and after cx modifications. Some adjustments will need to be made to the bike before I race it again, the chain slipped under heavy pressure and I'd love to get some skinnier tires for more mud clearence and lighter rolling weight. These have peaked my interest.

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