On the drive down to JBLM I was having second thoughts about my tire choice for the day.
I’ve been set up with file treads for dry conditions and was considering switching over to something more aggressive. The rains over the last week had me thinking I should account for terrain that might not be so hard packed. Through a combination of not really wanting to change tires the day before a race and assurances from teammates “it will be fine” I kept the file treads.
As we hit rain squalls driving down I-5 I began thinking the file treads might not be the best choice. But the time we got there (at about 7:30 am) and set up the team tent the rain had stopped and clouds looked less menacing.
On the course pre-ride I could tell the tire choice would be fine. There were no big muddy climbs and there were several sections that were either dirt road, gravel road, or hard pack soil. Other parts of the course were routed though large trees, with plenty of tight corners to keep it interesting. The soil in these sections was a bit looser, but easy to get through with half decent handling skills.
There was one barrier to get over that forced a hill run up on the opposite side.
I ended up racing in the Cat 4 Masters 45+ since there was no Clydesdale option and I didn’t feel like getting crushed by the Cat 3’s.
I had decent start, and was conscious of not putting myself on the front and burning too much energy too early. I was passed by a fair number of racers in the first couple of minutes, but navigated around them later as they blew up.
I found I was able to gain on those in front of me by concentrating on keeping a low cadence and applying more power. Then when the tight corners came I would take turns passing and getting passed by other racers. Counter-intuitively, to me anyway, I was stronger on the “fast” sections than in the tight technical sections. It felt a lot like a diesel coming up to speed. My RPM’s would get up past 75-80 and I would shift up. Cadence would creep up again and I would shift up again. There were two or three sections where I could play that game and make gains.
In the end, I finished 18 out of 30. Still not that top 50% I’ve been chasing, but not bad for a race I have not really been targeting.
A big shoutout to the organizers for the Labor Day Cylcocross Championships for putting on a great event. It was a nice venue and the gear I got set up for the team tent made it even more fun for our group.