My first season of cyclocross is in the books and I can safely say that my first foray into the mud has been a resounding success. Not only did I accomplish all of my goals for the season, but I had a truck load of fun and am definitely hooked on cross. In fact, despite being incredibly sick the final two weeks of the season and only getting a few rides in, I managed my best result at the State Championships.
I did struggle early season with the mental side of racing. In the first five races I did, I had three DNFs. In the interest of fairness, one of those was from a gnarly crash on an off camber turn, but the other two were from a lack of mental toughness. In search of tools, I read Matt Fitzgerald’s new book “How Bad Do You Want It”, which gave me some things to think about. The biggest of which was going into the race knowing that it will be incredibly difficult and breaking up the courses into manageable section where I could plan my efforts. This is something I will have to continue working on, but I’m on the right track. My only relapse was during the State Championship, but I persevered and had my best result of the season.
The adaptation that I am most proud of during the season was the change of pedals. After two quasi-muddy races it was apparent that my Shimano XTs were not hacking it. I was struggling to clip in after a couple of dismounts and was becoming increasingly frusterated, so I moved to Crank Brother’s Candies. This was a great decision and I wish I had done it sooner. The platform is as stable as the XTs, but the mud clearance is far superior. My only complaint is that the pedals disengage a little too quickly, but I managed to work around it as the season progressed. Also, if the cleats are flipped, you get an extra five degrees of float, which might be worth investigating.
Race Review (time differential):
|BRAC CX State Championships
|Rocky Mountain Regional Championships
|Cyclo X – Sienna Lake
|Cyclo X – Interlocken
|Cyclo X – Flatirons
|US Open (Day 2)
|Cross of the North
|SOCO – Rhyolite
Progress throughout the season was steady and consistent leading into the final races of the season where I actually cracked the top 20. As one would expect, when we got to the championship events at the end of the season we see some sandbagging, which shows itself in the increasing differential between myself and the top 20. Overall, I’m super happy with how the season played out and I can’t wait to start drilling it in the off season. I plan to hit the ground running at the season openers next September!
Starting Row: 4th
Call Up: 30th
My best result of the season! This result also completes my final goal of the season of being in the top 20, albeit barely. The race is made all the better because I have been sick for the last two weeks and have only had a few rides leading up to this race. Additionally, during the second lap, I had a bit of a mental breakdown where I really wanted to quit. In order to push myself, I started breaking the course up into pieces in order to manage where my effort would be spent and was able to push on. I can only credit Matt Fitzgerald’s new book “How Bad Do You Want It” for these kinds of tools. Mental toughness is a weakness for me and this book has helped me steady myself during difficult moments.
Lastly, this was my first chance to really test the Crank Brother’s Candy pedals that I purchased a few weeks ago. Previously, I had been riding on Shimano XTs and struggled to clip in at several muddy races earlier in the season. The verdict: the Candy pedals are amazing. Today’s races was a complete mud batch and I NEVER had issues clipping in. These things clear mud like I never thought possible and I will not be switching again any time soon. My only complaint is that the pedals disengage a little too easily, but I’ve learned to work around this. Additionally, I read that if you flip the cleats around that you get an extra five degrees of float, which will help me disengage the pedals alter; this might be worth investigating in the future.
- Overall handling was good
- Made a strong comeback during the second lap
- Rain pants during the preview lap were a great idea
- New pedals have far superior mud clearance
- Fell apart during the beginning of the second lap
- Illness kept me from riding and I felt it in my form
- Poor clip in and sprint at the start
UPDATE (12/24/2015): I went to the doctor yesterday and it turns out that I have had pneumonia for the last three weeks. This would explain my lack of energy and the mental collapse I had during the second lap of the race. It really makes me wonder where I would have come in if I was totally healthy. Anyway, back to taking in some nice off season recovery!
Starting Row: 4th
Call Up: 28th
Not much to say about this race. Overall, I placed slightly higher than I was called up, but, as the race unfolded, it was clear that I need more sustained power in order to realize better results. This is something that I can’t do much about until the off season. A few bobbles aside, I had consistent lap times which allowed me to pass others whom blew up as the race went on, but there was still a significant gap between myself and the top 20.
The only real issue I can find with this race that was within my control was the number of sections that I bobbled. None of the mistakes were huge in and of themselves, but, combined, I suspect I lost 20-30 seconds. The most evident place that I had issues was entering the second sand pit after a 90 degree turn. In about half of the laps, I missed the entrance to the grove in the pit and had to dismount because of it. The other place I lost a couple of seconds each lap was on the fast decent during the transition between pavement and grass. There as a little ramp leading into a 45 degree turn that I instinctively kept braking for each lap. By the end I was only feathering the brakes, but I was still unnecessarily feathering. Again, not a ton I can do about this now, except make note of it and hammering my technical skills during the off season.
Hopefully I can pull a rabbit out of my hat for the final race of the season, but I’m bracing myself for a missed goal this season. I’m not overall concerned about it however as I have big plans for the off season!
- Consistent lap times allowed me to make up positions
- Strong sprint off of the line
- Remounts with the new pedals were flawless
- Need more sustained power in order to achieve better results
- Too many bobbles on technical sections, especially the sand pits