USGP Fort Collins

I have to say I had a very disappointing weekend.  I’m feeling rather apathetic about writing it up, and I don’t want to be giving excuses. I’ll be somewhat brief here and summarize my thoughts on the weekend.

Day 1

The forecasters had a rough week here in Colorado, and they were wrong about Saturday for about the third day in a row.  10% chance of showers turned into a few hours of steady rain.  The course was thirsty, and it stopped raining a couple hours before start, so most of the course was simply tacky for the Men’s Elite race.  I stuck with mud tires for the few sections on the course that stayed slippery.

My mud clinchers seemed to work fine since traction was mostly plentiful, and there was nary a rock on the course so I was comfortable at a low (about 30 psi) pressure on my 31c Crosswolfs.  I drew a decent start position and was about mid-field in the first part of the race.

It wasn’t a good day for my legs and I started drifting backwards.  I felt like I was going as hard as I could, but guys that don’t usually get the better of me kept coming past.  I feel like I have a history of under-performing at the big cyclocross races, and I’m not exactly sure why. One of my theories is that the guys I can hang with on a regular weekend are focusing on the big races more than I am, and show up on peak form.  Another is that I may be over-rested: I had great legs on Wednesday, but after two more days off I didn’t have the punch I needed.

Either way, my result was pretty dismal: 67th/90.  I was pulled with four laps to go and only had 316NP for 38 minutes of racing.  I cleaned up my bike (including my normal race wheels which I’d previewed the course with), and mentally prepared for the next day’s race.

Day 2

I felt a little bit like the excitement was lacking overall for me at this race.  Usually I’m totally excited to be racing with the fastest guys in the country.  There is a lot to learn by having the opportunity to preview the course with them.  The level of production/course design, and media attention also add to the excitement.  But this weekend I felt like I wasn’t really that star struck and was simply going through the motions.

I noticed my rear dugast sidewall wasn’t very happy after the previous day’s wet conditions.  The tires really are only good for one season, but I’d broken my collarbone (on the second day of the Fort Collins USGP) and was still riding the same set.  There was a little rot but they’d been holding steady until the prior day’s moisture.  They’re on my lightest set of wheels and the tread was good for the second day’s super fast dry course.  I figured they’d hold for the race.

I was wrong.  After the first lap, we hit the pavement across the finish line and I could feel the tire, ‘whump, whump, whump’, rolling across the pavement irregularly.  I was able to ride to the pit before it exploded, but had to change the wheel as I don’t have a spare bike.  I only lost about 30 seconds, but on the second lap of the race it put me pretty far back.

The course was very fast, but still bumpy.  I tried previewing it with lower tire pressure (low 20s), but I felt like I didn’t have enough stability in the corners.  Higher pressure had me bumping all over the course.  I settled on 24/26 which seemed a good compromise.  The course also was constantly turning, with only a few full throttle sections.  Gone were last year’s long, straight climbs.  I was ‘floating’ (off the saddle / absorbing the bumps) over basically the entire course and pretty soon my back and arms gave out.

I could easily feel that my pedaling strength was limited by the muscles in my lower back.  My legs were better but I wasn’t going much faster than the previous day.  I was pulled at 2 laps to go in 61st place.  According to the lap time report, if I’d been consistent with my fastest two laps, I probably could have finished on the lead lap in 50th.  I would have been reasonably happy with that result, but I still think it is within my ability this season to be closer to the mid-30s.  My power numbers were actually in line with what I’ve been seeing this season with 321 NP for the 52 minutes of racing.

Another factor is that I think the fields were bigger and stronger than last year.  The field was stacked with plenty of travelling pros along with quite a few locally based pro mountain bike racers who can always have a respectable showing.

It is now two weeks until the big show comes back to town.  I’m looking forward to the opportunity to redeem myself.  Usually I’m proud to have my name appear on the results in international media, but not as far down the results sheet as it was this weekend.

I’ll be looking for some new tires as my rear Dugast had the latex tube bulging out through the sidewall.  I haven’t decided what I’m going to get but look for a review of my Dugast experience soon.

I’ve had some low back pain over the years, but my triceps felt like I’d done 1000 pushups which isn’t normal for me.  I’m going to attribute this to course conditions and a lack of upper body strength.  I’d done some upper body/core conditioning earlier in the season before I started racing, but I might want to consider continuing this further into the year.

 

About Russell

I have been racing bicycles for a decade. This blog will chronicle my efforts as a Category 1 road racer lining up with the pros.
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6 Responses to USGP Fort Collins

  1. Mike says:

    This is the most enjoyable and informative blog on elite-amateur bike racing I’ve come across so far, well done. I particularly enjoy the details about all the times things don’t go according to plan. That is sort of how bike racing as a hobby goes – a bit of a clown show but occasionally you get to raise the hands over the head. Re: the “cross back” a combination dry needling once per week + 5-10 minutes of core stuff (lots of straight back squats to wake up the hips) before each ride worked for me.

  2. says:

    Russell, for conditions like the first day, what would you have preferred running instead of both mud tires? I race in similar conditions later in the winter, and I was considering a mud tire on the front and normal Challenge Grifo on the rear. If I did that, I’d be using a mud clincher on front and rear tubular. Not sure the mud clincher on the front is worth it compared to running two tubulars. If you could choose tires again for Satruday, what mix would you pick?

    • says:

      I’ve run clincher/tubular combinations before without much trouble. Generally I’ve seen cross racers put the more aggressive tire on the front, like you’ve mentioned.

      Also, for deeper mud, a narrower front tire may ‘cut’ through to where the traction is, rather than ‘floating’. The rear tire usually has more weight so this is less of an issue.

      On saturday I would have been happy with both mud tires.

  3. says:

    Hello Russell,
    As far as rotting Dugasts are concerned you can get Aquasure (also by Dugast) to seal the casing against the weather. I think it is only available when you get new tyres, however, I might be wrong.

    I have personally been doing quite some core stability workouts for the last 4 weeks and I can say I see some noticeable improvements on my positioning on the bike and ability to put power to the pedals without upper body instability. (I have lower back injuries from the years of rowing before I switched to cycling). I don’t do cyclocross, however, I can see how the benefits might be even greater than pure road cycling. I am in the process of completely overhauling my blog; in the next week or so I will post the exercises I’ve been doing together with my experience. Core and general body strength is quite often overlooked in many sports; I personally think it can make quite a difference.

    • says:

      I had sealed my dugast, but a full season of racing including pressure washing turned out to be too much for them.

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