2015 Knobbies & Slicks Crosstober Fest

Two weekends ago was my first foray into the local weekend cross scene. A part of the North Texas Cyclocross Series, the Knobbies & Slicks Crosstober Fest was one of the first year races that make up the series calendar. To be quite honest, the two months of travel for work and traveling back and forth to the east coast had me a bit worn out. Having a break in the travel schedule and the opportunity to stay close to home was a nice change and a good motivator for my racing.

Saturday

After a relaxing morning at the house, I packed up and drove the 45 minutes to the other side of the Metroplex. The park had a lot of features and the course itself packed in a lot in a short distance. With Belgian steps, barriers, a long sand pit, and plenty of twists and turns to make you dizzy, the parcours provided a lot to focus on. On top of that, a lap was about 4 minutes at race pace. A bit short in my opinion, but it’s the cards we were dealt. Complain as much as you want, but in general, we all have to race the same course in the same conditions. The only thing you can do is focus on racing your best on a given day.

With two other races going on in Austin and Houston, the talent was pretty divided across the state and our elite men’s field was pretty thin. I started on the 2nd row due to a lack of series points, given that I missed the first weekend of racing. But as the gun sounded, I was able to get out of the blocks quickly and make up a few spots in the field. As we hit the Belgian Steps, I was 4th wheel and was able to ride them smoothly, keeping my momentum and making up another spot or two as we climbed back up the hill.

Reaching the highest point of the course, the peloton reorganized to single-file as we navigated the tricky slaloms and tight turns. After a morning of races, the soil and lines were pretty churned up so there was much slipping and drifting as we went through these sections. I wasn’t super confident going through the tight turns but as shred master Alex Morgan (Team HiFi) pushed his advantage, I was forced to ride towards the limits of my abilities.

On lap 3, Dylan Postier (Evoke Racing) came through along with Rob Sandusky (Matrix/RBM) and our trio worked together to close the gap to Alex. There were times when we were able to claw back a few seconds, but for the most part we settled into a battle for the remaining podium spots.

As the laps ticked on, I felt as though my rear tire was going flat, which not only affected both my confidence and my ability to focus. Losing trust as fast as my tire was losing air, I decided to pit and grab a new bike rather than suffer the potential consequences far from the pit. I made quick work in the pit but still had to close down the gap that had opened up. I rode hard, first catching up to Rob and starting to make some headway in solo 3rd, before bobbles and mistakes squashed any hope of moving up another spot – not that I would’ve been able to anyways. Dylan can shred!

While I was happy to finish on the podium in my first local race of the year, having a flat was a real bummer. Still, there was some good vibes from the first day and I was looking forward to doing better on Sunday.

Sunday

Sunday began bright and early for me. Many of my work friends were competing in the Dallas Triathlon so I rolled out to Rockwall with my friend Charlie to bring a bit of cyclocross spirit to the pro and amateur exercisers out there. We picked up a dozen donut holes to hand out to the racers.  Ok, a few less than a dozen actually made it to the race course, but our heckling and donut hand-ups were pretty well received (#handupsarenotacrime).

After rattling the tri-world with cowbells and donuts, I headed back to Keller for day two of the Knobbies & Slicks race. The course was mostly the same with a few changes of note. First, the barriers had been moved across the course to the front of the Belgian steps, which became a run up (well except for guys like Tim Cook - Team Super Awesome). The other course change was a u-turn through the sand before the same long run through the volleyball courts. Fortunately, by our race, there was a nice rut that had developed making it a little less tricky to navigate.

Scoring points yesterday meant I was on the front row for the second day of racing. I had another good start but stayed a bit more patient off the line. Chris Drummond (SPCX p/b R.K. Black) had made the trip down from Oklahoma to show us how it’s done, and he took off on the first lap, opening up a good gap on the field. His advantage stayed at about 20 seconds for a majority of the race, while Mat Stephens (Voler) and Derrick Saunders (Smooth Operator) worked to pull him back in.

Half way through the race I was riding in 2nd and pulling back seconds on Chris.

“20 seconds.”

“18 seconds.”

“15 seconds.”

The gap was coming down and my hopes were buoyed by the progress I was making. But just as I started to build up a head of steam, disaster struck and my chain popped off to the outside of the crankset. Being a wide/narrow set up, it took me a bit longer to get the chain on correctly and when I finally got situated, I had fallen back to 5th place with 6 laps to go.

Channeling my frustrations through the pedals, I rode back up to join Derrick and Mat battling for 2nd and 3rd. Trust me, it wasn’t easy as those dudes were hauling at the front of the race. I caught up with about 4 laps to go in the race. At that point I decided to roll the dice and put in a good dig to get away. Back in 2nd I kept working at the gap to Chris and though I brought it all the way back to a 3 second gap, I ran out of real estate and ended up 2nd on the day.

It was a bummer to once again be undone by a mechanical error but at the end of the day, I was happy to salvage 2nd place. Not a bad weekend of racing at home and I really enjoyed the course and the event as a whole. For a first year race, it was really well done and the venue has a great deal of potential. Hopefully 2016 will be bigger and better than the 2015 edition and we’ll continue to see the growth of cyclocross in North Texas!

 

Hup, Hup!

  Tyler