2015 CX7s Austin Cyclocross Festival

Last weekend marked the first trip to Austin of the year. Weather-wise we were due to get some very wet weather, which would make for some muddy racing. Whether you’re all for it or absolutely dread it, racing in the mud is an undeniably good time and you can’t help but feel like a kid again all covered in mud. In Dallas, we got a good preview of the weekend ahead as wet weather rolled in for the Creek Cross series. It made for a late night of laundry and bike washing but I was thankful for some time practicing my mud skills before heading down south!

Saturday

Rob Sandusky (Matrix/RBM), Logan DeBorde (Cadence Cyclery) & I rolled down on Friday night. We were able to commandeer the sprinter van, which was awesome! Thanks Logan for locking that in! Arriving in our #pro set up, we awoke on Saturday morning to sheets of rain battering the window. I’m pretty sure a collective sigh was audible in the room. But as we started to roll ourselves out of bed, we were greeted with the news that the Saturday races had been cancelled.

Flashbacks of cyclocross nationals came to the forefront of my mind. But don’t worry people, this time the trees were safe and sound (too soon?). Rather, the extensive amount of rain made it quite dangerous to have people out and about. The decision to cancel a race is surely never easy for the promoters, but in this case, it was the right choice to make.

Obligatory coffee shop photo

Obligatory coffee shop photo

To be honest, I was kind of thankful the race was cancelled. It’s always hard to get motivated for racing in the rain but the thought of cleaning up bikes and kits was just terrifying and I was glad that we’d only have one day of clean up rather than two. Now that we had a full day in front of us, we elected to head to Austin and tool around a bit. A stop for coffee at Caffé Medici, a peak at the Bicycle Sport Shop store took up most of the morning. But the highlight of the day was the spontaneous decision to get tickets to the University of Texas football game – Good idea Rob!

With some quick googling we found some cheap tickets and headed to the stadium. Attendance was a bit sparse on account of the nasty weather but that meant we found some killer seats in the student section. It was quite the experience and I think my jeans are still drying out from the amount of water they took on. After drying off in the van, we grabbed a late lunch, watched the Canadian women battle for a cyclocross championship, then headed back to the hotel for our trainer workouts. With no racing today, we had to do something, right?

Actually, THIS was the highlight of the day!!

Intervals complete and more food downed, we hit the hay for our last day of racing… maybe.

Sunday

Sunday started much like Saturday, rain, rain, and more rain. However, the promoters made the decision to hold the races and brave the weather in hopes the forecasted dry skies in the afternoon would hold true.

We rolled to the course and set up our camp with bike rack, tent, tables, tools, etc. It felt pretty dang pro! With an hour delay in the morning, the races were being run back-to-back in quick succession. But even with the quick schedule, I was able to squeeze in a quick lap of the course. And just one lap, because more than one lap would have meant even more clean up.

The course would have been amazing in dry conditions. But with the wet, it was going to be something truly unique. There was plenty of elevation change, lots of long switchbacks, and some parts that would have been fun to rip under dry skies. However, the boggy conditions meant the race would end up being a tractor pull more than anything. Who can churn the most watts for the longest period of time? I just hoped I could keep up!

After some equipment deliberating, we headed to staging to get our mudfest underway. Fortunately for me, the call-ups were based on USAC ranking points so I was able to snag a spot on the front row of the grid. The whistle sounded and I got a clean jump off the line but reserved a bit of effort to not go straight to the front of the race. As we hit the first set of barriers for the first time, everyone took it a bit slow and remounted tentatively before the first of several deep puddles on the course+.

+Side bar: I am all for gnarly courses and gnarly conditions; However, when the course runs through almost a foot (12”) of water, something should be done. This isn’t an adventure race, this isn’t a creek crossing. It’s a cyclocross race.

 

As the first lap dragged on, I found myself in 2nd place with Rob off the front of the race. I won’t say I wasn’t going hard, but I was finding some creative lines. Sections that I had ridden in the one lap pre-ride were not as rideable as I had predicted and proved faster to run. Good thing I’ve done more running this year! Finally, after a slog of an opening lap Colin Strickland (Elbowz) came past me on the pavement of the start/finish line. My initial urge was to jump on his wheel, but let’s be real the dude has an engine of a Mac truck compared to my Fiat-sized motor. So I decided to ride my own pace and try and keep Colin and Rob at a close distance.

Sinking back to 4th through the lake that was in the middle of the course, the race was still pretty tight. Everyone was going hard, but the duration of the race would eventually prove to be the deciding factor. Rob had some shifting trouble and fell off the pace. He rejoined me and together we dropped the other rider in our trio. At this point, Colin had a good lead but we kept clawing back some seconds here and there, so there was always a glimmer of hope.

The race started taking its toll on bike and rider. With 2 laps to go, I felt as though my front tire was going soft (sure enough it was), and I decided to take a fresh bike for the last couple laps. Jumping on a clean ride felt good and added a little pep to my step. I was able to stay out of any trouble over the next lap and a half and finished the race in 2nd place.

Given the conditions and the weekend’s weather debacle, I was pretty excited to finish on the podium. It was certainly a learning experience, racing in the mud again, and given the outlook of the forecast, one that was definitely needed before more we weather rolls in to the Metroplex. After a long drive home, it took me another hour and a half to clean bikes and kits. But a clean bike is a happy bike, right?

Yours in Mud & Cowbells,

  Tyler