Shaking off the bad vibes of losing a WAR championship on a tie breaker, I spent the week riding the MTB and just enjoying the ride. There was a FSC race at Hailes which is always one of the best places to ride in the state, so I packed up the bike and headed up there. The course was amazing, with crazy punchy climbs and new sections added I had never seen. If you’ve never gotten a chance to race at Hailes aka Gatorback, DO IT. I got to pre-ride the race course with all my MTB buddies who I missed racing with all year.
But wait a second, isn’t this an article about Rodeo Cross? Yes, yes it is. You see, while the conditions at Hailes were perfect on Saturday for the pre-ride, a major storm was coming through the state and that course would turn to mud overnight. Having done a 6hr race there earlier this year in a pouring rain, the idea of trashing my freshly serviced Trek Top Fuel (thanks Beyond Bikes!) in 90 minutes of slop didn’t’ sound so appealing. But you know what did sound appealing: cyclocross in the mud. Fortunately I’d brought my CX bike with me, and there was a CX race south of Ocala on Sunday so we packed up and headed there.
Rolling into the race course under thunder and lightning I knew it was going to be a messy day. Sure enough, it was so sloppy we didn’t even bother setting up our tent, instead just hiding in the van until it cleared enough to see about racing. We’d got there in time to race the Cat 4/5 race which was perfect, so I did a loop of the course to see what we had. The course was in a pasture which had been recently used, so there were…uh….obstacles throughout. The was a nice pit that we went down, around and up, some barriers, and a long slow leg burning climb to the finish on each lap. And plenty of mud and grass to clog any derailleurs.
Instead of having the Single Speed in the pits this time I had the full suspension Trek Top Fuel, so I was ready for whatever. When the whistle blew I hit out hard and settled into a rhythm. The laps were short and there was a young kid up front just drilling the pace. I couldn’t quite hang on and slowly drifted back over the first couple laps. Suddenly when I shifted into the large ring on the front my gears started grinding funny. I clicked through the cassette and chainrings to find a combo that worked and after a bit it resolved itself. Good, I wouldn’t have to use my pit bike. Except it did it again. And again. It seemed to happen right after the pits, and fix itself right before I got back to the pits.
Turns out 1500 miles is about the lifespan for Shimano derailleur pulleys when subjected to CX abuse, and these had developed a nice groove for an alternate chainline. Dropping back to 5th I just found a gear and stuck in it, not that the shifters were working anyways. It was also my first CX race with a power meter, so you know we’re gonna have to sit down and Analyze that after the season…
Racing CX in gross muddy conditions was pretty cool. It was a short day but I hear Swamp Cross in Gainesville might have some mud, and I’m ready for it!
Check out a sneak peek gallery here and be sure to enjoy and download the photos in the full gallery of 2018 Rodeo Cross photos, taken by my wife, Jemma.