Pre-Season Cyclocross Races 1, 2 & 3 at Raleigh, NC

The 2013-2014 cyclocross season is about to start and there seems to be a flurry of pre-season races popping up around the area.  I decided to race the BHB Cross Central Cyclocross Series because it was close and four of the five races are on Saturdays.

Races 1-3 of the series were held at the Spring Hill Campus of Dorothea Dix Hospital in downtown Raleigh, a great venue.  The course was really a roadie’s course in that it was fast, flat, and non-technical, but it was still a great place to tune-up the cyclocross skills before the season begins.

It's a beautiful day for a ride in the park.

It’s a beautiful day for a ride in the park.

For the first and second weeks, the course was roughly 1.67 miles in length and with only three minor changes: the placement of the barriers, a turn was widened to go around a tree that fell between weeks one and two, and about 20 yards less pavement for the second race where they routed us onto grass earlier.

The second week was also somewhat slick from the rain prior to the race, making for slightly slower lap times.  Traction was nearly perfect on weeks one and three.  The course was slightly longer for week three with the addition of one more grass switchback, bringing the length to 1.76 miles.

My average lap times for week one were 8:10, for week two 8:21; and for week three 8:10.  Apparently, repetition makes me faster.  Week three was 0.09 mile longer and the track conditions were almost identical but my average lap times were the same, while the slippery conditions put the second week average lap times eleven seconds slower.

Running the barriers is always fun.

Running the barriers is always fun.

I also noticed that my lap times for the races are very consistent.  In races one and two, my lap times were plus or minus seven seconds, a variation of 1.5%, and race three my lap times were plus or minus four seconds or a variation of 0.8%.  For all three races my last lap time was the fastest of the day.

The takeaway seems to be that while I may not be the fastest guy, I am very consistent.  In each race I was unable to stay at the very front, but as the 45-minute race progressed, most riders began to slow down, while I didn’t, resulting in my passing many of the riders who had ridden away from me in the beginning.  Maybe if the races were just long enough, I could eventually win!

Those of you who know me know I love to race my singlespeed bikes.  After a photo finish where I lost a place at the finish line to a rider who I had previously passed because I was spun out and he was shifting, I’ve decided to try racing with gears and see how I do.  Here’s what I’ve decided to try.

Here is the Raleigh Talus Carbon Pro mountain bike all decked out for cyclocross.

Here is the Raleigh Talus Carbon Pro mountain bike all decked out for cyclocross.

I’ve taken my Raleigh Talus Carbon Pro 29er mountain bike and replaced the suspension fork with a rigid carbon fork and I’ve replaced the 2.2” mountain bike tires with some 31mm light and narrow cyclocross tires.  I ran these same tires tubeless last season and they performed well, so I am excited about trying this rig out next week.  It’s a bit of a weight penalty — my single speed cross bike weighs 15lbs 3oz (ready to ride) while the geared Raleigh weighs 17lbs 1oz — but still lighter than many cyclocross bikes.

On the upside, the bike will be much more stiff and responsive because of the larger tubes and the solid through axles front and rear as opposed to traditional skewers. The brakes will also be a vast improvement being hydraulic disc as opposed to mechanical cantilevers, although I’m not sure how much brakes I really need in cyclocross.

As for my heart rate and power numbers, they are looking  consistent and better than last year.  My average heart rate was 98% of max HR for race one and two, and 96% of max HR for race three.  My target is 90-95% average for the entire 45-50 minute race.

There are two more pre-season tune-up races to go, both next weekend.  Next Saturday is in Zebulon and Sunday is in Durham.  The following weekend it’s back to the mountain bike for the Brunswick Brawl 6 Hour Race in Wilmington, North Carolina.  After that it’s on to the North Carolina Cyclocross Series through the end of January.