Pre-Season Cyclocross Races 4 & 5 at Zebulon & Durham, NC

This year I decided to race the BHB Cross Central Cyclocross Series as a cyclocross tuneup.  Last week I reported on the in the series, all held held at the Spring Hill Campus of Dorothea Dix Hospital in downtown Raleigh.  The final weekend was a Saturday and a Sunday race, Saturday at Five County Stadium in Zebulon, and Sunday at Rock Quarry Park in Durham.

A couple of things make races four and five stand out from the first three.  The first three each had an average race temperature of 71 degrees.  Race four was a blistering 91 and race five was not much better at 80 degrees.  Remember, cyclocross is a sport where you race flat-out for about 45-50 minutes with average heart rate well above 90% of max HR.

Bright and sunny and 91 degrees!  I thought CX was a winter sport!

Bright and sunny and 91 degrees! I thought CX was a winter sport!

The courses were much different from the very typical cyclocross course of the first three races.  Race four was a “roadie’s course” that was more or less a non-technical grass criterium race.  Race five was probably one-third very smooth single track and fairly technical, as cyclocross races go.  It was more a “mountain biker’s course”.  Needless to say, you can guess which course I like better.
This weekend was an experiment. Should I use a geared bike to race in the age bracket race?  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 tubeless cyclocross tires.

On the upside, the bike is much stiffer and more responsive than my pure-cyclocross bike because of the mountain bike frame design, the beefier fork, and the solid through axles front and rear as opposed to traditional skewers. The brakes are also a vast improvement being hydraulic disc as opposed to mechanical cantilevers, although I’m not sure how much brakes I really need in cyclocross.

Now the races:  In Saturday’s race I placed 16th in a field of 23.  The course was less technical than last year and was just a “How hard can you pedal?” course.  Unfortunately, on Saturday my legs decided to take the day off.  Like a dummy, I rode hard on Thursday morning and then ran six miles on Friday.  I know from previous experience that Wednesday needs to be my last hard workout, and that’s for a Sunday race.  For a Saturday race I should have taken it easy after Tuesday.

After realizing what I did wrong for Saturday’s race I came up with a plan for Sunday.  I knew everyone would be tired after Saturday, and I just needed to be less tired.  When I got home I immediately got my bike and gear all cleaned up and ready for Sunday’s race.  Then I showered and ate a high-protein meal.  I took some Naproxen Sodium (anti-inflammatory)  and then spent about an hour and a half soaking in an Epsom Salt bath.  When that was done I put on compression socks and went to bed early.

The next morning I took another round of Naproxen Sodium, had a breakfast of oatmeal, and headed for Durham for Sunday’s race.  I got there early enough for 4 laps of pre-ride.  I loved the course.  At least a third of it was single track, not too different from the mountain bike trails I’ve raced on all summer.  I felt great.  This was going to be my race, I could feel it.

My Raleigh Talus Carbon Pro mountain bike all decked out for cyclocross.

My Raleigh Talus Carbon Pro mountain bike all decked out for cyclocross.

The bike was awesome.  Stiff, responsive, and fast.  It was particularly stable on the single track sections.  When the race was over, I’d finished 9th in another field of 23+ riders.  I was happy that in my own age group (55+) I finished a close second.  Not bad considering that I’m racing Cat 1, 2, and 3 riders.

Again my lap times were very consistent — within a few seconds, and my last lap was also my fastest lap on Sunday.  My heart rate numbers looked good too — I averaged 96% of Max HR (my goal is 95%) for both of the 45+ minute races.  Sunday’s race was very strong for me.  My average power was 243 watts, a personal record.  Max power was 1,423 W, and my max average 20-minute power was 262 watts!  Those are my best power numbers ever.

Next Saturday it’s back to the mountain bike for the Brunswick Brawl 6-Hour Race in Wilmington, North Carolina.  Depending on how I feel, I might race Brute Cross in Winston Salem on Sunday.  After that it’s on to the North Carolina Cyclocross Series nearly every weekend through the end of January.