2013 NCCX Series, Weeks 6&7

Week Six: Wilkesboro

Week six of the North Carolina Cyclocross (NCCX) Series had us in Wilkesboro, North Carolina for what is by many accounts, the most physically demanding course of the season.  The shortest lap so far this season with only 1.2 miles per circuit compared to the others at between 1.6 and 1.9 miles. The average temperature was 33 degrees!

Yes, it was cold -- 33 degrees with a 20 mph wind!

Yes, it was cold in Wilkesboro — 33 degrees with a 20 mph wind!

It was true cyclocross weather… whatever that is?!  I think that is cycling code for miserable, but I’m still new so that’s just a wild guess.  Cold and it felt even colder because the wind was blowing 15-20 miles per hour.  It was definitely an embrocation day.

The course this year was easier than last year but that’s not saying much.  It was still very physically demanding with lots of climbing, quite a few technical sections, and several obstacles.  A run-up from last year had steps added for fun and a gravel road climb was shortened, but overall it was about the same course.

I rode hard in both races, and my numbers show as much.  I also noticed that my single speed lap times and average speed was slightly higher than my numbers for the geared bike.  Hmmm.  I’ll have to look into that and report back next week.  It certainly makes one wonder.

I was fast enough for 4th place but couldn't pull off a podium.

I was fast enough for 4th place but couldn’t pull off a podium in Wilkesboro.

Well, my 4th place finish was enough to move me solidly into 3rd place in series for the Masters 55+ CX 1/2/3 category.  I’m not even in the running for the single speed category which has some of the top riders of all ages in it.  I feel like its a victory just to keep them in sight.  Oh well, on to week seven.

Week Seven: Salisbury

Week seven took us to Salisbury, North Carolina for this season’s first mud-fest.  I love Salisbury when it’s dry, but I love it even more when it is muddy.  It has all the elements you would expect in a cyclocross race: grassy chicanes, climbs, obstacles, single track, pavement — technical and power sections.  But with the wet conditions it became a race more about skill than power.

Salisbury’s mud was my payday.  The fast, flat, dry courses favor the roadies.  Those guys are used to hammering hard for long hauls without stopping.  Mountain bike riders are at a disadvantage because cross country mountain biking is a couple of hours of short, extreme efforts and bike handling skills.  This year Salisbury favored the mountain bikers.

Andrew Ammons 1st, Dwight Wyatt, 2nd, and me on the short step.

Andrew Ammons 1st (center), Dwight Wyatt 2nd (left), and me on the short step.

It was nice to be able to gain significant ground on other top riders in the sketchier technical parts, from slimy singletrack to greasy off-camber turns.  My mountain bike skills and my flat-bar setup gave me enough of an edge to move up to third for another podium finish.  I was slowly gaining on second but ran out of race before catching him.  Again, in single speed I was happy for my mid-pack finish.

This whole season I’ve been wondering why it seems so difficult to move up in this group of masters riders.   I’ve been careful to train hard, watch my diet and rest, keep my equipment in top shape, and keep my handling skills on point by riding my mountain bike every chance I get.  I thought it might be interesting to do some research and see just who these guys are.

NCCX Series Rankings as of Week Seven.

NCCX Series Rankings as of Week Seven.

When I did, I found my answer:  I’m racing against the who’s who of North Carolina Cyclocross masters riders.  Many certified bad-asses are in this group.

1st Place:  Dwight Wyatt — 2006 Winter Cup Champion, 2006 NCCX Series 3rd Place, 2007 NCCX Series 2nd Place

2nd Place: Chuck Gillis — 2008 Winter Cup 2nd Place, 2008 NCCX Series 2nd Place, 2009 NCCX Series Champion

3rd Place: Matt Jones — 2012 NCCX Series 5th Place (my first year)

4th Place: David Stevens — 2010 NCCX Series 3rd Place, 2012 NCCX Series 3rd Place

5th Place: Andrew Ammon — 2010 NCCX Series Champion, 2011 NCCX Series 2nd Place

6th Place: Todd Thornton — 2006 Winter Cup 3rd Place, 2007 NCCX Series 3rd Place

9th Place: Doug Shaw — 2012 NCCX Series 2nd Place

10th Place: David Fuller — 2007 NCCX Series 3rd Place, 2009 NCCX Series 3rd Place

14th Place: Kerry Shields — 2006  NCCX Series Champion, 2007 Winter Cup Champion, 2007 NCCX Series Champion, 2008 NCCX Series Champion, 2008 Winter Cup Champion, 2009 NCCX Series 2nd Place

16th Place: Robert Pugh — 2008 Winter Cup 3rd Place

No wonder it is so hard to catch these guys.  Most have not only been racing forever, but have been on the podium forever too!  This group of masters has eight Series Championships, six Series 2nd Places, and eight Series 3rd Places!  That’s a whopping 22 Series podiums over the last 7 years.  Wow!  Now I don’t feel so bad to be inching up slowly.

Here are my numbers for any of you who care:

Wilkesboro Single Speed

  • Avg HR: 95 % of Max

  • Avg Power: 254 W

  • Max Avg Power (20 min): 239 W

Wilkesboro CX 1/2/3

  • Avg HR: 93 % of Max

  • Avg Power: 209 W

  • Max Avg Power (20 min): 210 W

Salisbury Single Speed

  • Avg HR: 95 % of Max

  • Avg Power: 241 W

  • Max Avg Power (20 min): 232 W

Salisbury Single Speed

  • Avg HR: 95 % of Max

  • Avg Power: 214 W

  • Max Avg Power (20 min): 216 W

A few observations: Single speed tends to have higher average power numbers.  I don’t know if that is because you have to work harder or if I just perform better on the single speed bike.  Heart rate is staying above threshold for the entire race, although you could see the effect of fatigue and the long drive on my second race in Wilkesboro.

Next weekend is the North Carolina Grand Prix in Hendersonville.  It is a two day event and I’ll race twice each day.  Weather is supposed to be cold and rainy with a possibility of snow on Sunday.  The field should be pretty deep since it is the only UCI race of the series and will attract top riders from all over the US and beyond.