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Houston Cross Weekend December 6-7 2008

December 10, 2008

I decided to skip the Camp Eagle marathon mountain bike race to do a few cross races in Houston. Normbikesport2ally, skipping any kind of mountain bike race for a race that involves tires skinnier than 1.9” is blasphemy and not in my nature especially if it involves going to Houston. This go round, though, I wasn’t really feeling like riding 42 miles of Camp Eagle, not to mention it’s a longer drive and I’ve already been twice this year for Xterra and the XC race. I didn’t really have a good bike setup either. So, I made the decision Friday night to head for Houston in the morning.

Frustration Continues

Saturday’s race was held at beautiful Eleanor Tinsley park with the skyline as a nice backdrop. I was telling Colleen how I remember the first cross race I ever did being somewhere nearby as we were driving there, and sure enough, it was the same park that I had done my first ever cross race about 5 years ago when I raced for UT. I had the bike setup with a Shimano 1×9 drivetrain this time following the bad weekend in Dallas. It worked well at the Dirt Derby on Tuesday and so I felt good about it for the weekend. I did, however, bring my mountain bike this time to place in the pit in case something did go wrong. Same story, 1000th verse. I have a crappy start, but begin to make my way towards the front in the middle of the race. Chain jumps off the front chainring and gets jammed in the crank while a good chunk of the pack passes me by. It is still intact, but damaged from getting it loose and back on. It lasts long enough to make it to the pit and switch bikes. The mountain bike was noticeably slower on such a smooth course, but I still managed to gain back 5 or so spots to finish 17 of 33 or so. After the race was the real fun part. Free beer and a really good local blues band. The weather was great for sitting around and watching the open race.

After my buzz goes down a bit, Colleen and I decide to go find a hotel and do something fun around town. We get a decent room close to the Sunday race site and settle in. I decide to do something with the dilapidated cross bike so maybe it’ll actually be of use tomorrow. Fed up with gears and derailleurs turning against me, I decide to go single speed once again. Unlike last time in Dallas, I brought a super rad chain tensioner with me this time in case of a situation like this. I also brought a pretty foolproof single speed chain with me. If the same model chain would last numerous miles on my mountain bike, I felt 100% confident it would handle some cross racing. After that was fixed, we went downtown and walked around a bit before having a nice dinner at Cabo and returning to the hotel.

Redemption, at last

Who knew what the new day would bring. It would take an act of God or extreme carelessness on my part to break my bike today, so I wasn’t worried about that, but instead I was worrying if my single speed setup would put me at a disadvantage. On some courses it helps you because you must push harder to get up some climbs. On courses that have both steep climbs and long flat straights it can hurt you, because you won’t be able to ride the steep parts and you’ll run out of gears on the flats. I had my fingers crossed that Mason park would be somewhere in the middle, neither an advantage or disadvantage. This was a new venue to the Texas series, and I guess that kept some racers away because we only had around 19 starters to yesterday’s 35 or so. At any case, I think all I really expected was to have a good time and get a good workout. I roll up to the start line last on my one gear machine, hang over my bars and yawn a few times. I’m still looking around as they blow the whistle. I figure it’s time to get going. I sit back for most of the first lap because I can see the leader, and he ain’t getting away in a hurry. The last stretch of the lap is uphill, but you can really push it and blow by people. When it seemed like people were already starting to hurt at this point, the beast within me awoke and it was @#$%*& on! I charged to the front by the third lap and it was a constant battle between the top 4 riders. We kept attacking each other and switching off the lead. It seemed like everybody had different recovery parts of the course. The single speed was holding it’s own out there. Not only was I in the top 5 this time, I was making some moves and putting the hurt on. There was one spot on the course where lack of gearing appeared to hurt me a bit. There was a short steep hill after a flat open field. I had no choice but to push it hard to carry enough momentum over the hill, and this usually got me past riders, but the big push left me a little winded and I would get passed and gapped on the next 1000 yards of field until the run up. For the run up I was able to ride most of it, and then run the last bit fast and make up a little time, but then struggled on the downhill and the long stretch of sidewalk to keep up without gearing. That’s where riding fixed gear down Austin hills comes in handy! The sidewalk ends at some loose switchback turns and then it’s the gradual uphill towards the finish where I made up most of my time. At one point I think the leader had a 10-15 second gap. I kept having this thought “There Will Be No White Flag Upon This Bike” dance through my head (thanks Dido!) and not only caught back up but gapped him with 1 ½ laps to go. My opponent was very worthy though, and he was back on me like white on rice as the bell rang for the final lap. I knew he would probably drop me on the flat sidewalk, so I had to make the strongest effort I could on the technical sections, the barriers, the run up etc. to prevent this. It worked, I was able to stave off the threat, but he was still with me through the twisty section, so as soon as we turned the corner it was a pretty mad dash to the finish. I worked too hard and went through too many crappy races to let this one get away. Redemption was finally mine. A guy who had not finished higher than 7th all season and 17th the day before showed up on a bike with one gear and left with the W. Thanks be to God, for whom all glory is due, and thanks be to Colleen, my ever supportive girlfriend. The single speed cross bike is the start of something very, very good. Thanks for reading.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 10, 2008 2:16 pm

    Hey, big congrats on the win–great read!
    Ride One or Ride None!


  1. Houston Cyclocross, Greg the Caveman Style |

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