Rides We Like: An Ode to the US Cyclocross Nationals
(2017) To the layman it would be deemed erratic behavior. In motorsports, a driver racing in the rain naturally selects rain tires to maintain track position. But what to do when the track begins drying out? In some situations drivers will stay out in hopes the precipitation will resume. If the track begins to dry out, the softer compound rain tires will fall apart on a dry track. So the driver will look as if he is erratic in the seeking of puddles around the track to keep the tire temperatures low. He’ll suddenly veer one racing line up to give the tires a proper dousing before picking the efficient line.
Imagine that approach applied to a bike ride yesterday amidst a snow squall that produced four inches and stuck to every surface. Since it came out of nowhere midday I had figured any sort of ride would be sent in-of-doors on the blasted rollers. Yet in the back of the garage sat the Missus’ mountain bike ready to step up for the sake of riding. The blinking light from the road bike was transferred to the seat post of the mountain bike. A strange consideration of footwear had to happen regarding the platform pedals. I donned my road gear and a pair of hiking shoes.
Upon departure the roads were frosted with the freshly fallen airy powder consistent with a very cold front. I had my choice of line and choice of gear as I departed the community. Out on farm roads and the wind became more biting. I regretted dismissing my goggles as an option. The wind crept around the eyewear causing the tears of joy to freeze.
In certain areas the road was treated. Mostly at intersections the quintessential signs of treatment abound in the form of gravel and salt. A visible wet road surface, too, made itself known. In those cases I picked the side, I darted out of the efficient line of riding into the snow. As the route approached a regularly traveled road, the treatment picked up. I began seeking pockets of powder. In some cases the frozen snow pile from the week’s previous storm announcing itself in crunchy and attention grabbing wheel wobbling. I swore allegiance to Andy Hamsten’s Passo Gavio performance in the Giro.
Though short, the ride’s start and finish conditions had changed dramatically. Like a motorsports racer, I darted for untouched corners and considered inches wide shoulders in earnest. The township trucks were now visible, too. The snowy start surface was becoming a slushy mess. The slush so far had given me exactly two gears to work with after the derailleur froze roughly three miles into the ride.
The remarkable conclusion to draw is the fact that, some two hundred miles north, in Hartford, CT, the Cyclocross Nationals were happening. They would culminate with the big show on Sunday. The forecast for Sunday was worse. Snow to remain, but cracking cold and absolutely howling winds. It was the fact that some of our teammates were racing Saturday that got us out the door. Perhaps it was the fact that, in our recent interview with Ellen Noble, she stated she likes the hard weather, but whatever the reason we got out to ride. To the strangely regular cars passing me, they may have thought my selection to ride in the snow was completely erratic. But in my mind, those racing in the Cyclocross Nationals this weekend, they will search for completely erratic lines to gain purchase on corners and off-camber lines just to hurry the ending on what will paradoxically be a very long one hour of racing.