Last night I had the opportunity to pre-ride the Trek CXC Cup course. With nothing to compare it to (I didn’t get to ride last year’s course) it’s hard telling if it’s better than last year. I did hear a number of riders say they enjoyed it and that the “sketchy downhill” wasn’t as gnarly as it was last year. I saw one rider take a spill down it as she had opted to ride down it and not run the bike down. Even running with the bike down it was tough because a) bike shoes have crap for traction b) it was short and really steep.
The course has a lot of what I would call “fast” sections where you can definitely make up time that you’ll spend navigating sharp turns and running with the bike. In the “forest” section it’s a bumpy ride, but that leads you to a short section of pavement and then grassy flats.
The start has a short uphill and then the section of hairpin turns that could make or break someone race. If you can navigate them well and not get caught in the inevitable clusterf*ck…you’ll do well. After the pin turns, you cross over the pavement to get to “sketchy hill”. I would probably run down it so as to not completely crash out. You then get to a short fast flat and reach a hill that I would probably opt to run up, but some riders may be able to ride it and not waste the time having to clip back in. The route then takes you through a grass section and you hit two barriers you have to go over before you hit the little forest section with the bumpy ride and then to more grassy area and you eventually get back to the start.
There were a couple of times while I was on the course where I pulled over and watched how others would navigate obstacles. Was it faster to stay on the bike and shift into small gear to ride up a steep hill or was it faster to put the bike on the shoulder and run? Should I ride the inside or outside of a line to make sure I don’t crash into a the gates lining the course?
The best part was that most of the other riders out there (at least the ladies…the guys, not so much) were all very supportive and helpful. They could probably tell I was a total noob, but at least they were nice about it.
I must admit that I’m not that big into racing in general, but riding on the course made me want to get a license for the day so I could take a stab at it. What I think I love most about ‘cross is that you need the speed of a road racer and the bike handling skills of a seasoned mountain biker to be good at it. Tackling the barriers, sandy pits, hairpin turns, and ruts all takes practice. The challenge is what makes it intriguing, as well as the short race times. Most of them don’t last longer than 30-45 minutes.
I look forward to getting more involved in the local ‘cross scene. Madison has some pretty die hard racers and super fans. Who knows, maybe I’ll end up getting my racing license and entering into the Cat 4 field. I’ll probably get my ass handed to me, but at least I’ll be having fun!
The Trek CXC Cup is happening all weekend long at Trek’s world headquarters in Waterloo. Stop out to watch the race, visit the expo, and have a good time cheering on the riders!