Monastery Lake Cyclocrost Racing


click for big

Usually (in my very limited previous 4 race experience) cross racing in NM seems to be wide freeking open, grassy field with limited altitude change. This is kind of sad. I think this is the extreme of the eurocrossification of the US cross scene. I don't mind eurocross, but a bit of a mix is good, no?

Given my nascent cross experience in nonsanctioned races in the early mid/late nineties in public parks and vacant lots in san francisco, I think true american cyclocross is junglecross, festooned with singletrack and natural barriers such as huge freeking redwood logs, the kind you have to throw your bike over and then climb over after. The clever balance in keeping a junglecross course "cross", rather than a mtb race, is making a race filled with silly runs, singletrack and the like still faster on cross tires than big fat knobbies. Not easy, but doable.

What am I getting at here? As a single speed cross racer I favor jungle cross courses, but I like cross in all of its forms. However, constant roadie like cross courses wear me out. Until this week, all 4 of the cross races I have seen in NM have ended in 4+ person sprints. That all changed on sunday.

Instead of some park or middleschool in Albuquerque, I headed down to Santa fe and then up north to east of Pecos to monastery lake. Ummm, beautiful wild wooly northern new mexico mountains. Good location.

Next I see the course. Dirt cobbly road, followed by triple barrier run up, followed by 1/2 mile of road, followed by fast tight single track descent, double track chicane, increasing steepness runup with bariers and log (log!!!), sketchy steep singletrack decent, more chicaney goodness then through the freezing cold almost hub deep feeder stream, then short singletrack section with 10 ft slippy mud strip and finally back to the dirt cobble road. The course climbed steadily from the stream to the first half of the road making the non technical sections a painful cardiovascular exercise. Great stuff.

The only rest in the race were the technical descents. Perfect.

The stream crossing was 100% ridable, but got slighty more slippery and less smooth as the race progressed.

I loved it. Best NM course ever. Other people did not love it. A couple of people spent an ENORMOUS amount of time and energy explaining to the organizers and volunteers how it was a dangerous course and how they WERE not going to race and how it was going to ruin their standings in the race series. Now I can respect that you don;t feel comfy racing so you just don't race. But making a big scene about it is not really that cool. Nor is essentially verbally abusing junior racers who spent alot of time working on the course. If you are going to complain that much, please don't race. Especially on a course that really was pretty mild. Especially while the C's and juniors are racing just fine thank you on the "dangerous" course. There was only one slightly sketchy down hill turn, but nothing that has not been part of a UCI race or even nationals in the last 5 years. Crap. At least one of the primary whiners raced and did quite well, but schadenfreudistically I was glad to hear that muffed the stream crossing on the last lap and lost a vital points winning position. heh. Well in my day we raced cross with actual crosses tied to our backs and we liked it...

Anyhow. I have no idea how I finished, I think I ended up lapped by the first two, among the top B's and toward the end of the A field but not dead last in the A's (like I was apparently last week...). I had a blast and was good and pooped, mudsplattered and lungfilled with dusts.

Huge props to A winner taylor layne who stacked hard in the opening barrier jumble 1/4 mile into the race, passed me 20 minutes later like I was sitting on the trail and then lapped me just before the end on his way to victory. Studly.

click for short movie of the stream crossing (2.1 Mb quicktime)

Getting back to the balance of jungle cross vs. mtb, the course struck it just right. The technical singletrack downhill short and sweet. If you did not have technical skills to hit the downhill fast there were ample opportunities to make it up on power sections. The long road section was much faster on a cross bike, but was really hard as there was a subtly nasty climb on it and a nonsubtle headwind the whole paved way.

I rested on the short downhills, blasted the running sections best I could (which went really well) and went deep into my pain cave on the dirt road and the paved section which actually allowed me to gap alot of the guys around me for a bit. It went well. I am happy.

I may skip next weekends races and then road trip up to boulder for UCI races first weekend in november. As there is no danger that I will win, I will race the B's and watch the fast guys go at it. Go go tiny fast bikers.

Cross cross hup hup hup!!!


wenmei said...

You do realize that you're crazy, don't you? :-)

Unknown said...

Looks like a bee-yoo-tiful course - thanks for the vid!

Bob said...

Man, you an me couldn't agree more on what makes a "real" cross course. Maybe it's that we both singlespeed and open grass courses generally suck on a singlespeed.

The 'cross scene in MN is pretty much the same as what you describe in NM (maybe it's something about the letters M & N?). The clubs have taken the UCI far too seriously in their ridiculous rules for not putting any barriers in a 'cross race. I swear the UCI is simply trying to turn cross into a grass crit.

ok, enough moaning for now...


Anonymous said...

As the promoter to whom a lot of people complained, I am glad some folks liked it. I think it is a sweeet course, but I shouldn't have changed the original creek crossing/runup like I did for the October race. If I am here next year there will be more similar "old fashioned courses"