Late the night before the race, I was sitting in front of the TV, drinking beers, watching the baseball playoffs and blogging my last race report. I noticed an email on the NM bike racers list reminding that the next day's cross race would be in Pojaque, a mere 20 minutes or so from where I sit (a mere half mile from where I was living when this blog started many moons ago). I have mostly given up racing cross in NM as the races are most often in Albuquerque and honestly I am way to lazy to drive 2 hours each way for a one hour or shorter race. However, this race was close enough to get me interested.
I thought about it a bit, finished watching the Rangers run up the score on the Tigers and then decided to race. First thought, where the hell is my cross bike? I decided it probably was in the back of the bike closet. I unearthed it from its hook and headed to the bike dungeon to give it a once over. The tires were well goatheaded from its last adventure a number of years ago. The sealant still held in the back wheel, but was not holding in the front. The tires were a bit hard as well, so I changed out the front tire and tube, picked all the goatheads out of the rear pumped it up and gave it a spin and called it good. I was running a 36-17 on the bike which seemed good as I have not been racing much lately. I spun a 16 freewheel on my pit wheels and aired them up too. I slapped some lube on the chain and checked the brakes. It was good. I love singlespeeds.
I grabbed a helmet with a light on it and went out for a late night shakedown ride. I spotted an aluminum schwinn hardtail on a junkpile destined for large item pickup, decided I did not want it. Rode around for a couple few miles getting used to the handling, and decided to go back and check out the bike again. I looked at it more carefully and noted it had shimano quick releases, a bell, an old headlight and some bmx pedals, all worthy conquests! It also had some IRC mythos slicks on it, which are not a bad tire to put on a commuter, they looked pretty new, and were aired up a tiny bit, so I pulled the bike off the pile and ghost rode it a couple blocks home. I got in just after midnight, put the bikes up and went to bed.
The Race morning I woke up late, got my gear loaded and hit the road. Got to the race site about 15 minutes later than I planned and registered quickly and noted my race was not the next one. Somehow the schedule I read online was an hour earlier than the race day schedule. The NM cross series has 2 oddly laid out websites with a third for race registration. Information is sparse and confusing at times. But the races are usually worth the hassle of figuring out where and when to show up.
The race was at the Pojaque Reservation Wellness center. I am pretty familiar with the area, having lived very near by for most of 2003-2004, but I was not sure where they would run the race. Turns out they had laid out a really fun course over the slow wet grass of the football field/track to a nice long gravel road climb and descent and then a dirt section. Lots and lots of chicanes and 180 hairpins and a couple three sketchy high speed turns thrown in. One set of double barriers on the grass and a stairway run up on uneven large stones.
I warmed up slowly as I watched the womens/masters men race unfold. I did not really get a chance to hit the course at all, but snuck on for a brief recon after the race before ended. It turns out I was not used to my cross bike at all after not riding it for so long and I had tons of trouble with the hairpins, especially the dirt ones. But no matter, I headed to the line and lined up with the 10 or so racers in the singlespeed collegiate race. 8 or so of us were on one speeds and there was one geared male collegieate racer and one geared female racer. It was really sunny and warm as our race started, we were scheduled for 40 minutes, but we were warned that they might cut it short a bit, which was fine with me.
NM has a funny cross scene. I looked over on the line next to me and noted a hot tubes lugged cross bike with bart bowens name stickered on the top tube. I look at the rider, nope, not bart. But he is a NM native and usually shows up once or twice a year to stamp his authority on the local race scene. Also I noted there was a dude warming up in the parking lot on a slick looking carbon Trek single speed cross bike with Travis Brown's name on it. Rider looked to be Travis Brown himself. Durango is a 4 hour drive, so occasionally we get special guest visitors from the Durango scene. Fortunately for me, he was planning on riding his single speed in the Cat1-2-3 race, instead of dicing it up with our anemic singlespeed field.
Anyhow, I lined up in the second row, unsure of the condition, we got a laconic, "ok go" from the official and off we went. One dude went out really hard and I looked around at the rest of the field and realized no one else would be going after him, so I rode around a couple of people in front of me and sprinted to try to get to the guy in front. I hit the grass just behind the leader and the barriers went OK considering I had not done any barriers in almost three years.
The slow wet grassy chicanes did not go so well and the leader had gapped me and a few guys behind were tight on my wheel. We then hit a stretch on the track to a short dirt section with a tricky hairpin to the stairclimb. That part went OK, then we remounted did another tricky turn and did the big gravel climb out descend back. I tried to catch the leader here and by the top of the climb I had closed in a bit. I noted the riders close behind me (all on single speed mountain bikes) dropped off a bit on the climb.
After the fast descent we hit a hard tricky right on gravel, followed by a short climb and a fast descent to a 90 turn on pavement that was pretty tight, followed by a section of chicanes and hairpins on dirt. I pretty much screwed up all these parts. The leader gapped me good and two riders were right on my tail. We transitioned back to the grass part and I further screwed up the grass chicanes, but did well on the barriers and the stair climb.
I drilled it on the gravel section and got a pretty good gap on the lone chaser and settled in. It was pretty clear at this point that I was probably not going to catch the leader, and it was clear that I was only going to be caught by the guys behind me if I kept screwing up the hairpins. I transitioned to the downhill and over to the dirt section, screwed up a bit less than before, but the guy behind me had pretty much closed the gap. When we hit the grass again, I did much better, finally trusting my bike a bit and opened up the gap a slight bit through the stairs to the start of the climb. I drilled it again on the long climb and had a ton of room behind me by the time the tricky bits started. The third time through I did pretty well all through the gravel and the grass, I hit the track and got three to go from the official and probably had a good stair run and went out to climb again.
At this point I was hot and tired and thirsty and vaguely aware that my rear tire was getting soft. There were goatheads everywhere on the course, I could only hope my sealant would hold long enough for me to finish. I was pretty sure I could hold off everyone behind me and was dead sure I would never see the leader again. So I resolved to drilling it yet again on the climb and looked back at the top, delighted to see no one even close. The rest of that lap went very well as I finally got the corners dialed through the dirt and grass. The rest of the race was only dramatic in that my rear tire was getting progressively softer.
To make my long story shorter I will say the race ended just like that. I think I actually closed in on the leader a bit once I figured out the corners, the guy behind me had pretty much thrown in the towel and I finished second in the race, second of the single speeds. Just before I got the bell, I think I pinch flatted the rear in a manner that the sealant could not deal with and lost quite a bit of pressure in the last lap. I finished with the tire damn near flat, but I barely had to slow at all.
I changed drank some water, grabbed a cowbell and cheered on the A's for a bit. When I left Travis Brown was yo yoing off the back of the lead pack in the A race, but it appears that he won in the end. The course was really nice and was quite fun. The views of the snow capped Sangre de Cristo mountains were supurbe. I am not a huge fan of separated single speed races in cross, I think they should have thrown us in with the A group so there would have been more racers in between to make it more interesting. As it was the A (cat 1-2-3) only had about 12 racers in it. But otherwise I remember why I like cross so much. I think I started cross racing 15 years ago (1996 DFL cross races and Surf City Races) and I have skipped 3 years since then, so happy dozenth season to me. I may try to hit one or two more races before season end, but I would bet on fewer rather than more...
This is totally Travis Brown. Not some cheap imitation. Real deal.
Race well run by, results posted at, and photos borrowed from Dash for life