It was good to be back.
This year, Quad spiced things up by flipping the course on its head and running it backwards. It was a phenomenal improvement for a number of reasons.
-It changed the dynamics of what happened in the woods. Rather than just slog through a pair of climbs, which was going to be particularly unpleasant as laps wore on in the singlespeed race, there was a better variation of speed and skill and a more gradual way to clear the same elevation. Ripping through the woods in this direction was pretty damn fun.
-It was safer. Rather than fly down the long gravel road, which culminated in a suicidal 90 degree turn into the woods, this was now a mild uphill power section, and it worked. You could either opt to recover here, or bear down and drill for oil. A second downhill gravel section was similarly neutered by riding it backwards, which eliminated another unnecessarily white-knuckle experience.
I hadn’t lined up for anything since May, and I figured I was too lazy to get my geared machine ready, so SSCX it was.
Yes it’s a Bianchi San Jose, essentially a $300 craigslist bike that I stripped and outfitted with a full Zipp cockpit and SRAM carbon levers and Force crankset and Fango 33s glued up to NOS Reflex rims, it’s a commitment.
42×18 seemed like the right choice, mostly because I was too lazy to change it. In spite of carrying all the tools required to change it out to the 19 and the 20 I had with me in the car.
In retrospect, it was really kicking my ass at times and I would have done well with some cadence. Alright full disclosure, even in the parking area I knew this was probably wrong. But SSCX is a weird animal; in the heat of competition you will turn more than you think, and you strategize around a compromise, figuring you’ll just run what you can’t ride and hope the gear makes up time where you can ride.
SSCX in New England is so good now. Seven seasons ago, it was nothing like this. It didn’t exist. It was usually just me, or me and one or two other guys in a sea of geared bikes. Now it’s an entire field. It’s a beautiful thing.
|Shared from Katie Busick’s SSCX Gallery|
I had a little party in the mid-back with two to go, and shortly after crossing the line for two to go heard the leaders coming through for one to go. This is where Chris ends up thinking critically about the merits of turning the lap of his life to race the leaders and stay on the lead lap, or ride a cheesy half-ass lap and get lapped, sparing him further abuse. It was a hot day and I could have gone either way.
I resigned to cheese mode for a few minutes. But then I started to realize that a few guys that hung out ahead of me were fading, and I had yet to scrape the bottom of the tank, so I figured now was an okay time to start scraping. I pulled a couple back as we navigated the woods and the first section of the gravel grind. Then I was thinking about how flat my rear tire was.
That was no reason to give up though; a flat front tubular is a serious pain in the ass but you can manage on a flat rear. It’s still a hell of a lot more work than riding a tire full of air though.
Gradually and sadly, all of my work is fading away as I start to lose positions. And I am really riding the shit out of this thing. I remind myself that this is a $99 wheelset, and that if I happen to trash the rear wheel, at worst I’m out $50, but then maybe a little more since rear wheels do seem to price out a little more than front wheels, eh, either way I’m still okay riding this thing into the ground. Of course I conveniently forget to remember the cost of the tire and that I paid to have it mounted.
It sucks though, I’m clearly limited, and with even more people creeping up behind me I start to realize that it’s time to consider a more practical option, such as not doing this anymore. I can still reach the line and finish on the lead lap, but I’ll still have another full lap to go, and nothing in the pit. That sounds like a real pain in the ass.
So I ride up and stop about a foot before the line, and have a little chat with Alan about what I’m doing, and he’s on board and laughing. I wait around for a minute, Mike Rowell comes through for the win, and I step over the line as the first lapped finisher, which is top step on the podium at the back of the race. Great success.
I revisited that rear wheel last night, hoping to cure its illness with some CaffeLatex, which has been very successful in the past. Unfortunately, this tire has much bigger issues. It seems in my half lap of airless exuberance, something bad happened in the neighborhood of the valve and inner tube, and the tire is toast.
So with the NH double weekend coming up, I guess it’s time to dust off my geared bike. Apparently…..it has been a while.