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OFFICIAL FLCX POWER RANKINGS – Tampa Riverfront CX

On October 11, 2013 by Super Rookie

The summer hiatus from cyclocross racing in Florida ended three weeks ago at the inaugural Edinburgh CX Challenge in Dunedin. The race marked one of the first forays of cross racing in September in Florida Cyclocross history and it was a huge success with quite a few large fields. That turnout gave us the opportunity to take a look at who is hot and who is not going into the first full weekend of racing on the Florida Cyclocross calendar.

As a reminder, these rankings are 100% official and can not be challenged in any way.

2013/14 FLCX Power Rankings: Tampa Riverfront CX

1. Josh Thornton (Pioneer Mortgage p/b Your Key) | Cat1/2 | Last Rank: N/A

Thornton looking smooth. (Photo: Michael Ploch)

Josh Thornton is a pretty nice guy. If I had to ask him to bail me out of jail (GUILTY OF BEING AWESOME) I bet he would be there in a heartbeat. Making it even worse is that Josh will be super polite when he is coming around to lap you in the middle of the race (we know from experience). The Tampa weekend will mark the third and fourth race of the season for Thornton. He got an early start at the UCI Nittany Cross race in Pennsylvania and featured well in the main chase.

The big question is not if Thornton has what it takes to continue his dominance in Florida Cyclocross, but if there is anyone that can compete against him in the category 1/2 field week in and week out.

2. Chris Slack (Infinity Bike Shop) | Cat1/2, SS | Last Rank: N/A

Slack has added a few pounds in the offseason. (Slack Family Archives)

Chris Slack looked extremely strong in Dunedin a few weeks ago with a strong second place in the 1/2 field and an easy win in the Single Speed race. When Slack isn’t busy not eating anything of substance he is working on opening his very own boutique shop and wheel building emporium in Sarasota. After taking second place overall in last year’s FLCX Series in the 1/2s he may feel like he has something to prove, but with a new shop on the horizon he may join the ranks of the slow bike shop owners that populate  Florida Cyclocross.

3. John Hovius (AAA Triathlon) | Cat3, SS, 45+ | Last Week: N/A

Hovius and Dyszkiewicz took the top two steps in the cat3s at Dunedin. (Photo: John Hovius)

John is a machine. He will race three times in one day and every time he will feature in the race. His efforts must be applauded and his diesel engine is reminiscent of the great Jan Ulrich. When John isn’t busy winning his category he is training for triathlons. He has probably beaten someone you know. He is the real deal. He is a horse of a man.

4. Jack Rich (Infinity Bike Shop) | 35+ | Last Rank: N/A

If you have been racing cyclocross in Florida for the past four years you know about Jack Rich. You have seen Jack Rich and you probably have wished that you were Jack Rich. He has graced the top of the OFFICIAL FLCX POWER RANKINGS on a few occasions and has consistently dominated the 35+ field to the point that many racers have refused to show up. When the 35+ field was combined with the 1/2s for 60 minutes of racing action Jack found himself on the overall podium many times. The biggest question about Jack Rich and the upcoming season is the one from all the other masters racers, “Can you please stop hurting us, Mr. Jack?”

5. Steve Noble (Infinity Bike Shop) | M45 | Last Rank: N/A

Was it for real? Did we actually see Steve at a cyclocross race in Dunedin three weeks ago? We hope that was him and we hope that he will return to the ranks of cyclocross carnies that have crisscrossed the state for years. If he comes back to Tampa look for him to dominate the ultra-competitive 45+ category. Steve only did one race in 2012/13, but the year before that he was one of the most consistent performers on a cross bike in the Southeast. With his impressive win at the season opener one can only hope that we get to see Noble at more races this season.

6. Wojtek Dyszkiewicz (Birdsong Brewing) | M3, SS | Last Rank: N/A

Wojtek is the new guy on the block. Having moved to central Florida from Charlotte, North Carolina he is bringing some experience and speed into the category 3 and singlespeed field. Carrying a fair amount of ranking points on both CrossResults.com and the USA Cycling database. If it wasn’t for Hovius in the cat3s in Dunedin he would have walked away with the win and would be on a fast track to compete in the 1/2s. Dyszkiewcynmtzclkcxwnic is a man of mystery in these parts, but a little internet research tells us to be ready.

7. Lachlan Hovius (AAA Triathlon) | J10-14 | Last Rank: N/A

All you need to know about Lachlan is that he has won every single cyclocross he has ever entered except for one. Oh, he has also probably beaten someone you know in a triathlon or three. This should come as no surprise since his dad is number three on the list this week.

8. Kristin Apotsos (Infinity Bike Shop) | W1/2/3 | Last Rank: N/A

Kristin is the best and most consistent woman in Florida Cyclocross. She started racing last year and spent the first half of the season in the W4 category before upgrading and still ended up getting second overall in the FLCX Series. With only half a season of racing in the W1/2s last year she made quite the impression on the category standard bearers and has dedicated herself to being a force this season. You have been put on notice.

9. Ryan Woodall (Top Gear Bicycles) | Cat1/2 | Last Rank: N/A

We don’t know what is going on here, but it was posted on Twitter a year or so ago. (Photo: @ryan_woodall)

The best mountain biker in Florida history, or the biggest internet troll in Florida Cyclocross history? The jury is out, but we have proof that he is pre-registered for the Tampa CX weekend and the expected showdown between Thornton is sure to be one to watch. The problem? We don’t even know if Woodall has a cross bike, or if he has ever actually done a dismount. The past times we have seen Woodall race cyclocross he was sporting an evil mustache and a metalic boa while taking no prisoners at Swamp Cross. If he is in it to win it, watch out…

10. Ed Dunne (Cycle Logic) | M35+ | Last Rank: N/A

Ed Dunne may have the best shot at defeating Jack Rich this weekend in what is turning out to be the most competitive field on paper. Dunne was a force last year in the cat3s taking the FLCX overall title and missed out on taking the cat3 state title by a wheel after a bobble on the last lap. He didn’t race a few weeks ago, but he is definitely a man to watch heading into Tampa.

Falling Off: Ryan Fisher (CLEVELAND), Mattheu “Beardo” Pourbaix (Puerto Rico)

2013/14 FLCX Sandbagger Of The Week: Tampa Riverfront CX

There are quite a few on our radar entering the season, and with word that Giancarlo Bianchi (AG – Guttenplan) has upgraded from Cat3 to Cat1/2 there is ample room for a new sandbagger to emerge. What we do know is that a certain bike shop owner* is a candidate if he enters another cat3 race again after putting on quite the performance in the cat1/2/open field in Dunedin. Then again, he crashed trying to bunny hop the barriers for the second year in a row, so we will give him a pass, for now.

*rhymes with “Dichard Rybdahl”

Training for Cyclocross II: Technical Skills

On October 7, 2013 by Christian

Ben Smith from legsmith.com has some great advice for those of you who want to go faster on your CX bike. Yes, it will also hurt. If you “enjoy” this advice, check out his website for info on becoming a Legsmith client. You can get a lot faster on your bike, (if you follow the training plan,) and you get a cool sticker!.

In the last article I introduced some CX-specific workouts aimed at building the kinds of physiological strengths one needs to last for an hour of redline effort. In this one we move to the unique technical demands of ‘cross—namely bike handling on skinny tires and on building the ability to get off and back on one’s bike smoothly and efficiently, whether over barriers or at each end of a run-up or other running section.

Bike handling

To my mind there are two things to do to maximize your technical advantage come ‘cross season. First, ride mountain bikes on the most technical terrain you can find. Yes, the suspension is a luxury you won’t have later, and yes, the tires are fatter and grippier, but getting used to riding fast on your limit in the most technical stuff you can find can only be a good thing. The truth, too, is that if you race mountain bikes here in Florida our seasons overlap quite a bit. The Florida State Championship Series begins September 14 and ends December 8. The Florida Cyclocross series begins October 12 and ends January 18. In short, between early October and mid-December you could be trading bikes every weekend. I am.

The other thing is to ride your CX bike over much the same terrain on which you ride the mountain bike. You’ll be going slower, and you’ll have to pick your way through sections you can blast on fatter tires, yes. But mixing up lengthy endurance rides on the CX bike to include pavement, dirt roads if available, and single track too is a great way to build your comfort level on dicey terrain. Also great is to put together a CX circuit close to home—at a park for example—and include some hard corners, sand, gravel, mud if possible, etc. The more you hit this stuff in practice the more familiar it will feel come race day.

Barriers and running sections

A smooth transition racer can gain 3-5 seconds every time he or she dismounts and remounts. On the state championship course in Dade City, that means 9-15 seconds every lap that your opponents either lose or have to close by brute force. Ditto in reverse: even in a 30-minute race that amounts to a full minute or more just from the transitions. If you’re good with giving that much time up you may as well just wait a minute or so once the race starts, give the competition a nice big head start and then get going. Not how I roll.

So, how to get better through barriers. First, here are three very basic tips to drum into your sub-conscious and use as a transition mantra during races. “Start early. Be smooth. Step, don’t jump, back on.”

Start early. Just about everyone has barreled into a set of barriers and started the dismount too late (cue Tim Hayes video clip here). Better nearly all the time is to click out on the right side good and early, coast in without losing too much speed, and give yourself plenty of time and room to click out on the left. You get an extra couple of seconds’ recovery time and you won’t be hurrying through what should be a smooth procession. If you dismount on the drive side you’re beyond help (cue Tim Hayes public shaming here).

Be smooth. Practice without barriers to get used to clicking out on the right, swinging that right leg over, clicking out on the left, running (not jumping; run, don’t bounce over barriers) and lifting your bike just as much as is needed to clear the barriers. Yes, I know Jason and JP like to see if they can get their saddles high enough to clear the snow line; even Bart Wellens has tried that. I think it is a waste of energy. Don’t contribute to entropy in the universe; keep your bike as low as feasible.

Step, don’t jump, back on. Once you’ve cleared the barriers you’re getting back on. First rule: don’t try to jump up too high. Your saddle isn’t that high up; again, you want to slide right back on, not crash down from on high and smash something. On that note: that meaty part of your right inner thigh about 5 inches down? That’s your landing sweet spot, trust me. If you’ve learned to land on your rear end it’s a matter of time before you crunch your boys… or girl parts (I am told). Learn the inner thigh landing, starting anew at low speed if you need to. Land there, slide onto the saddle and reach for the right pedal with your right foot. It ought to be right there where you left it.

It would behoove you, or you and a group of friends, to build some barriers. Here are some directions for building them out of PVC pipe for very little money—less than half an entry fee.

http://www.cxmagazine.com/newbie-news-building-barriers

A CX newcomer last fall asked me how to get ready for races. I told him 50 dismounts and remounts 3 times a week. I don’t think he liked that answer, but the truth is that repetition is the key. I surprised myself by pulling some pretty smooth remounts in early 2011. I hadn’t done it in 15 years, but back then a group of 15-20 of us used to meet every Tuesday and Thursday evening for CX practice at the Marymoor Velodrome (now site of StarCrossed). We did drills for 45 minutes, and must each have gotten off and back on a couple of hundred times.

I suggest doing these drills, at first anyway, while you’re fresh—recovery rides are good for this. Of course, we don’t have the luxury of hitting transitions fully rested in races so at some point we need to pair anaerobic max efforts with the technical stuff. We can talk about that another time. In the next article I’ll outline some mix-it-up intervals that try to simulate race laps during various parts of a CX race.

Training for cyclocross.

On September 30, 2013 by Christian

Ben Smith from legsmith.com has some great advice for those of you who want to go faster on your CX bike. Yes, it will also hurt. If you “enjoy” this workout, check out his website for info on becoming a Legsmith client. You can get a lot faster on your bike, (if you follow the training plan,) and you get a cool sticker!.

Training for cyclocross.

Cyclocross is a strange mish-mash of needs. On one hand, you need to be able to handle your bike at speed, on skinny tires with only some bite, over often technical terrain, and you need to do it with your heart in the back of your throat and with little or no feeling in your arms. On the other, the intensity of cyclocross is more like a criterium with no drafting than like an XC mountain bike race (although here in Florida the windy single track we race on, with a constant punch-coast-punch-coast rhythm is often similar). As a result, two things are priorities in ‘cross:

being able to sprint, over and over, for the duration of the race, with minimal or no recovery. She who sprints most, hardest, wins; and
being able to carry speed and momentum through corners, through sand, and through transitions (dismounting and remounting over barriers and running sections).

That in mind, here are some training segments to work into a weekly schedule. These are useful because they can fit into just about any allotment of weekly training time, whether 6 or 17 hours. I suggest doing the sprint workouts early in the week, either Tuesday if Monday easy day has got you fresh enough, or Wednesday if you need to go easy on Tuesday as well after a hard weekend of racing.

Some sprint block variants:

8 all-out sprints of 20 seconds each, with each followed by just 10 seconds of recovery. This means a 4-minute block of mostly all-out sprinting. Yes, it will be painful and if you’re normal and doing it right by 2 ½ or 3 minutes in your arms will start to feel numb and tingly. If that happens now you know how I feel the last 15-30 minutes of most CX races. Make sure that, whatever you do after this, you take a 15-minute recovery period of easy spinning first.
15 all-out sprints of 10 seconds each, followed by 1:50 recovery/endurance pace. These don’t kill you the way the 8×20 will—but they are intense and with adequate time in between you can build a lot of them into a workout. Again, follow with 15 minutes recovery.
10-12 all-out 30-second efforts with 4:30 recovery. These employ mostly naturally produced creatine phosphate as fuel, and the long recovery time allows your body to replenish those stores.
5 minute block of race pace riding (threshold) followed by 5 30 second all-out efforts, each of which is followed by 30 seconds endurance or recovery pace. Do this one near the end of a hard workout to simulate a last lap situation.

So here are some starters. If one of these is all you can handle at first, fine. Do it and try two blocks the following week. In future articles, we’ll talk about threshold-sprint combo workouts as well as ones to focus on bike handling skills.

Cyclocross in Florida?

On September 28, 2013 by Christian

We’re lucky to have retained the services of Ben Smith PHD of legsmith.com to provide us with some free speed for our best cyclocross season yet. Please, allow Ben to introduce himself.

Ben’s first column will run Monday, please check back then!

Cyclocross in Florida?

I moved from Seattle to Gainesvillle in 2001, five years after I hung up my cleats and retired from competitive cycling. Between 1996 and 2011 the most impressive thing I did on a bike was to ride a Wal-Mart beach cruiser a mile between home and work no-handed, suit jacket and teaching stuff crammed into my messenger bag while putting in cuff links.

In January 2011 my daughter and I were browsing content on Netflix. She randomly clicked on “The 9 Ball Diaries,” a documentary about Tim Johnson’s 2007 race season. Knowing I’d done some bike racing she asked to watch it. She asked if I knew TJ and I replied that my last CX nationals in 1995—in Leicester, MA under more than a foot of snow—was his first national championship.

Then serendipity happened. Out of the blue I received an honorarium check from an Ivy League school where I’d given a lecture 7 years prior—believe it or not they’d forgotten to pay up and I’d forgotten to follow up. On impulse I got on Ebay and blew the whole honorarium on a lightly used CX bike. It arrived a few days later, I started riding it on the miles of in-town trail in Gainesville, and two weeks later decided I might try racing again.

2 seasons, 2 teams, two cycling disciplines (CX/XC) several bikes later here I am. Fitter and healthier than I have been since I was 25, having more fun in life and now able to ride in the woods with my kids, and giving coaching a go. In the next few months I’ll be contributing some articles to flcx.org on training, cyclocross skills, fitting serious training into real life, and if you’re fortunate perhaps cooking.

Ben Smith| legsmith.com

2nd Annual Tampa Riverfront CX

On September 26, 2013 by Christian

trcxfly1

The 2nd Annual Tampa Riverfront CX. Oct 12th & 13th, 2013. New ‘modernist, adventure playground cyclo-cross course’ on the Hillsborough river. Two days of CX racing, local craft beer, music & bikes!

Tampa Riverfront CX (#TRCX) is taking place at Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park, right in the heart of the metro-downtown area. The new cyclo-cross course is being routed through this innovative, architecturally relevant example of 70’s civic park and adventure playground design. Hidden just outside Tampa’s central business district, Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park serves as one of few remaining examples of Modernist adventure playground designs pioneered by American architect Richard Dattner.

These ‘adventurous’ designs are precisely the elements of this park that have allowed for us to create such an interesting and challenging cyclocross course. In an effort to not only promote the sport of cyclo-cross, we also look to bring attention to this innovative, under appreciated piece of American civil/playground architecture that has helped to define Tampa’s urban landscape.

The 2-day Tampa Riverfront CX race weekend – a series of races and events that will help to bring attention to the connections between sport, public spaces, and our local communities.

trcxfly2

Edinburgh CX Race Recap

On September 25, 2013 by Christian

As you might be aware if you follow Florida Cyclocross on Facebook Tampa Bay Cyclocross aka Zach Fout promoted the Edinburgh CX in Dunedin last Sunday. You were probably made aware of it by Zach’s relentless promotion, by far the most relentless that Florida Cyclocross has ever seen. Zach was repaid for his relentlessness with a fantastic turnout of over 100 riders for a one day CX race in the blazing heat of September. He also sold out his CX clinic the night before the race.

In addition to promoting the race like a veteran race promoter, Zach and his crew also set up a fantastic course at Highlander Park in Dunedin.

This is Jay Fratello’s view of the Cat 4/5 race. Skip to about 1 minute in, and the first lap is over at about 8.30 in. Rain the night before created a mudhole, there were plenty of hairpins, and a good bit of running. The technical front side of the course with it’s barriers, sandpit run, collection of hairpins, and all of the hijinx around the mud pit gassed you, but then the back side of the course provided plenty of recovery with it’s long, flat straightaways. Overall, a well balanced and fun course that I wish I got to race on myself.

As far as the racing went, I missed out on the first wave of the day, so I don’t know how the Masters race went down. Sorry, old guys. The final results in M35 have Jack Rich (Ryder Bikes) over Joel Gorman (Flying Fish) and Greg Apotsos (Infinity). M45 saw the triumphant return of Steve Noble (Infinity) to the top step, over Vitore Alexandre (Colavita) and Pablo Santa Cruz (Florida Velo). In M55, Dan Sullivan (West Coast Cycling) took the win from John Torre (Cyclonauts) and Rickey Howe.


Kelby Roberts (Gearlink) leads early, pic by Michael Ploch.

I did arrive in time to see the Pro12 Open race go off without Ryan Woodall, who had been talking an inordinate amount of smack in the weeks leading up to the race. With a sizable $50 holeshot preme on the line for the first rider to exit the sandpit, Jason Guillen (Gearlink) attacked hard and took all the cookies.


Jason taking the holeshot, pic by Karyn Dybdahl

Jason, Josh Thornton (Dunedin Cyclery), and Chris Slack (Pinnacle Wheelworks) would have a pretty decent tussle for the next lap and a half or so, until Josh does that thing that former Professional cyclists do where they remind everyone they are riding/racing against just how much more they can hurt than everyone else can, and pretty much ride away unhindered. Slack and Guillen dueled for a bit for second, but the bill for Guillen’s early heroics eventually came due in the brutal heat and he lost ground to Slack. They would finish Josh, Chris, and Jason. Meanwhile, in the party bus at the back of the pack, Rich Dybdahl (Pure Cycles), making his 60 minute race debut, put a pretty thorough spanking on the still jet-lagged from Vegas Tim Hayes (Swift Cycle, Internet), in spite of a barrier bunnyhop going very, very wrong.

IMG_2039

Yeah, Rich, I saw that.

We had an awesome 30 riders in the Mens category 4/5 race, and an equally awesome 10 women 4’s, which is a fantastic sign for the future of Florida Cyclocross. As you can see from the video above, the start was pretty smooth, other than Chris Kyle (Top Gear) dumping his bike at the exit of the second hairpin. Ordinarily I wouldn’t mention people crashing, but Chris is all over the Facebook group, so I figure he likes the shout-outs. Matthew Drury (unattached) came to the front (on a mountain bike) and stretched out his lead to finish up 47 seconds ahead of Nickolaos Psilopoulos (Orange State) and a further 20 seconds ahead of William Shoulders. In the women, Melissa Isenman (Infinity) took the win from Orange State’s Erika Richards and Sam Tromley.

An unusually small field of Cat 3’s came out, but it was still a hard fought race at the front. From the gun, Wojtek Dyszkiewicz (Uptown Brewing) took off and looked like he wasn’t coming back, until the Florida heat does what it does and he retreated back into the dogfight that was already occurring between John Hovius (AAA) and Bob Croslin (Orange State), making it a three man race. It was the most tactical race of the day, with all three attacking each other and getting reeled back in, until Hovius does what he does and was able to sneak away. Wojtek (pronounced Voytek) held on for second, with Croslin in third. All three of these guys are likely to be on the podium again this year in the threes, super strong riding from all three of them.

Three Pro123 Open women toed the line, including the return of Brooke Rich (Infinity), but in spite of her control of the forces of darkness, she ended up abandoning. It was Kristin Apotsos who led the race from the gun, and showed that she plans to be a factor in the fast women’s field all season. Katherine Adams (Gearlink) took second place.

Single Speed and the Juniors started together with some ominous storm clouds overhead, and indeed, it began to rain just after the start. We took down the sensitive electronic equipment and the clouds got darker. In SS, Zach Fout (Gearlink) shook off all notions of promoter legs by attacking with Slack and Wojtek, but it was Slack who ended up on top at the finish, ahead of Zach and Wojtek. In the Juniors, Lachlan Hovius (AAA) battled with Ava Sykes (TBTS Juniors) for a lap or two, but ended up getting the best of her. Jackson Mehr (Swift Cycle) ended up in third. And John Hovius ran over his own kid (Joel).


pic by Karyn Dybdahl

Overall, for a first year event, and the first race of the season, Zach Fout did a great job on the event. Here’s hoping the rest of the races are as well promoted, organized, and attended!

How Do I Do The Cyclocross? (part 5 of a series)

On September 14, 2013 by Christian

Surviving your first CX Race

You’ve been training, and you think you’re finally ready to pin a number on and show the world you’re a CX superstar! You might be, I haven’t seen you ride. Here’s some things you should bring with you to make your day go easier, and some things to remember once you get there.

I have used masculine pronouns throughout this piece, but most of them can be replaced with feminine with no loss of meaning, other than the stuff that dudes exclusively do, like murder themselves for the hole shot and whine about coming in 33rd vs. 34th place. I don’t want anyone to feel left out.

You will be stressed out on race day. There’s always a million things to remember to bring, it’s always ten minutes further away than the directions say it is, and so you’ll probably be running late. Hopefully this list will help make it go a little smoother.

First of all, figure out how long it’s going to take to get to the race. You want to arrive at the race AT LEAST one full hour before your race starts. Ninety minutes is even better if you are a person with friends who like to say hi to you, and you need to have a pre-race poop, and you like to get warmed up before you turn yourself inside out. (You probably do need that pre-race poop.) You should eat some complex carbs a couple of hours before your race starts, so figure out if you’re going to be driving while you do this. Don’t wait until race day morning to figure this out, you have enough stuff to stress out about then as it is.

The Night Before:

Pack Your Race Bag. If you already have a USA Cycling license, make sure it’s in your wallet. You should designate a medium sized bag to be your race bag that travels with you to every bike race you do. You should put your cycling shoes in the bag first, so you don’t forget them. Don’t be the guy (TIM HAYES) who shows up to a race with no shoes. You should then put your helmet in the bag. Then put the rest of the crap you’ll need to wear in there: skinsuit, (or jersey and shorts), base layer, cycling socks, arm/knee/leg warmers, riding glasses, Heart Rate Monitor Strap, Garmin/cyclocomputer. Chamois cream and sunscreen and embrocation and bug spray. Throw some chain lube and a bicycle multi-tool or some allen keys in there, in case you need to make a last minute adjustment. It’s not a bad idea to put a simple first aid kit in there- some gauze pads, some bandaids and a little hydrogen peroxide, or just go buy a $10 first aid kit and be done with it. A handful of safety pins (to pin on numbers) are not a bad thing to bring with you, in case the race promoter runs out before you pick up your number. Also throw a beach towel in there, both for changing into and out of cycling clothes and for cleaning up post race. If the weather is wet, you should bring two or three towels, and a garbage bag or two, for wet/dirty clothes.

You should pack this bag the night before to save your legs from tearing ass from your bedroom back to the garage to the kitchen and back to the bedroom 23 times on race morning.

If you plan to bring spare wheels to the race, it’s a great idea to label them. Use a sharpy and some 3×5 cards. Write your name and your club name and your phone number on the cards, and scotch tape the cards to the spokes, or somehow secure the cards to the wheels. However you do it, make it so the cards can be removed easily should you need a wheel change, but not so easily that the cards will fall out and blow away.

Got everything? Go to bed. Sleep the sleep of the well-prepared.

Ok, it’s Race Day Morning! Are you ready for this?

Hydration Get a cooler. Bring at least 4 full bike bottles of water. The warmer the temperatures, the more water you should bring. Bring any drink mix and/or soda and/or Red Bull that you like. I’ve found that the warmer it is, the less I like drink mixes. This is a personal thing you should probably have figured out for yourself by this point of your cycling career. It’s a good idea to bring a gallon of water with you as well, both for hydration and post race clean up. If you are over 21, you might want to bring some adult beverages with you. You should be discreet with these beverages, some venues do not allow them. Definitely do not walk up to a USA Cycling official and offer them one during the event. Wait till the end of the day for that. If you think the promoter of the race put on a great race, a cold adult beverage or six at the end of the day is a great way to show your appreciation. Be mature, be responsible, don’t be drunk if you have to drive. End of speech.

Food If you will still be driving when you get to the two hours before race time, you’ll need to prepare and pack that up, or pick it up along the way. A bagel, an egg sandwich, a bowl of oatmeal, a peanut butter sandwich, whatever you like best for your two hour meal.

Personally, I’m a fan of sugar immediately before my races- Gu, Clif Blocks, Hammer Gels, Sports Beans. Whatever. Other people like PowerBars and Clif Bars, and still other people like fruit or sandwiches. So bring whatever you’re going to eat right before your race. Remember, you will probably have some nerves, so whatever you eat should be easy on your stomach. This is something you’re going to eat right before your event starts for quick energy, so err on the side of simplicity here. Gels drop 100 calories into your system very quickly- they work.

You should also have some post race food, preferably with some protein. A sandwich is perfect. So make your favourite, and throw it in the cooler. Or a salad. Or some leftover pasta. Whatever you want, but you should probably eat something once you finish racing.

Packing the car

Put your bike in/on your car. Put the cooler and the race bag in the car. Double check that you have your helmet and shoes. Throw some lawn chairs in the car. Put your spare wheels in the car, and a spare tube, too, if you’re riding clinchers. Your bicycle floor pump and a digital pressure gauge will help you a lot. Got a cowbell? Bring it. Going to a cross race is more than just doing your event and packing up and heading home. Stick around, make some friends, cheer for your new friends, enjoy yourself. Got room in the car for an ez-up tent? Throw it in there. Shade is good. Did you remember bugspray and sunscreen? Great.

Drive to the race. You should be drinking water in the car, not just coffee. Hydrating is important.

Once you get to the race
Park with the rest of the people with bikes on their cars. If you arrive at a park and don’t see cars with bikes and a bunch of plastic course tape festooned all over the place, you’re at the wrong park, and you need to consult the GPS again. I’ve done this. More than once. It’s a terrible feeling. You’ll probably yell at your girlfriend/boyfriend/wife/husband/kids if/when it happens. I did. I had to apologize later. A lot. Don’t do this.

Ok, so you’re parked. First things first, either find the bathroom, or find registration, whichever seems most important to you at the time. At registration, ask them what side your numbers will be pinned on. If you don’t know how to pin on a number correctly, please read and memorize this. Go ahead, read it, we’ll wait.

Do NOT pin your number on the middle front or the middle back of your jersey at any FLCX race. Ever. Once you’ve picked up your number, and destroyed a portapotty with your nervous poops (EVERYBODY POOPS!) head back to the car. Once there, pin your number, or let your significant other do it for you. Take your bike out/off of the car, and make sure the tire pressure is where you like it to be. Make sure your spare wheels have slightly higher air pressure in them. The reason for this is in case you pinch flat the race wheel, the replacement wheel shouldn’t suffer the same fate. Change into your kit. Take your wheels over to the wheel pit. It should now be about 50 minutes until your race is scheduled to start.

Pre-ride the course. If there is a race going on, do everything in your power not to get into a racer’s way. If one comes up behind you, move to the side, slow down, and be predictable so they can pass you without slowing down. Equally important, do not ride past the start/finish line, you’ll screw up the timing people and officials, and probably get yelled at. Your first pre-ride lap around the course should be a slow pace, so you can note the best line through corners and around/over obstacles. If a section looks especially tricky, stop and watch how a few other riders navigate it, or ask someone else how they got over/through/around it. Your second pre-ride lap should be a little faster. If time and course traffic will allow a third lap, go for it, again, a little faster. You should have worked up a pretty good sweat by now. Head back to your car, and drink some more water. Try doing a 2-5 short sprints, just maybe 10 seconds worth of all out effort, either on pavement or on some flat, vacant grass. Don’t sprint into anyone. You don’t want to exhaust yourself, you just want to prepare your body for the coming race effort. Do as much as feels comfortable to you.

It should now be about 15 minutes until your race starts. You should eat a gel now, and wash it down with plenty of water. You should have a full bottle of water in your bottle cage, if you’re using one. At 10 minutes til race start, you should head over to staging. Staging is a corral where you wait for the officials to start your race. Ideally, you should get there earlier rather than later, so you’re closer to the front, and have less traffic in front of you at the start, particularly if you have designs on winning. The officials will call everyone into the corral, there will be some nervous dick jokes, and a few guys will complain about how bad they feel, and how sore their legs are. Almost invariably, the guy who complains the loudest will be the fastest guy in the race, unless it’s me complaining, in which case you should believe me, because I REALLY WILL GO SLOW.

Finally, the official will call all riders in your race to the line. Some races have Call-Ups, where certain riders, usually the guys who are leading the rankings or points standings, are called out of the bunch to start on the front line(s). If they didn’t do call-ups, then it’s pretty much a free-for-all as to who gets to be on the front line. If you can be on the front line, and you’re confident you can get off the line quickly so you don’t get swarmed immediately, then get up there. If you’re not confident, start towards the back.

Finally, they will say “GO” and start the race. Here’s what you’ve been waiting for. Most courses start with a long straightaway, or at least a gentle curve, that leads into a tight turn, a hole in a fence, or a section of trail thru some woods. This is referred to as the holeshot, and the guy who gets there first is the one who “won the holeshot.” This is terribly important to the guy who won the holeshot. Sometimes, he will even win a prize, but not very often. Usually, he just gets to brag to all his buddies about it. Sometimes, that’s the last time you’ll see that guy, too- he’ll just keep going and win the race.

Bike racing, and indeed all forms of human powered racing, is in large part about pain management. How hard you can push yourself, and indeed, how much pain you can endure, will ultimately determine your result. If this is your first bike race, then you should go into it with the mindset of “I just want to finish” because you’re probably going to go out too hard and fast at the start and then want to die, only to find out there’s still 20 minutes to race. You’ll do this because you don’t know any better. THIS IS TOTALLY NORMAL, EVERYONE DOES THIS. Just as with time trialing, the best plan is to go as hard as you can for as long as you can, and then back it off a couple notches until the finish. Maybe as long as you can is only the length of the holeshot, and maybe it’s two laps. You just have to find a manageable level of pain that you can hold onto for the duration of the race.

This is how you learn how much you can take. This is the amazing part of Cyclocross. Because most of the time, for most people, all of the pain, the lactic acid, the gasping for air, the sweat in the eyes, the thrill of hitting 19mph on the downhill after churning through thick grass at 8mph, of staying ahead of the rider behind you, or catching the one ahead of you, all of these things coalesce into the most delicious cocktail you’ve ever sipped. Or slurped. Or gulped. I don’t judge. And the best thing about that cocktail is that it’s different every race, and the more times you try it, the better it gets. And it doesn’t hurt your liver, unless you take too many Handups…

Handups are prizes or gifts handed to racers by spectators. They are technically illegal, but it’s hard to control spectators on some sections of the course (wink wink, nudge nudge). Handups can be almost anything, but are usually dollar bills or food items that will probably make you puke while exercising, such as bacon or cookies or doughnuts or bacon doughnuts or even beer. You don’t have to take these handups, but you will earn fans quickly if you do. I even won a trophy at Swamp Cross last year for taking the most vegan ginger cookie handups. Obviously, I have lots of fans.

Speaking of fans, we should also discuss Heckling. Heckling is a tradition in Cross. Heckling should be good-natured razzing. As a racer, you should be concentrating on your race, but sometimes someone says something so funny that you have to acknowledge it. Do so- tell them “good one!” or even just laugh. It’s ok. Most spectators will be supportive and cheer for you, whether you’re in first or fiftieth place. This is another reason that Cross is awesome.

After your race, you should rehydrate, because you probably didn’t have time to drink during the race. So drink at least a water bottle’s worth before you crack open that well-earned frosty adult beverage. Ride around a little bit. Get your wheels out of the wheel pit. Then get cleaned up, changed, and cheer on the next race. Eat your post race meal. Once the day’s races are over, pack up the car, and that’s pretty much everything I can think of to tell you about your first CX race.

How Do I Do The Cyclocross? (Part 4 in a series)

On September 11, 2013 by Christian

Tires and Tire Pressure

Dave Severn sort of stole my thunder on this topic by asking the question on Facebook, but this is one of the best topics in all of CX to completely nerd out about. There’s a so many types of tires and opinions on what works best. Remember, what works for one rider might very well not work out as well for you. If you have OCD tendencies, this is the CX topic for you to obsess over.

There are three different types of rims and tires used in Cyclocross.

Standard Clinchers are a standard tire with an inner tube and a hook and bead. They are the most common, the easiest to fix should a flat occur, and they have the most options as far as tires go. They are also heavier, have higher rolling resistance, (due to the tire and tube being seperate pieces) and must be run at a higher tire pressure to avoid pinch flatting. The advantage to clinchers is that you only need one (ideally two, so you have spare wheels in case you flat mid-race) wheelsets, and you can switch tires easily for different racing conditions. Plus they can be the cheapest option.

Tubular Tires have a built-in innertube, and are attached to the rim with tubular glue, in a process that is best left to people who have glued tires to rims before. This makes them super complicated to replace should you flat them. They are also the most expensive option. The good news is that it’s more difficult to flat them, because of the different rim shape. You can bottom out a tubular tire and rim, that is, feel the rim itself contact the ground when you hit a bump, and suffer no ill effects, an event that is usually fatal to the tube in a clincher tire. This means you can run Tubulars at insanely tire low pressures, which gives you more traction, as the tire will conform to the ground rather than bounce around. This also works as additional shock absorption. Plus, you can put Stan’s tire sealant in them, both as a prophylactic measure, as well as to seal a small hole after a flat. Plus, tubular rims and tires are lighter than clincher rims, tires, and tubes. Plus, all the Pros use them. But, if you want to have options as to what tread you want to run, you’re going to need to buy more wheels- it’s basically a process that takes a day to properly glue a tire onto a rim. (You don’t have to work on it for the entire day, smart apples, you just have to apply glue to it for a few minutes, let it dry for a few hours, repeat, install tire, let the glue dry.)

Tubeless Tires are tires that don’t use an innertube, as the name would suggest. For best results, you should use them with a rim and tire that are both designed specifically for tubeless, although you can make most rims and tires into a tubeless system. The tubeless system relies on a special valve and rim strip as well as sealant inside the tire to seal the gaps and pinpricks, so there is a measure of flat prevention built into the system. Tubeless MTB tires are pretty much universally used by most riders who race MTB or just go fast, but the narrower CX versions by and large haven’t worked as well, despite what the manufacturers of tubeless tires and rims will tell you. It’s not difficult to find stories of rider’s suffering from the dreaded burp (when a tubeless tire suddenly loses a little air.) While you can run lower tire pressures than you can with clinchers, they are still higher pressure than you can with tubulars, and the chance for race-ending losses of pressure makes the tubeless option a risky choice.

I’m by far not the only person that feels that if you’re even remotely serious about CX, tubulars are the only way to go. The ability to run super low air pressure is a massive increase in performance for your bicycle. A tire at 24psi that will not pinch flat is going to corner, brake, accelerate, and climb better than a tire at 40 or 45 psi that potentially could pinch flat. If you’re skinny, you can run even lower pressures, so you have even more traction.

Last season was my first on tubulars, and there is a bit of a learning curve with them. You should train as well as race on tubulars, so that you get used to how they perform- they are that different. By training on them as well, you can dial in your ideal tire pressures in situations that aren’t a race, and won’t cost you an entry fee by guessing too high or low on your tire pressure. However, they do require more TLC than clinchers, and they are more fragile. You can cut the sidewall on rocks, for instance. Most CX courses in Florida don’t have a lot of rocks, but there are notable exceptions to this- Picnic Island in Tampa for one.

If this is your first season racing CX, you should go with clinchers. I recommend having two sets of wheels at your disposal on race day, so you don’t end up watching your race should you flat. One set should have a Grifo type intermediate tread, and the other is up to you. Personally, I like the speed of a Grifo XS type file tread, particularly on the rear wheel. You might not like the compromise of having relatively little traction, in which case, a set of wet treads is great for your spare set of wheels. Mix and match, trade with your friends, find out what you like best. Personally, I am probably going to race this most of the races this season with a Grifo (intermediate tread) front tire and a Grifo XS (file tread) rear.

What tire pressure you run is based on how much you and your bike weigh, and how you ride your bike. There are 140 pound guys like Jason Guillen who ride like they weigh 180, and there are 220 pound guys who ride like they weigh 160lbs. Obviously there are also 220 pound guys who ride like they weigh 320, too. Basically, for clinchers, you should start at about 40psi front/45psi rear and roll around your practice area a little bit. If you’re bouncing all over the place, take out a little air. If you’re feeling like the rim is going to bottom out, add more pressure. You might want to invest in a digital tire pressure gauge, they are surprisingly inexpensive. You basically want to get the tires hard enough that you don’t pinch flat, but soft enough that you don’t lose any fillings from all the bumps and ruts. What makes the tire pressure question even more complicated is that the perfect pressure changes every week. Temperature, course style, and precipitation are all a factor. You’d want a softer pressure for a course like 2012 Tampa Riverfront, that was all grass and turns, than you would for a course like 2012 Melbourne Day 1, with its long straightaways on smooth dirt roads.

File Treads

image from Embrocation
Pro:
  • roll fastest on pavement and hard pack
  • great in dry sand (and snow!)
  • decent traction in dry grass

Con:

  • not great in wet grass
  • bad in mud
  • not for the inexperienced cyclist

Intermediate Treads

image from Embrocation
Pro:
  • You must have a tire of this type
  • good if not excellent in most conditions
  • perfect traction in dry grass
  • good traction in wet grass

Con:

  • rolls slower and wears faster on pavement

Wet Treads

image from CX Magazine
Pro:
  • more aggressive tread = more traction
  • great in wet grass and some mud (and snow!)
  • still provides great (too much?) traction in dry grass

Con:

  • most rolling resistance
  • will wear out if used on road

There are also true mud tires, but I’m not going to discuss them here because you don’t really need them here in Florida. We simply don’t have that much mud. Yes, we have a couple of courses that have one or two mud sections on them, but not enough that the heavier, slower mud tires would help you.

There are obviously many more tire brands than Challenge. Some other tires that are popular in FLCX are Clement (clinchers and tubulars), Michelin (clinchers), Schwalbe (clinchers and tubulars) and Vitoria (clinchers and tubulars). There are also FMB and Dugast hand made tubulars, if you’re feeling really fancy.

Nine FLCX Series Races Highlight Expanded Florida Cyclocross Calendar For 2013/14 Season!

On September 10, 2013 by Christian

GAINESVILLE, FL – The 2013/14 Florida CX season promises to be the biggest and best in the history of Florida cycling. The season calendar features the return of eight races held in 2012/13 and the addition of an all new race in Dunedin and the highly anticipated return of racing in Winter Garden. In all, the ten weekends of racing make for many opportunities for cyclists of all skill levels to try their hand at the fastest growing discipline of cycling.

With an expanded calendar starting earlier than ever means that there are some exciting changes in the race for the FLCX Series Overall title. The biggest change is that only one race per weekend will count for the FLCX. Eight of the FLCX point races fall on Sundays with the season finale on Saturday January 18th before the State Championships the next day at the legendary Little Everglades Ranch in Dade City.

The 2013/14 Florida CX season kicks with the all new Edinburgh CX Challenge in Dunedin on September 22nd. The new course will be a great warm-up prior to the start of the FLCX Point Series that begins just two weeks later at the newly expanded Tampa Riverfront CX on October 12th and 13th. The all new course at Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park promises to be one of the best venues in the series as racing is just steps from Downtown Tampa. Highlighting the Tampa Riverfront CX race is equal prize money for both the Women and Men’s Category ½ fields. The start of the FLCX Series in Tampa also means the return of neutral support of VeloChamp. Every FLCX Series race will have VeloChamp’s neutral service to help keep you on a bike and in the race regardless of what kind of luck you have.

Anticipation for the first Halloween cyclocross race in Florida history is building as the FLCX Series returns to Winter Garden for the first time in two years on October 27th. The races promises to feature the twisty turns and treacherous sand pits that the race was known for before taking a brief hiatus. This race will surely be known for both the quality of racing and the costumes of the racers.

Miami returns to the Florida Cyclocross series with Tropical Cyclocross for the sixth time in as many years on November 2nd and 3rd. The course at Virginia Key features one of the best run-ups in all of Florida and the local Miami racers will surely bring their best heckles. Make sure you bring the sunscreen as this course brings you to the beach and will leave you shouting, “ooooOOOOOOOooooooOOOOOO,” on every lap.

The gang at Infinity Racing have decided to go all in with two days of racing at the BMX track in Melbourne on November 9th and 10th. This race is well known for having the first flyover in Florida CX and the BMX track features some of the best opportunities to show off your bike handling skills. With five race weekends completed and four FLCX events in the books the newly expanded two-day Ocala CX weekend on November 23rd and 24th provides a great half-way mark for the 2013/14 season. The promoters are promising an all new course and an even bigger event as they make their first appearance on the FLCX Series Calendar.

Change is in store for the next two race weekends in Tallahasse and Gainesville. The December 7th and 8th weekend of Tally CX promises to be the coldest race on the calendar and the new course will feature some amazing run-ups and lots of the off-camber switchbacks that course designer, Jim Smart is known. The next weekend the racing shifts to Gainesville for the fourth edition of Swamp Cross with an all-new course on tap for December 14th and 15th.

With just one race weekend to go before the season finale at the Little Everglades Ranch in Dade City on January 18th and 19th racing once again descends upon the National Training Center in Clermont on January 4th and 5th. The Clermont course is easily the most difficult course on the calendar with an amazing amount of climbing and a run-up that will have you asking for help just a few laps in. With only one more day left to score FLCX Series points the racing will be fast and furious.

As cyclocross continues to grow in Florida the promoters of FLCX and the Florida Bike Racing Association (FBRA) have been working hard to ensure a great racing experience and a clearinghouse of information. In addition, the FBRA has created an all-new ranking system for the 2013/14 season dubbed the FRS-CX. This ranking series is another way to see how you compare to other cyclocross racers in Florida.

For up to the date information about Florida Cyclocross or the FLCX please visit: www.flcx.org
For up to the date information about Florida Bike Racing and the FBRA please visit: www.myfbra.org

FRS-CX Points Series: What’s it all about?

On September 5, 2013 by Christian

The Florida Bike Racing Association has rolled out a FRSCXbrand new points series for CX in the state of Florida, the FRS-CX Point Series. This brand new series will award points to riders in all categories for end of season prizes based on riders 7 or 8 best finishes at ANY CX race in the state of Florida, whether that race was part of the FLCX Season Series or not.

The FRS-CX Point Series will operate exactly like the FRS-Road points series, as an overall series irrespective of who the promoter is and whether or not the race they promote is a part of a pre-existing points series. As long as it’s a USA Cycling permitted CX race and it’s held on a weekend, it qualifies for the FRS-CX.

To state it as simply as possible, the FRS-CX Points Series will be tabulated based on your best 7 or 8 race finishes at any weekend Cyclocross USA Cycling permitted event. The FLCX Points Series will be tabulated based on your best 7 finishes at the 9 FLCX Series races.

The FRS-CX point series is open to:

2013 FRS-CX Categories

  • Junior 10-14 male
  • Junior 10-14 female
  • Junior 15-18 male
  • Junior 15-18 female
  • Men Open
  • Men 3
  • Men 4/5
  • Women Open
  • Women 4
  • Men master 35+
  • Men master 45+
  • Men master 55+
  • Singlespeed

Complete details on the FRS-CX points series can be found at MyFBRA.

The FLCX Point Series will continue as it has in the past years, with points being tabulated based on results at specific events.

Complete details on the FLCX Points Series can be found here.