On Saturday I participated in the Town Hall Cyclocross race in Bethlehem, PA. It’s the second time I’ve raced Town Hall Cross and it’s the second time this race has kicked my butt. I had my wife, kids, and in-laws on site to watch me race and to support my daughter in her first kids race. Boy did I put on a show! That was my worst performance in a cyclocross race I have ever put on. It was embarrassing. The weird thing about the Town Hall race is that it doesn’t look like it’s going to be hard. Even during the pre-race lap you think it’s going to be something you can handle. However, that course is sneaky; like walk up and kick you in the balls sneaky! Whoever planned that course knew exactly what they were doing on every part of that course. Every turn, every straight, every climb is exactly planned out to be a challenge and you have to be very focused. I wanted to post a video but there is a really annoying piece of dirt right on the front lens of my camera. It’s obscures too much of the middle of the screen for the video to be effective. If you could see that video it would be me laying it down about 6 times on various turns. The positives for the day was that I got to hang out with some cool dudes racing cyclocross and my daughter pinned on her first number at a cyclocross race. Bad day of racing, good day overall though.
Here are my thoughts on the Town Hall CX course. This may not look like a technical course but the course is extremely challenging. You have a very tough zig zag climb followed by a very steep climb you can just pedal over. After that it moves into a very steep downhill off camber turn. The course has plenty of turns with enough off camber stuff to really throw you off (literally). The course is primarily grass and when I raced the grass was nice and wet. This made it extremely difficult taking turns at speed and trying to put down power out of the turns. Every time I thought I could take a turn fast I went down. Every time I tried to increase power coming out of the apex of the turns I went down. I tried to speed up in the straights only to lock up the wheels and slide for 10 feet before the turn. I was wishing for big knobby mud tires half way through my first lap.
On my second lap I crashed hard on the steep off camber turn. I got up to speed and then started applying the brakes. I started skidding down the off camber turn and knew this wasn’t going to be good. I decided to run 25 psi front and 30 psi rear on my tubeless setup which was another mistake. I burped air twice on the first lap. That loss of air in my rear tire contributed to a spectacular crash on the off camber down hill starting my second lap. Basically, it went like this. I was pushing too much speed down the hill. I applied the brakes then started sliding down the hill. The low pressure in the tire allowed the tire to fold. The rear wheel buckled underneath the pressure as the rim catches the grass. I go flying off doing my best impression of superman then tuck and roll. I couldn’t believe I bent my rim and had to run back to the pits.
Once I made it to the pits, I jumped on my pit bike and took off. I also realized that the low psi I put into my tubulars was causing me to roll all over the course. Every turn I could feel the tires bending over and I was losing traction. I hit the gravel section in the back and flatted my front tubular because I was running a super low pressure. I ran that bike through the other half of the course where I picked up a third pit bike. From that point I soft pedaled and stayed out of everyone’s way and ensured I was last place instead of the dreaded DNF.
I believe Town Hall is better suited for riders under 160 pounds. The lower weight would be huge on that extended climb. A lower weight means you have a better chance of slowing speed into the corner without losing traction. I broke loose my traction coming up to every turn. I’m a pretty strong rider right now and can accelerate quickly out of the turns. However, stopping that acceleration before the next turn was killing me. Weighing 180lbs means there is more weight to stop before the turn. Also, being strong isn’t a direct strength on slippery grass. Accelerating too quickly out of the turn and you lose traction completely and are down on the ground. You just can’t power your way through this course. You have to be extraordinarily smooth in the turns, careful with your speed, and focused the entire time.
I think Town Hall could be an epic course if they had a large sand pit. I know there is only so much you can do in these public parks and a sand pit is the only thing they are missing. I would also love to see that course in November. Imagine Town Hall with snow or rain/mud. That would an awesome course. As it is on the schedule now, I think this course is better suited for a smaller rider who can remain smooth through the turns.
My daughter had a great time in the kids race. It was really exciting to see so many kids out there racing. They are the future of the sport and the Town Hall folks got it right. They did two simple infield laps and handed out finishers medals at the end. My daughter absolutely loves her medal and she is now determined to ride her bike without the training wheels this time. I’ve have not been pushing my daughter at all with bicycling. I’m letting her do things at her speed and how she wants to do them. The idea of racing in the kids race was completely her idea. Once she heard there was a kids race where daddy was racing, that girl was in. Once she saw some smaller kids riding their bikes without training wheels, she said “Daddy, I need to ride my bicycle without my training wheels. Can you help me with that?” I sure can honey, I sure can.
And of course remember, when the going gets tough, embrace the suck!