Sorry in advance for the long post.
My wife and I had been planning on running a 5K on Thanksgiving Day with our high school aged daughter (She runs cross country) as we had last year. However, her coach told her she needed to take a two week off season from running, so I wanted to find an alternative to running this year. I happened upon a cyclocross race in Lakewood, CO, which was called Turkey Cross. It looked like a low key event and wife and I would have another excuse to go out on our Jet 9 RDOs, so we thought we would give cyclocross a try.
We are in our late 40s now, but had previously raced mountain bikes in our 20s and 30s. For the last few years we have been doing a mtb hill climb, but weren’t comfortable racing our old hard tails on a full up course. Since we bought the Jet 9 RDOs, our confidence has climbed but the only racing this time of year is cyclocross, so we decided to give it a try.
For my race, there were about 60 guys in a “C” class with no age divisions. I was not the only one on a mountain bike as there were 5 or 6 others. I started in back and wanted to avoid trouble and just keep in contact with the field. The course itself had a couple of barriers fairly close to the start line followed by some single track, a few tight turns in a gravel lot, a bit more singletrack, a run up, fire road, and finally a sand pit.
On the twisty and (slightly) rocky portions of the singletrack, I would catch anybody ahead of me, but was unable to pass due to the narrow trail and many trees, except a few who would have minor mishaps and either bobble an obstacle or go down. Full suspension and the big racing ralphs gave me an advantage over the cross bikes. If there was not too much traffic, I could ride the run up and ride the sand pit. Low gears and big tires made it possible. Fire roads and smooth straight single track, I was at a pretty big disadvantage. Once in a while I could catch a wheel, but otherwise a bit of a problem. I was marginally OK at dismounting, but was unable to remount the way the other riders were able to do.
The spectators were great and I would get extra cheering for being on a mountain bike. I finished 39th overall and felt a bit more at the start and learning to remount quickly could move me up into the top third. I really enjoyed the experience.
For my wife’s race, there were about 12 women in a “C” class with no age divisions. I believe there were just a couple of women with mountain bikes. They went off two minutes after the men started. She had much the same experience with regard to the course, except she was not confident enough to do a cyclocross dismount. Additionally, with a smaller field, traffic was much lower until she had to start picking off the back of the men’s field. She ended up finishing 4th, and also enjoyed the day.
With a pretty good Turkey Cross behind us, I was willing to try a bit more serious looking race. During the week, I learned how to do the running remount thing that the cyclocross guys do, and I planned to hammer off the start. My wife decided to opt out until she learned how to dismount and remount, but went with me and took lots of pictures. I signed up for the SM 45+ Cat4 division, which would start one minute after the SM 45+ open division. There were many more divisions that he Turkey Cross. The first indication of a challenging day was during registration. I needed to sign up for the one day racing license, but few of the volunteers were accustomed to doing this, seems everybody else just had their annual license. It also became readily apparent that I was the only one with a mountain bike. Nevertheless, I took a practice lap and went to the start area.
Once the open division went off, I lined up with the Cat 4s, there we about 30 guys, and a nice wide starting area. My plan of hammering off the line was looking pretty good, until we started. The course itself was shorter than the turkey cross. There were two run ups, one quite painful, and with the shorter course came more opportunities to run up. There was a sand pit, but it seemed damp and everyone could ride through it with relative ease. Lots of grass and very chicany and no singletrack, ugh. Once underway, I quickly realized that my fast start off the line was not as fast as almost everyone else’s fast start off the line. It was then that I fully realized that it was going to be a significantly more difficult race.
I gamely went about my race, dismounting and remounting after the obstacles, running up hills, etc. The group of about 24 kept pulling away from me while the trailing 5 or 6 kept fading behind me. I was lapped by a number of the Open Class guys, but if I understood the announcer correctly, I was able to avoid being lapped by any Cat 4s. It was a bit confusing out on the course with people lapping and other people wandering out to do a pre-ride. The results have not yet been posted, so I don’t yet know the final standings. Overall, a bit more discouraging than the Turkey Cross. This was certainly a more challenging endeavor, and not much of the circuit played to a mountain bike. I may try one last one next weekend, but will have to research the results and how competitive next week’s race is, otherwise I’ll wait until next season and start a bit earlier.
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