Monday, October 6, 2008

New Site!

This site is no longer active, but you can follow my blog and find other 'Cross related goodies and nonsense at Should be up and running by middle of October.
Thanks for reading and have a great winter!

Monday, December 17, 2007

National Champ!

Congratulations to 'cross book cover-boy and technique role-model Tim Johnson for his outstanding win at the US National Champs yesterday!
Don't bother reading the section on how to ride icy ruts in the book, just get some footage of Tim floating across the surface while all around him floundered, and keep watching it until you've got it mastered...
Top 10 at Worlds??

Friday, December 7, 2007

Top 10 tips.

Brooke Hoyer suggested on a post a few weeks ago that after Portland I should come up with a top 10 list of things that I noticed from that weekend, which would help the lower category racers improve, so here goes:

1. Keep dry and warm. In weather like that experienced in Portland, its vital that you keep as warm and dry as possible, before and during the race. In the race dry is impossible so it has to be wet but warm, otherwise you will simply freeze and stop fuctioning. Read about Lynne Bessette falling in one of the deep puddles? She froze and had to stop.
For your pre-ride use as many layers as you think appropriate and top it off with rain jacket and pants, and overshoes. Plus always something under your crash hat...
Then as soon as you are done with the pre-ride take all the wet stuff off and replace with dry. Don't start the race with anything that is wet and cold from that pre-ride, which means dry gloves, socks, shoes, base layers and skinsuit/bibs, jersey. I appreciate this means a lot of kit, so put it on your christmas wish-list!
I saw riders warming up in shorts, racing in t shirts, wearing cotton gloves... the list is a long one, and its so uncomfortable. Watch the Pro's; Trebon in full legs, Wells and Craig in waterproof gilets over their skinsuits, cotton caps under crash hats.

2. Line selection. A lot of riders I saw were riding with their heads down looking at the few feet in front of them only and had no "big picture" view of the course, which was changing every lap due to the extreme conditions. Look in front every few seconds and make a fast decision about which line to take; watch other riders in front and if they stall switch lines, don't follow them blindly.

3. Shortest is not always fastest. The racing line around a corner in bad conditions is not always the fastest. It is the line which gets the most traffic so becomes the most cut up and rutted, and because its the tight line it means you can't pedal round it, but because its slow you can't freewheel, so you stall. Go very wide, its likely to be less used, so firmer, and on a sweeping arc you can continue pedalling.

4. Keep your bike clean. When its very muddy and sticking to your bike, like saturday at Portland, you need to keep your bike clean especially if you only have one and can't take advantage of a bike change in the pits. On saturday Adam Craig was going off his racing line to ride through a deep puddle on the start/finish road section to clean his bike. Ride through standing water where possible and consider running slow, muddy sections which although rideable, will add mud to your bike. A down-side of modern lightweight componentry, especially derailleurs, is they only have a limited ability to function when clogged with mud. Watch the World Cup from Spain on and see the race leader snap his derailleur and have to run a road section, then see Bart Wellens lose 2nd spot on the last lap with the same problem. Todd Wells did it at Portland... You have to pay for your stuff so look after it, even during the race!

5. Dismount early. On saturday at Portland there was a barely rideable climb, and too many people tried to ride as far up it as they could then stopped, unclipped, slid back a foot or two, struggled to get off and then had to start pushing or running from a dead stop. Great entertainment for the crowd but bad news for your finishing position. Its not a sign of weakness to dismount early.Remember, momentum is your best friend.

6. Carry don't push. Way too many people were pushing their bikes instead of carrying them, and that mud was thick.

7. Tyre pressure. 80% of the tyres I pushed were too hard! If you run tubulars and don't have a pressure gauge stand over the wheel with both hands on the tyre and put all your body weight through them. If you bounce hard you should just feel the rim. Do the same on the front but let a bit more out as you dont have so much body weight over your front wheel but this is the one that washes out when its slippy. If you use clinchers then you need to do the same but they should feel harder (if you feel the rim its too soft). Clinchers "fold under" when too soft which tubs don't, you also risk pinch flats with a soft clincher.

8. Think ahead, change gear. A lot of people were approaching an obstacle (hurdles, hill, corner) and not changing into the gear they would need to exit it, so way over-geared. In mud you have to be on top of the gear so if you slide off a line you don't lose speed or time getting back on it. Think ahead, change gear more often.

9. Be a stalker. Warm up behind a Pro; see which lines they use, which gear they are in, when they dismount. They will be faster and stronger than you but usually on early pre-ride laps they are going easy just checking it all out. You will learn a lot, I guarantee!

10. Learn from your mistakes. Think about your race when it is done and you are back home, warm and dry. Think about where you lost time, where you were good, and learn from the experience for the next weekend.

11. Go to the after race party! Hang out, enjoy yourself; you are doing a great sport with like-minded people, have fun and don't take it too seriously.


Normally I would have mentioned Chris Horner in the post about the Portland weekend, but he deserves his own space and title.
Now we know that Chris Horner likes 'cross racing, his name pops up in results most weekends pretty soon after Lombardy has been and gone, and I hear he is relatively local to Portland, but to see him splashing round anonymously mid-pack on saturday at the USGP gave me a warm fuzzy feeling, that after all the crap associated with ProTour road racing in recent months, here was a guy who definitely loved bike racing in whatever form, and didn't have a problem getting his arse kicked; no ego on show, no attitude.
Even better, he then showed up on sunday, but to spectate! I'm sorry, I cannot see any of his peers standing in mid-calf deep mud being battered by the elements, trying to keep an umbrella from turning inside out, watching a bike race.

If you are a road racer (doubtful, why would you be reading a 'cross blog?!), take a leaf from Mr Horner's book and widen your horizons with other disciplines, if you are a 'cross rider with little interest in the road, well make Chris the guy you follow during the summer; he deserves your support, he is a cyclist who has never forgotten why he does this sport, and personally I salute him.

A Brit in Portland

Right before we start, lets get something clear here. Never in the history of British weather has it ever rained so hard, for so long, as it did in Portland last week, and if one more person had said to me "bet it feels like home huh?!" they would have a 34mm mud tread tyre inserted down aforementioned throat. I don't know about all those nice bike shops selling custom 'cross bikes, they should start knocking up a few arks and getting the animals together...

But back to the racing. This was the final two rounds of the USGP series, a series that has elevated American cyclocross to be competitive on the world stage, and which should be given massive credit for promoting and popularising the discipline, and raising the level at the sharp end. Bruce Fina and team, take a bow.

Alongside this were the supporting races comprised of the masses who take part in the Cross Crusade series every week in Portland and surrounding districts, and its pretty clear they do enjoy a 'cross race in these parts; I'm probably preaching to the converted here as most American followers have seen the pictures and read the reports, but for any stray Brits reading this you've got to check them out (, etc); fancy dress, beer, waffles, girls (and guys sadly..) in hot tubs, tech areas with proper teams doing it right and putting on a show, merchandising, and more damn cowbells than in the whole of Switzerland. And good racing....

But its a risky business, putting two days of racing back-to-back on the same course with only a few daylight hours to make repairs and small changes. So racing started 8.30am on saturday morning just as first light had arrived. (I need to tweak the pre-riding/course inspection section of 4th Edition cyclocross to include how to do a course inspection in the dark and which lights work best), and there were virtually no breaks from then until the Elite Men finished at just after 4pm, just as it was going dark again. Repeat on Sunday.
I'm not sure how many riders raced and trained on the course on saturday but I'll guess at 400, and in constant wet and mud that makes for some pretty deep ruts and not a whole lot of grass left. All it needed was for Sunday to start drying out and it would have been one sticky running race; thank God for more rain so it kept the mud runny and the course all rideable!
Then there was the wind; too strong for banners on the barriers, and snapping or pulling the wooden stakes out of the ground that held up the marking tape, it also trashed a few easy-up tents and Kona discovered that a team tent isn't quite as stable as a Trebon in high wind.

The racing was good, but if you put 60 Elite guys or girls together its rare you get bad racing; the difference and uniqueness of this event (and from what I've read, countless others like it across the States) is the crowd support. I'll be honest here, if I hadn't travelled across a few time zones for quite a few hours to be there I would have been tempted to stay indoors, I mean you wouldn't throw the dog out in that weather would you? But if it did put anyone off, it didn't show. I guess Portland people are quite used to crappy weather and still going out to play in it, and they made it a special weekend for a visiting foreigner. I've been to hundreds of races in Belgium, Holland, Switzerland etc, and for the most part the atmosphere at those events is good, with large knowledgeable crowds, but given the choice between Igorre World Cup in Spain or USGP in Portland, I'm glad I chose the latter.

And then there was the after-race party... I reckon I could get Steve Peat and the other hard-partying Brit Downhillers to move over to 'cross if they knew they could get to play out all night after they had raced. The warehouse party was a nice way to end a series, but the follow-up at "Dantes" downtown was memorable! Too bad no cell phones were allowed which meant no photos, as no-one believes me when I tell them about the fire eating strippers, acrobat girl tying herself up in the curtains and the pole dancer doing push-ups with her feet by her ears. It was also good to see two of the Elite podium men, Trebon and Wells, out having fun and not being paranoid about staying out past 10pm and having a beer; there is life outside of bike racing, please pass the message onto your Euro colleagues.

To everyone who made my trip over so enjoyable, thanks.. I'll be back and will try and bring more with me!

New York Times

So cyclocross made the hallowed pages of the New York Times recently, check it out at A pretty good article that to a total 'cross virgin nicely describes what it's all about; although I'm not so sure about the "cross between BMX and road biking", I think I'd replace BMX with mountain bike, but thats being picky about an article in a major broadsheet that can only be positive! Maybe they will follow it up with a report on the National Championships?