Hard to believe it, but the first WCA CX race--The Sheboygan Bicycle Company CX Classic--is just 5 days away! That means it's high time to take stock of where I'm at with my equipment, condition, and mentality. In simple terms: how ready am I?
Things were looking very grim for cyclocross purchases this summer, but by selling 7 of my 8 bikes and by working my tail off at two part-time jobs this summer, I was able to get what I needed at the last minute. So here's what I'll be on this year:
My 'A' bike (on right in photo):
--Trek Boone 9 cantilever
--1x10 drivetrain (Red crankset, Force shifters, CX1 rear derailleur, Wolftooth 40t chainring, 11-28 PG1070 cassette, KMC 10SL Gold chain)
--Avid Shorty Ultimate brakes with Swissstop Black Prince pads
--Bontrager RXL alloy stem, RXL Isozone bars, Bontrager carbon fiber seatmast, and Fizik Aliante saddle
--Easton EC90 SLX carbon fiber tubular wheelset running Challenge Chicanes.
My 'B' bike (on left in photo):
--Trek Crockett 7 cantilever
--1x10 drivetrain (FSA Energy Cross crankset, Rival shifters, Force rear derailleur, Race Race 40t chainring, 11-28 PG1070 cassette, KMC 10SL Gold chain)
--Avid Shorty 6 brakes with stock pads for now
--Bontrager RXL alloy stem, RXL carbon bars, Thomson Elite setback seatpost, and Fizik Aliante saddle
--Vista Cruiser alloy tubular wheelset running Challenge Limuses
Both bikes are the same size, have the same geometry, and are dialed in to fit exactly the same. So this should make swapping bikes very comfortable. The bikes feel the same underneath me, and they handle very similarly. The Boone, of course, accelerates a lot faster, feels a lot lighter when carried, pushed, or lifted, and offers a smoother, more comfortable ride. I swapped back and forth between them this morning and was pretty amazed at how much better the Boone is overall, but the Crockett is certainly good enough to finish a race on if I get a mechanical on the Boone or to take every other lap or two in a mudder. So this is a great set up that I plan to get two good seasons out of.
The weakness in my equipment is wheel selection. I've just got one great wheelset--the Easton EC90 SLXs--which are set up with the Chicanes. This limits that wheelset to dry or tacky races only, but that is 80% of our races. I've got the heavier alloy tubular wheelset with the Limuses on them for the Boone in muddy races, and they will be on the Crockett for dry races. I also have a new set of Bontrager Race TLR wheels that I'll set up tubeless with Clement PDXs which I will put on the Crockett for muddy races.
That's how I'll be starting the season, but I have placed an order with Trek for a set of Aeolus 3 D3 tubulars. So when (or if?) those ever arrive, I'll put some new Challenge Chicane Team Edition tires (which I already have) on them. I will then pull the current Chicanes off my Easton wheelset and replace them with new Challenge Limus Team Edition tires (which I already have). That'll give me 2 superlight carbon fiber wheelsets, one for mud and one for dry. Plus, I'll still have the alloy wheelset with the old Limuses on them. So in a mudder, I'll have a superlight Limus setup for the A bike and the alloy Limus setup for the B bike. I really hope to get all of this set up by the time of Jingle Cross, my first important race of the season.
I'm feeling pretty confident in my current condition and plan to keep building it between now and Jingle Cross in mid-November. I started the year slow, with lots of unstructured endurance riding in March, April, and May. That meant I suffered hard in the first MTB races of the year; I didn't have any real muscular endurance--the ability to hold a hard effort for a long time--nor any real force--the ability to power up hills and through rough terrain. In June I started doing more structured training in the form of weekly hill repeats, more muscular endurance workouts, and a bit of high intensity training. I also started holding a weekly cyclocross skill session (now in week 15 of that!). I started seeing improvement in my MTB fitness by late July, and in the last few races I've been a lot stronger (even when sick!).
So right now I have very good endurance, muscular endurance, and force for cyclocross, and I've honed my skills pretty well. Recently I have done some hot laps and some anaerobic threshold training (in the form of HIIT workouts), so I'm starting to feel the higher-end fitness come together. The plan from here is to let that higher-end fitness come via all the racing I'll be doing in September and October, setting me up for my new big goal of taking the Master's 35+ overall award at Jingle Cross (that's right--I'm racing in 35+ there, not 45+, because I want to race against those top 5 guys who bested me there last year).
Since I've got all my equipment dialed in and have my condition on track (not counting the summer flu I'm fighting right now), my mind is in a good place for the coming year. I'm excited but not chomping at the bit quite as much as I was this time last year, but I think that's just because my goals are different and I'm more aware of the real length of the season when Nationals is the top goal. Also helping my mental outlook is the fact that I will be focusing primarily on the Pro 1/2 races. I won't go into those races feeling the same kind of pressure to win as I would if I were trying to repeat last year's feat of winning both the Masters 35+ Cat 1/2 WCA Series and the State Championship race. Instead, I can approach the WCA races as an opportunity to build a very high level of fitness by chasing guys like Brian Matter, Joe Maloney, Tristan Schouten, and others around. That leaves the real psychological pressure for the select national-level races I'll be doing such as the Trek CXC Cup, Cincy3, Jingle Cross, and Nationals.
Finally, one thing I really got more focused on during this summer's MTB racing is racing for the joy of racing. It's great fun to win races, but if you focus on that, you tend only to enjoy the races you win. If you focus instead on how awesome it is to be flying around a technical course, elbow-to-elbow with your racing brothers-in-arms, you'll enjoy all of your racing. And when you're enjoying it, you're probably going to race better anyway.
It's going to be a great season: I've got my gear dialed, my fitness on track, and my mind in the right place. I also have great support from my team (KS/TW), my teammates, and my team's sponsors (KS Energy Services, Emery's, Trek, and others), Plus, my family is into the bike racing scene too, so every outing is a good time for all of us.
CX is Coming Now! Let's do this! See you all out there!