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  1. #1
    Lost AngryScientist's Avatar
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    tell me about your FIRST cross race

    well, its done, i put together a franken-cross bike, just ordered the eggbeaters today, should be here by the weekend.

    i am considering entering a race or two soon, so i'm looking for some stories of your first race...

    whats the biggest first-timer mistake? should i plan on something definitely breaking? must have tools/spare parts? any cool stories are welcomed (especially where people have made a fool of themselves - which i will surely do to some degree).

  2. #2
    Senior Member
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    It's a bit late in the season now, i'm afraid. Cross is mostly done til September now. My biggest mistake was picking up too few packs of free Assmaster chamois creme. The awful saddle on my bike made me very sore after being bumped around the course on clinchers with too much pressure. Now I run tubulars....

    Your most likely mechanicals are a dropped chain and a pinch flat. These can be avoided with proper prep. I wouldn't worry too much about spare wheels yet. Incidentally, my first cross race was on this bike, stripped down and with nicer tyres...
    http://www.dawescycles.com/dawes/kalahari-1.htm

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  4. #4
    Tiocfáidh ár Lá jfmckenna's Avatar
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    My first cross race was in 2000. I had no idea what cross was except from a short article in an old training book from the early 80's. I thought it looked like a lot of fun and found out there was a race series a couple hours from me. I modified an old touring bike that I had for cross, pretty easy actually all I had to do was put tires on. It had down tube shifters, bad idea. I thought I was a strong guy so I registered for the B race. This was before you had any system and you could pretty much register for any race you wanted. So I am cruising around the course by my self as every one else was gone, got passed by a girl hit a hole and went right over the handle bars

    I didn't feel too bad because the girl that passed me after starting probably 10 minutes after our race turned out to be a state champion and top five in nationals, and a really cool person.

    So I promptly realized that I didn't belong in the B's and started to race C's. I also put on barcon shifters to because DT shifters are treacherous in cross.

  5. #5
    All Bikes All The Time Sawtooth's Avatar
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    I think your timing is perfect because you will need the summer to get strong (unless your C group is slow compared to mine). Remember who usually races cross in an area where it is not very big. I don't know but maybe 5 guys total who race cross who are not also major players on the road bike racing scene. And those fetchers are fast and just coming off of peak fitness having raced all summer. The speed of even cat 4/5 racers is not to be underestimated IMO. There is a HUGE difference between being fit and being race fit. .

    Besides not having raced the road season to be able to keep up with the pack, my biggest mistake was underestimating the pain I was in for and failing to warm up properly . Seriously, I did not warm up at all! While all the other guys were on trainers or riding the course I was helping with registration. Even though I am a strong recreational rider and it was "just" a C group, the start was blistering fast. The cold air and lack of warm-up caught up with me by lap 2 and I was pretty much alone from there on. I was going crazy hard at a level I was unaccustomed to. I had a cramp in my latisimus muscle that was screaming at me with every scortching breath I drew. Ultimately, I had to pull over and lean against my bike to get the cramp to go away. It was at that point that I was passed by my co-workers 14 year old son (state champ). I really felt like a crappy racer.

    BUT...I kept riding and even though I think I was the last person across the line, I still had a big stupid grin on my face. It is just that much fun. In all fairness, our fields are tiny (15 or so in C) and mostly made up of serious road racers

    Next time....a 20-30 minute full warm up....I know my body and it just does not do well with cold hard starts. I think it would have made all the difference.

    As far as bike handling, that part was a blast! Cross is fun to race even at the very last position. The courses are really fun. Practice turning on 180 degree off-camber (downhill on the outside) grass turns and sprinting uphill out of them.

    I would also spend some more time practicing dismounts/mounts and running with my bike across barriers. There was a huge sand pit (lengthwise volleyball court) at the bottom of a hill that we hit running at about 15-18 mph. This was way faster than I had ever practiced dismounting at. Most cities where there is an active cross scene have some sort of practice sessions put on by one or more local race teams.

    Also, if your scene is like my scene, don't forget to do some windsprint type running. There will be a lot of it during the race.

    Have fun with it...unless you are a freak, you are likely to get beat up out there. Just go in and mix it up and have a lot of fun. It is totally different than the road racing scene in that there is a low-key attitude.

    I totally suck at racing but I can't wait for next season!
    Last edited by Sawtooth; 02-03-09 at 01:26 PM.

  6. #6
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    Hey I want to thank you for putting this up. I'm in the same situation as you: I just bought a bike (with eggy's coincidentally, i saw your other thread) and am training for my first event next season. I live in Jersey so its cold as hell out here, so its been good for my training. I'm considering a couple of training methods:
    1) Getting on and off and getting over barriers. Since you have eggys, set the cleats so that its a 15 degree angle of release. That'll probably be easier getting off faster.
    2) LONG rides. I'm guessing endurance will be a good thing.
    3) Doing some stairs with my bike on my back. I figure that'll be important.

    But, as a fellow noob to another noob, good luck.

  7. #7
    All Bikes All The Time Sawtooth's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by monty93 View Post
    Hey I want to thank you for putting this up. I'm in the same situation as you: I just bought a bike (with eggy's coincidentally, i saw your other thread) and am training for my first event next season. I live in Jersey so its cold as hell out here, so its been good for my training. I'm considering a couple of training methods:
    1) Getting on and off and getting over barriers. Since you have eggys, set the cleats so that its a 15 degree angle of release. That'll probably be easier getting off faster.
    2) LONG rides. I'm guessing endurance will be a good thing.
    3) Doing some stairs with my bike on my back. I figure that'll be important.

    But, as a fellow noob to another noob, good luck.
    You will have to have some long miles in as foundation to begin harder training, but the very best work on the bike IMHO will be 10-20 minute high intensity intervals. Racing is DANG fast and you will have to be able to run at or near the redline for an extended time to keep up with the pack.

    For my 1st race, I had multiple 6 hour-ish centuries and one double century (200 mile day) under my belt that summer. That did not seem to matter. I was missing the fast work required to run near the redline. Endurance is not such a big deal with cross, IMO since the C races are only 30-45 minutes.

    But hey, I admitedly suck at this I know how to be faster but am unwilling to do what it takes....that stuff really hurts
    Last edited by Sawtooth; 02-03-09 at 12:32 PM.

  8. #8
    Ride for Life wearyourtruth's Avatar
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    well my first race was this past weekend (cross your heart) and i had a blast. to give you a little background, i'd never done any sanctioned racing; road, mtb, etc. i've been an avid commuter for years and like to get out and ride around the city, but i rarely put in any major miles, and certainly have never trained for anything.

    i'd always thought cx would be a blast, but was always afraid of getting my ass kicked, so when my friends told me they were going to enter the race, i thought "well hell, i can beat you guys, at least i won't be last" and signed up. i have an old beat-up gary fisher alum commuter frame that i built up at my local co-op with a steel hybrid fork and assorted bits, nothing too crappy, but nothing grand either. the only thing worth a damn on the bike are my ultegra/open-pro wheels, which i put on after i got new wheels for my road bike. i had been using it for commuting in the snow with 42c IRC tires and figured i could just throw some drop bars on it and use it for the race.

    the race was a mix of pavement, grass, mud, MUD, and ice, i'm sure there will be plenty written about it and tons of pictures in the upcoming week or so.

    i learned several things:

    1. i got a tip from a video online to run the shortest chain you can. i am running 1x8 with an outside bashring, but nothing to keep the chain from jumping off the inside. i can't say that if i had not shortened the chain that i would have had problems, only that the chain stayed on the whole time without trouble

    2. i put my crank bros mallets on my bike because i feared that having to jump on and off and clipping in and out of my pedals in the mud and ice would be a real problem. i couldn't have been more right. i was able to hop on my bike and pedal a few rotations to get moving before i had to worry about clipping in. this was a real time saver and i passed numerous other riders having trouble clipping in after dismounting. i can't imagine having done this with regular eggbeaters.

    3. warm up. this has already been said, but it's super important. it's not an endurance race, and i know my body doesn't start to get into the groove for 10-15 minutes at least.

    4. almost all the advice i read about the start says to get as far into the front as you can from the very beginning so you don't get caught in the bottleneck. i totally understand this sentiment. i started near the back and i was literally walking through the first 100 yards or so after it narrowed down because there were so many people, but i wasn't racing to win. after things spread out a little i began to start passing people. i get WAY more thrill out of passing someone than getting passed, so i came out of the race pretty darn stoked because i probably passed 20 people and only got passed twice. had i started balls-out i may have finished better, but i wouldn't have won, and i would have felt a little bit of myself die as i got passed again and again by better riders that i happened to beat on the start.

    5. running kicked my @SS. i don't ever run, but it couldn't hurt to put in some miles if you are serious about cx. running up the few hills i had to get up was definitely the most efficient way for me to get up them, but i was DYING after i got back on my bike.

    6. pick someone and stick with them. this is a tactic that can be used in any race that you aren't in it to win, but it totally works. as a newb, i would just follow a guy in front of me, keep up with him and watch how he deals with the course. if he's too slow, pass him and start watching the next guy, etc.

    7. SLOW DOWN for the ice and mud. i ate it, bad, twice. once was on a patch of ice and the other in a mud pit. i knew the ice would be tricky and i just didn't slow down enough, but i didn't realize that taking a turn in the mud could be just as slick as the ice.

    8. don't be afraid to get off and run. when i started the race, i had a mentality of only getting off my bike if i NEEDED to, but before the first lap was over i had realized that i could pass people on certain sections by just dismounting and running past them, then hopping back on

    9. i didn't have as much trouble getting on and off my bike as i thought. maybe it's just years of commuting, running errands and stuff, but i felt getting on and off my bike came very naturally, even grabbing the bike to jump over obstacles wasn't a huge deal. for the record there weren't any parts of this course that i felt i needed to shoulder my bike, only run with it or pick it up very briefly

    10. it'll be over before you know it. after 2 laps i thought to myself "oh my god i'm never going to make it" then i passed the start line and realized i only had 2 laps to go. once i realized i was halfway there i felt much better.

    there's probably a lot more, but i've wasted enough of my boss's time

    p.s. here's me on the franken-bike of my own
    Last edited by wearyourtruth; 02-03-09 at 01:19 PM.
    before posting, a "noob" should always ask themselves "could this have been answered by first visiting Sheldon Brown

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  9. #9
    All Bikes All The Time Sawtooth's Avatar
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    Nice post Wearyourtruth. Make sure you thank your boss for us . BTW, how do you shift that thing?
    Last edited by Sawtooth; 02-03-09 at 01:28 PM.

  10. #10
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    He's got a barcon, looks like.

    First race? I didn't come in dead last, but close. I'd done plenty of off roading both on the bike (a modified tourer) and been casually mountain biking for a few years, so I wasn't worried about handling skills. I was wrong Cornering fast on a cross course is unlike any sort of cornering during normal riding. So practice that. This is still a weak poit for me. I consider myself a decent bike handler, but crossis just a different sort of handling than a lot of other riding.

  11. #11
    Ride for Life wearyourtruth's Avatar
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    i have a bar-end shifter on the right (you can barely see it by my wrist). it wasn't the most ideal, i would love to have had a brifter, but it wasn't bad for this race, certainly better than downtube shifters like mentioned above!
    before posting, a "noob" should always ask themselves "could this have been answered by first visiting Sheldon Brown

    -Tim-
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  12. #12
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    Nice bike, dude

  13. #13
    big ring MIN's Avatar
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    First cross race. I was 17 (1998), on a suspended Cannondale hardtail and in the C-group. It had been raining for about two weeks straight so the course was completed waterlogged. It was my first bicycle competition so I had no idea was to expect. I had worn running shoes and used platform pedals. By the end of the race, my bike was so covered in mud that the chain kept dropping to the 12T because the spaces between the cogs were so filled with mud that the cassette effectively turned into a ramp to the smallest cog. I just went my hardest and used what I knew about running and cycling to channel it into speed. I carried the bike over lots of the hills and I remember feeling like it was cheating. When the cowbell rang and I finished my last lap, I had took 2nd. I cleaned mud out of my hair and ears for the next week.

  14. #14
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    3 years ago - was my only cross race that year, as my bike was stolen about 2 weeks later. There was an evil runup, a terrifying muddy downhill dismount into a barrier, and a nice drizzle. I managed to stay mid pack for most of the race, but on the last lap I completely blew up and had to stop and dry heave a few times. I watched about 10 guys go by me before I summoned the will to soft pedal that last half lap. Finished a few slots ahead of DFL, and definitely humbled.

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    I have been riding a CX bike way before I started racing. I used to ride road and MTB but I hated the drastic difference in performance in the two types of bikes. So I bought a CX bike against all advice of my chuckling friends. I think because I have done so many " warrior missions"- meaning long road type rides to the MTB trail and fire roads road the trail and back home I was prepared for cross racing. Now I generally run cross country also so I'm sure that helps, but I remember being a bit winded. I wasnt used to the intense pace of a race. I can say that I generally race to be on the course for fun and the personal challenge CX is for me.

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