It’s looking like Melas is going to be a muddy and possibly snowy affair. So first off our thoughts go out to the Northbrook Garner Bicycle Club and Flatlandia Cycling Team for as painless a course set-up process as possible. When you see these people on Sunday give them a big thanks cause as much as you might not like racing in foul weather, promoting a race in it is about 100x worse.
Since we haven’t had a mud race in the Cup yet this year it’s important to get a day in this week to test your skills and equipment. Weight distribution, line choice, speed, your angle relative to the ground and through the corners are all factors that add up to get you through the turns as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Weight distribution – keep your weight back more than usual at every point in the race and especially while turning. The tread on your tires needs to dig into the ground or you won’t have traction when you need it.
Line choice – study the course as much as you can. The worn track through the middle of the turn is not always the best. Look for grass at the edges of the corners as an option to get more grip and give them a try before your race. Look for little divots also that can act as berms. They’ll enable you to slide into them, change direction and power out.
Once you’re into the turn you have to go with the flow. Don’t fight the direction your bike wants to take but rather make the best of it.
Speed – sometimes painfully slow is the least painful. Check your speed prior to entering a turn because if you’re on the brakes during the turn there is a good chance you’re going to slide too much. Don’t be afraid to take your inside foot out either. It might take a fraction of a moment to pop it back in on the way out but you can carry more speed and touch your foot down when you start to slide.
Angle part 1 – the closer you are to a 90 degree angle relative to the ground the faster you’ll be able to get through a slippery corner. It is the exact opposite of what you want to do on dry pavement. It feels like riding a rail on a train track when done properly.
Angle part 2 – Start as wide as you can, cut across the apex of the corner and come out of it as wide as you can. You are essentially straightening out the corner. Go to YouTube and watch some MotoGP and downhill ski racing. They have to get it right.
Equipment – Large, sharp and aggressively knobbied tires are the way to go. The flatter and lower the surface the harder it is for those little guys to dig down into the mud and snow.
Disk brakes are a big advantage because they will engage much more quickly and effectively. It means that you can go into turns and up to barriers at faster speeds and brake later than you can with traditional rim brakes. Seconds per turn add up to minutes per race.
Patience is your friend. Take it easy through the technical sections and then sit back on your wheel and kill it in the straights. CX can be death by a thousand cuts so take your time and take advantage of the mistakes made by those around you.
See you Sunday.