Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Three Peaks USA Ultracross

This past weekend  I raced the Three Peaks USA Ultracross event in Banner Elk, NC.  It was my third time doing this event in as many years.  For the most part, the course has continued to use many of the main trails and roads, but each year a few sections are either removed or added to the race.  Each year this race has become a little less technical and more cyclocross bike friendly; however, I still think using a 29er mtb is the best choice for the job.

Over my past few years of doing these ultra cross races, I've switched between using a CX bike to a MTB many times.  My finishing times are always faster and I think there is a lot less risk of getting a flat tire or having a mechanical when a MTB is used instead of a CX bike.  Even though I know a MTB is usually the best choice for doing ultracross events, I decided to pick a cross bike for Three Peaks.  I made this choice because I thought the course changes this year would make the cross bike a faster option.  I guess there is also a part of me that feels like these things are just more fun to do on a cross bike.  I do know that racing these events on a CX bike is a completely different experience than doing them on a MTB.  But, unfortunately, my decision to use a CX bike at Three Peaks might have been the main reason that I finished the race in second place instead of first in the SS category.

I'm pretty sure if I used a MTB set-up with tubeless tires, I would have not had a flat tire about 25 miles into the race and probably could have stayed in the lead until the finish.  But, instead of having a trouble-free ride, my 700x35 tire/tube choice pinch flatted and I had a hard time replacing my flat tube.  The first issue that slowed down my repair was removing the wheel from my horizontal dropouts SSCX with disc brakes.  This bike is not as quick as a bike with verticle dropouts because I have to loosen my rear disc brake caliper, remove my chain from the front chainring and also from the rear cog in order to get the wheel off the bike.  Of course, these things also need to be tightened and replaced after fixing my flat tire.  The next issue I had was when I went to put air in my tire with my C02 cartridge.  For some reason, the inflator I was using would not expel air.  After trying to get it to work a few times, I finally remembered that I had a spare inflator in my seat bag and was able to get it to work.  In all, I lost at least 7 minutes doing this simple repair and I knew it would be difficult to catch the new leader of the race, D-Rapp.

Nevertheless, I chased hard and was actually having a good time catching each rider that had passed me while I attempted to gain some of my lost time back.  I did catch a lot of riders during this time, but was unable to catch my friend, Dan.  Even though I did not win the race, I was happy with how my legs felt and also had a lot of fun riding the tough Three Peaks course.  It was also cool to see Dan take the well-deserved win, since he has been having some knee pain issues lately and wasn't sure how the day would turn-out for him.

I'm excited to be doing the grand daddy of all ultra cross races, Iron Cross, this coming weekend and I'm hoping to have a little better bike luck there.  This is one of my favorite races to do because of the variety of terrain covered.  I've used mountain and cross bikes at this race in the past and know that a MTB would probably be the best choice, but I'll be racing on my SSCX again and pushing the bikes limits on the technical descents in Michaux State Forest.  I know it's not the smartest choice, but I think it will be the funnest!

Happy Trails...  Gerry

1 comment:

  1. I flatted on the same exact descent, and I was running a tubeless mountain bike setup - blew out the sidewall enough that the sealant wouldn't hold. So you might have still had the same bad luck on tubeless mountain bike setup. It was fun riding with you for a bit towards the end - couldn't keep up with you on the final climb ... you're a beast!