Newbie Iron Cross Questions

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(Edit: For those who don’t know, Iron Cross is an Ultra-Cross event inspired by the Three Peaks race in the UK. It’s basically a race consisting of gravel roads, paved roads, fire roads, and single track. There are many sections in which carrying you bike over steep grades are required. Although some sections would be better handled by a mountain bike, the traditional tool is a ‘cross rig. The event is quite different from a normal cross race!)

My first race of the year is only 2 days away. The forecast for the Humdinger is a possibility of rain, which should make for a fun trail run.

I can’t help but look forward to my A race, Iron Cross ultra ‘cross race October 7 in Michaux State Forest. Being my first Ultra Cross event (heck, I have only raced 1 ‘cross race ever), there are many unknowns dancing in my head. Let’s look at some of the questions I spend my long hours of free time thinking about (insert sarcasm here).

1. Will I be in shape enough to at least partially enjoy the challenge? Or, will it be another cramp festival like the Mon-Tour bike race I suffered through last year? Obviously, the main factor here is training. I have the novel idea of actually training for this race. This is a large deviance from my normal strategy in which my regimin consists of one ride to the stop sign to make sure my bike is shifting properly.

I just hope those old dudes from the Mon-Tour race aren’t at Iron Cross; I really don’t want to hear them brag about passing all those young guys on the hill….I have a kid, buddy and didn’t train. I will be the one laughing when I buy your bike in a few years for half of what you paid for it because you are hanging it up to go play golf since it’s not comfortable to ride your bike in your Depends. (Remind me to change out that saddle)!

2. Is my bike too heavy for the uphills? Does it matter if my bike is 2 pounds heavier than the average steed if my body weight is 40 pounds heavier than the average stud?

3. Will my bike hold up to the singletrack abuse?. I am not worried about my steel frame. What about the steel fork designed for touring? Those old Mavic MA2’s? Will they hold up to my Warren Sapp-esque build? I plan to put the bike through thorough testing during this new thing called “training” I am contemplating. By the time October rolls around, I will either be confident in my Bianchi (his name is Aldo), or I will be riding a brand new used bike from eBay.

4. What tires should I ride? I have a set of Hutchinson Pro Series ‘cross tires 30 mm wide. Although they look really cool since they have a silver/grey stripe that matches my handle bar tape, they are probably too narrow for the singletrack, rocks, and roots. However, they may be an option if the course is muddy from rain.

Next choice is a set of 35 mm wide CST Corporals that came on a hybrid bike I bought for my mom a few years ago. This is probably about as wide as I should go on my frame. Looking at the tread, these should be great on the gravel and pavement, but I will be giving something up on the singletrack.

Last option is a set of Ritchey Speedmax in 35 mm width. I haven’t mounted these yet. My plan is to ride the CST hybrid tires for a few months to save the tread on my Speedmax tires, then swap them out in the fall. Unless the hybrid tires suck on singletrack in training, at which point I will throw on the Ritcheys sooner rather than later.

5. How will my brakes work on steep singletrack? I will find out in training!

6. Hydration/spare tube/tools. Should I use a CamelBack? It all depends on the ease of carrying the bike with a bidon cage mounted. I want to carry two tubes, a multi-tool, and a hand pump. This should easily fit in either jersey pocket or saddle bag. A few packs of gel shouldn’t be a problem. The answer boils down to what will be less intrusive during hike-a-bike section, either the CamelBack or bidon cages….

Next step is to get this pesky cross-training, form building, uphill both ways, wet, muddy trail running race out of the way and go for a bike ride!

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