Friday, December 30, 2011

Arrival: Mud Insensitivity #cccnyr

TBBBE Stock 4-Runner Photo
Friday we loaded up the Toyota 4-Runner and ended up in a caravan with another Toyota 4-Runner, once again the official race vehicle of the The Best Bike Blog Ever, and headed north. It will come as no surprise to anyone that just like the last several races in the OVCX series it rained from the time we left our driveway until we reached Indian Lakes Resort in suburban Chicago. Good thing I packed that 33 gallon drum of chain lube.

The odd part was I didn't care. Am I tired of cleaning bikes? Yes. Am I tired of lubing chains and replacing bottom brackets? Yes. After two days of promoting Kings CX in derailleur clogging, hanger breaking mud it didn't phase me in the slightest. Was I expecting mud when I signed up for Chicago and Madison a couple months ago? Not in the slightest. Of course I could have sub-consciously realized that mud and 46 degrees beats the pants off icy and 20 degrees - THAT is what I expected.

Upon arrival we set into motion and started preparing ourselves to pre-ride and set up. We obtained Club Row treatment through ChiCrossCup and got to set up our tent in advance just feet from the starting grid. This is a primo setup, with tents on either side of us to secure everyone together from the Chicago wind and literally be able to hear our names during callups from our tents. Stay warm to the last minute kids.

Showing that I have been completely desensitized to the mud, I put on my shoes, a rain jacket, and my helmet a rode a lap of a very wet course in my jeans. Surprisingly the ground was very, very wet, but very, very firm. The course reminded me of Storm the Greens back in its heyday with its flat runs, a few small off camber hills, and some sculpted and contoured sand pits. Mostly it was flat with lots of straight aways. It was very calm today, and I think as a result I am not taking into account factor that race day might bring - wind. Chicago is well known for its wind and with long flats and wide open spaces that wind could make or break your day. They put wind turbines in the fields on I-65 for a reason.

Mackenzie and Spencer try to walk Goose Poop Hill

For technical features there are two notable features. The first is a "hill", literally the only hill taller than my official TBBBE race vehicle on the entire course - and for as far as you could see in the misty, wet day. That hill appears to be very special in its construction, something you can only get on a golf course. It is constructed of waste material from the course maintenance - literally consisting of grass clipping, extra sand, goose poop, aeration cores, and whatever else might have been collected in the grass catcher of the lawn mower. Walking up the hill we realized we shouldn't have. My shoes weighed about 5 pounds each by the time I got back to the bottom. Whether this is rideable or not will depend on the weather - but if you have to run it, you are not going to clip in clean. The hill was quickly nicknamed "Goose Poop Hill".

Sand trap love, Indian Lakes Resort style

The other technical feature of note is the many sand pits in use throughout the course. None are UCI legal length, but none are like riding sand either. The rain and elements and dormancy of the course have left them firm and rideable, but the lips riding out of them are similar if not greater than the lip to the right side of the long pit used at Kings CX a couple weeks ago. All of this is rideable, but those grunts up and out with the sand at the end of the lip getting churned up will definitely create some issues and opportunities during the weekend.

That is a wrap of the Chicago Cross Cup New Years Resolution course preview - I have to go get those jeans out of the hotel washer - there wasn't a "heavy soil" setting, so I have my fingers crossed. Stay tuned for more reports from the upper midwest.

P.S. - Here is Mackenzie's reaction to the course preview:

If you've ever ridden at Kingswood, you would recognize it here in Chicago. This course is a golf course, with a hill right smack in the middle. Just like Kingswood, except the hill is made up of random debris they don't want on the course and is smaller and only one hump...but that doesn't matter right now! Soo the course was really familiar feeling, fairly flat and straight. A few s-turns and u-turns thrown in, for variety. The start will be iffy for sure, long relatively thin pavement that's curvy with a strange turn onto the grass with off camber right after it. The hill that's pretty much literally made up of mud, goose poop, and unwanted dirt (lovely combination, right?) is slippery and has bumps, reminds me of the big hill at nationals the past few years, except not nearly as steep. After you go across the first time you go back later and go up and down the side a little around a tree, similar to what we've done at Kings before. Plopped at the end of the course are 6 sand pits - a lot of sand pits.

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