Wednesday, January 4, 2012

#CXnats: Course Inspection

Tuesday 9am Conditions uphill barriers courtesy GumboBoy
Calls and texts are streaming into my phone all day and nearly every one of them is asking what tires they should bring to Madison. Facebook is lighting up with banter back and forth about ice and danger and why aren't there any more turns. Since none of the calls, texts, or posts appear to be from anyone that has inspected the course, let me try to shed some light on the course, as well as sharing a video of three other people sharing their perspectives - that might help you decide whether to glue on that new set of tires before leaving town.

Road starts are typically short on a lot of the courses we see, but this road start will be long. On the CXmagazine video we clocked the road start at 53 seconds before hitting a soft grassy right-hander.  There is a bend in the road that means with speed you will question the tire pressure you run on the course as a low pressure will certainly make navigating the start a bit dicey as long as this pavement section runs. Plus there are a few other pavement sections on the course, though none that really require a lot of handling.

All Flat My Butt!-The Hill Tues 9:30a Courtesy GumboBoy
After the start is a good section on grass that does include some icy spots.  The ice is far less than yesterday.  With the higher temps and salt in place today I think most of it will be gone tomorrow as well. Stomach of Anger's Twitter feed reports cheese curds being spread to melt the ice (we'll get back to you on that.)  What is left is a thin layer of mud on top of about a three inch deep freeze. I know the depth from pounding in 18 stakes to hold down our tent, canopy, and other asundry items to keep ourselves warm and protected in case of inclement weather.

Personally I see the question that needs answered being how deep the top layer will thaw with increasing temps. There is some moisture in the ground, but no precipitation in the forecast - this could either be a real fast, hard grass race - OR - if the ground thaws deeper with the increasing temps that moisture could release a much deeper mud that what we saw today. If the thaw releases a lot of moisture the afternoon races could get really sloppy and slippery.

Monday Run-Up courtesy Peter Hills
Challenge wise the biggest challenge on this course will be the climbing - and the descending. To do well at Nats this year you will need to have downhiller skills as there are two sections that are bumpy, somewhat slick and all downhill. On the bright side, it is a chance for the heart rate and legs to recover, but that recovery assumes that you aren't freaking out as you gain speed headed into a tight right hander with ice and mud in it.

Turns were added to the course and the sand pit is in play. The sand pit is short, but there is a tight right hander into the pits and then a tight left out of the pits that make it complicated to get right. Add to the mix bumpy, frozen sand and you can't seem to stay on the line you want. I fully expect a berm to form to facilitate the exit of the pit as the week goes along.

Otherwise bring your legs as it will definitely need power to get you through. It is less technical than the courses were the last two years in Bend, but that doesn't mean it is easy. With some ice in the course you will have to choose your line properly and if you want to take a risk, that opportunity will be there.

Overall I like the course and find it very fair. It will be a good test and worth the trip.

Here is a video of Peter Hills, Masters Elite race from Fuji Cycling, as well as Mackenzie Green and Spencer Petrov from QCW Lionhearts sharing their insights from riding the course.

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