Monday, October 16, 2006


IronCross - from Way Back in the Pack

This is my cross bike. I like it a lot. Our relationship is still developing and reached a new level on Sunday.

Temps in the very low 30's at wake up Sunday morning.
Good thing my bike had thermals.

Early morning sunrise over South Mountain, Michaux State Forest. On the way to the venue.

Frost still heavy on the ground at registration. The lodge had a nice fire going in the fireplace.

The conception for IronCross was based on the Three Peaks Cyclocross race in England. Three Peaks is an annual race that ran for the 45th time this year. At the start I met Ian, who was over here from England just to do the IronCross. He's done the last 12 Three Peaks races. Ian told me that the average rider spends as much time off the bike as on it at the Three Peaks. I was hoping that wasn't an omen for the day.

I've heard about IC many times. The climbs, the fast loose gravel descents, the infamous "run-up". Everything I'd heard couldn't of prepared me for the experience.

Only had a few goals :

Don't hurt myself,
Don't hurt my bike,
Don't hurt my will to ride,
and Finish,
Hopefully not in last place ...........

All were achieved, but not without a fight.

I was running 35mm Excavaders at 75 pounds. My main screw-up was having a 23 tooth as my largest rear cog ( a compact crankset up front). Any of those hills alone were totally ridable with that gear, but when you add them all up over the whole day, and throw in some steep hikes ........ it was just too long a gear for this fat ol' flatlander to grunt. I cracked hard on the last long climb up Hogshead.

Riding that kind of terrain on a cross bike was a first for me. I'm a conservative (read : "scared?") rider anyway. The first singletrack is the Lippencote trail. I walked most of it just to save my bike if not a scrape or two. Wasn't really sure how much of a thrashing the TriCross could take. Art the Dart had fun riding the Lippincote. He finished strong after some early mechanicals.

The down hill reminded me of the rocky rutted downhill at Big Bear, except this one had much bigger rocks. Was really wishing for my MTB there.

I kept waiting for the darn crawl up. Then it came. Pictures do it no justice. The nice thing was that the TriCross shouldered so easily, like the bike wasn't even there. But climbing this thing even without a bike would be a struggle. Danielle Musto gives a great description of it on her blog :

"And then I was forced to come to a complete stop. In front of me was a wall...a hill so steep and long that I could barely get up it...and I'm talking about walking. I had to brace myself against trees, rocks, you name it. By this point the temps had risen to the high 50's and the sun was shining down on me. All I could see was rock around seemed like some sort of weird nightmare. "

Danielle went on to finish an awesome 3rd (first mountain bike) behind 2 powerhouses of Eastern riding - Deedee Winfield and Mandy Lozano.

When you get to the top of that crawl your relief is soon shattered when you look ahead and see another one off in the distance.

I overshot at least 3 turns that were in the middle of fast downhills. Luckily I realized it soon enough, but by the time you stop and turn around, then realize you're in the wrong gear to climb back ....... you loose many a minute.

I rolled through checkpoint 3 and heard the guy say "Nice climb up that way". OK. Hogshead it was. I tried to shift down at least 63 times in the next 4 miles, but I was already in the lowest gear. I stood up and pedaled for longer than I can ever remember. Determined not to give in. Calves qhivering, quads expoding, lungs on fire. Around every turn there was another hill. WTF!!!!! Not really really steep, but not really easy either. "Moderate" as Crazy said. There was one hell of a lot of moderate on this course.

Kept telling myself - "Self ...... there's people that would fly up this on a SS" Self said back- "But you sure aint one of 'em."

The pitch seemed to level a bit, then I look up - another freakin climb. I guess that was Woodrow Road. The name of the last peak? "BIG HILL" Hah. No kiddin', check the map. My legs saw it and left town. They almost refused to walk up.

At the bottom of the nice descent was the last checkpoint. You know you're way back in the field when the volunteer greets you with :

"#9, we've been waiting for you."

"Am I the last rider?"

"Nope, there's 6 more behind you"

"Thank god for small miracles, how much further to go?"

"Well, there's Trail!, More Trail!, and Still More Trail!"


It was the first checkpoint I'd stopped at. I slammed some water and soldiered on. I thought she was just messing with me till I got home and looked at the map. Those are really the trail names, and they were lots of fun to ride. Had to carry it up the corkscrew, then one more time up to Ridge Road, before the fast descent on 233.

Nevertheless, about a day and a half after I started, I finished. Not even in last place.

TriPower nabbed 3rd place team, a scant 2 points behind the local powerhouse squad. Speedy Bill G., the Silver Fox (his twoness), Carol, Liz, and Turbo Tim scored the points. WTG.

If you like to ride, and like 'Cross, you should definately get down to do IronCross. (down means even you Canadian crosser's should make the trip. ,,!,, :-)

It's a great place to get your



That pic of Art is perfect! Notice his jersey is peaking out the bottom, threatening to expose us all! :) After a few weeks the anger will wear off and he'll just wanna get even. I also like the shwagg pic.
I like the picture of the sunrise :-0
If you look closely at Art's pic, his right calf is about to lock tha HELL up!!!
Look closely in the reflection on my right sunglass lense and you can see the second "hike" up.

I dream of ironcross.......
great write up and pics. I REALLY hope to get there next year (but I say that every year). Nice IC swag! j
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