U.S. Cyclocross Nationals: Mud, Ruts and Pee Wee Pride


A glorious and muddy first day in Boulder.

Three things gleaned from the first day of the U.S. Cyclocross National Championships in Boulder, Colorado: disc brakes work great, disc brakes don’t work great, and Pee Wee Herman skinsuits increase your popularity exponentially. But before delving deeper into my own experiences in the hotly contested industry race, a quick recap of the day’s other action.

Stars and stripes jerseys were passed out in the men’s and women’s singlespeed races. (Congrats Maureen Bruno-Roy and Tim Allen). For the rest of the racers, Wednesday was a warm-up day in the form of non-championship races, which are basically a way to test ride the course at speed. Or in this case, at not-much speed.

After receiving just under a foot of snow last weekend, Boulder — and the Valmont Bike Park where all this ’cross action is taking place — have begun to melt out. That meant muddy and often, plodding racing, plus a fair bit of slipping, sliding and, of course, crashing. Those best able to minimize circus clown like behavior were rewarded with podium time.

100-plus rider fields were commonplace.

“It’s nice to ride alone because you can pick your own lines. If the bike is sliding, you can just follow the bike, whereas the first lap, I was sitting behind a few riders,” explained Bruno-Roy, who rides for the Bob’s Red Mill p/b Seven Cycles team. Translation: Trust no one in course conditions such as this.

Allen, who’s from nearby Golden and is considered one of the best technical ’cross riders in Colorado, credited his fat tire skills. “It was a total mountain biker’s paradise — technical, mud, snow, you name it the conditions were perfect,” said the Feedback Sports Racing rider. “The key was to ride smart.” Translation: Know when to ride, know when to run.

The rest of the day’s winners included Carolina Gomez Villafane (10-29 women’s non-championship race), Brannan Fix (men’s 10-29), Bryson Perry (men’s 30-44), David Weber (men’s 45 and up) and Logan VonBokel (industry race).

For a deeper understanding of the slick conditions, check out this ride-along video courtesy of our friends over at VeloNews.

Now back to the Pee Wee Herman skinsuit, which I donned for the not-so-serious industry race that included journalists, mechanics, sales guys, and various other members of the two-wheeled world. Just as suspected, racing around in what looks like really small three-piece with bowtie elicited far more cheers (and jeers) than I would normally receive. It seems people truly appreciate it when you treat ’cross racing as a formal affair. The hallmark of the Podium Cycling line also did it’s job as a race garment: good chamois placement, articulated design, trim fit.

Pee Wee Herman skinsuits don’t make you faster, but you definitely gain fans. Photo by Caley Fretz

Sadly, it had no effect on the Avid BB7 mechanical disc brakes spec’d on the Diamondback Steilacoom RCX Pro Disc I’ve been testing for the last couple weeks (More on that in a future post). On the first two laps of this four-lap race, I had true mechanical advantage, able to carry more speed and brake later while maintaining control headed down the course’s handful of technical downhill sections. But by lap No. 3, with the effects of mud, snow, grit and grime taking effect, things started getting squirrelly. A lap later, I basically had no brakes at all and ended up running the course’s steepest downhill section to avoid ending up on my backside — or worse.

The culprit, of course, is the nature of the mechanical system. Unlike hydraulic brakes, which self adjust, there is no mechanism that automatically takes up cable slack or moves the pads closer to the rotor as they wear (which can happen at an accelerated rate when conditions are harsh).

This isn’t such a big deal when you’re cruising around for fun. As soon as you notice a little brake fade (an indicator of pad wear) simply stop, turn the adjustment knobs on each side of the caliper, which moves the pads closer to the rotor. But this can’t be done on the fly, making it hard to execute in the middle of a race, even if you are wearing a Pee Wee Herman skinsuit.

So what is the take away from all this? Until road/cross disc have worked through all their various kinks (and recalls), you clearly need to be selective about when you use them. I’m racing again on Saturday and plan on bringing two bikes, the disc-equipped Diamondback and my trusty old Ridley X-Fire with traditional cantilever brakes. Hopefully the course will have dried out enough that the pads wont wear down further. Otherwise, I’ll dump the disc-brake steed in the pits and switch back to my old bike.

Post-race recovery food.

Here are results from day 1 (I ended up in 7th for whatever it’s worth). Scroll down to see more photos.

Men’s Singlespeed Race: 1. Tim Allen (Golden, Colo./Feedback Sports Racing) 44:10; 2. Braden Kappius (Littleton, Colo./Team Clif Bar Cycling) +1:07; 3. Corey Stelljus (Madison, Wis./Racers Against Childhood Cancer) s.t.; 4. William Iaia (Centennial, Colo./Groove Subaru Excel Sports) s.t.; 5. Colby Pearce (Boulder, Colo. ) +1:26

Women’s Singlespeed Race: 1. Maureen Bruno Roy (Arlington, Mass./Bob’s Red Mill p/b Seven Cycles) 40:24; 2. Ellen Sherrill (South Lake Tahoe, Calif./Bicycle Bluebook-HRS-Rock Lobster Cyclocross) +0:57; 3. Jessica Cutler (Seattle, Wash./Bikesport Nw-Jamis) +1:35; 4. Amanda Nauman (Mission Viejo, Calif./SDG Felt) +1:45; 5. Ellen Noble (Kennebunkport, Maine/Trek Cyclocross Collective) +3:29

Women’s Non-Championship Race: 1. Carolina Gomez Villafane (ARG/Northern California-Nevada Cycling Association (NCNCA)) 30:50; 2. Katie Clouse (Park City, Utah/Canyon Bicycles-Shimano) +1:31; 3. Tiziana DeHorney (Albuquerque, N.M./Get Out! New Mexico) +2:29; 4. Nicole Brandt (Inglewood, Calif./Velo Club LaGrange) +2:32; 5. Ashley Zoerner (Highlands Ranch, Colo./Alpha Bicycle Co.- Vista Subaru) +2:34

Men’s 10-29 Non-Championship Race: 1. Brannan Fix (Fort Collins, Colo./Boo Bicycles-TrainingPeaks) 34:52; 2. Brendan Rhim (Norwich, Vt./Woodstock Bicycle Club) +0:15; 3. Innokenty Zavyalov (Minneapolis, Minn./Minnesota Cycling Team) +0:54; 4. Stuart McKnight (Boulder, Colo./Boulder Junior Cycling) +1:36; 5. Evan Clouse (Park City, Utah/Canyon Bicycles-Shimano) +1:49

Men’s 30-44 Non-Championship Race:
1. Bryson Perry (Sandy, Utah/DNA Cycling) 35:49; 2. Kevin Bradford-Parish (Spokane, Wash./Set Coaching-Specialized) +0:24; 3. Greg Krause (Littleton, Colo./Groove Subaru Excel Sports) +1:08; 4. Russell Griffin (Denver/Cycleton) +1:56; 5. Jason Hartman (Centennial, Colo./Groove Subaru Excel Sports) +2:03

Men’s 45-and-up Non-Championship Race:
1. David Weber (Boulder, Colo./Team Kappius) 37:56; 2. James Cochran (Iowa City, Iowa/Atlas Cycling Team) +0:04; 3. Scott Forrest (Denver, Colo.) +0:39; 4. Kevin O’Brien (Erie, Colo./Groove Subaru Excel Sports) +0:59; 5. Thomas Meiser (Lakewood, Colo./Feedback Sports Racing) +1:59

Industry Race:
1. Logan VonBokel (Fort Collins, Colo./Think Finance p/b Trek Bike Stores) 39:00; 2. Donald Powell (Boulder, Colo./Horizon Organic-Panache Elite Cycling) +0:12; 3. Matthew Opperman (Longmont, Colo.) +0:30; 4. Tom Hopper (Superior, Colo.) +1:11; 5. Andrew Hager (Asheville, N.C./Team Hoffenchard) +1:52

About the author: Jason Sumner

An avid cyclist, Jason Sumner has been writing about two-wheeled pursuits of all kinds since 1999. He’s covered the Tour de France, the Olympic Games, and dozens of other international cycling events. He also likes to throw himself into the fray, penning first-person accounts of cycling adventures all over the globe. Sumner, who joined the RoadBikeReview.com / Mtbr.com staff in 2013, has also done extensive gear testing and is the author of the cycling guide book "75 Classic Rides: Colorado." When not writing or riding, the native Coloradoan can be found enjoying time with his wife Lisa and daughter Cora.

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  • Jim says:

    I race a Fuji Altimira with BB7 mechanical disc brakes. It has cable adjusters right by the headtube, so on-the-fly adjustments are definitely possible and fairly easy. That said, I’d also like to mention that I raced the 50-54 class at Nationals on Thursday afternoon and it was extremely muddy, but I never thought about the adjustment on my brakes, both front and rear worked great the whole race.

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