Race Report // Houston GP of Cyclocross – Dos / CX Grinder

CXGrinder Darryl Descent

Alarms: 6:45am, 6:52am, 6:56am
Wake up time: Some time after all 3 alarms
Pre-race breakfast: 2x McDonald’s Hashbrowns (now officially my go-to for every race)
Post-race lunch: Moon Rooster food truck tacos (Al Pastor & Carne Asada)
Post-shower dinner: McDonald’s 10pc McNuggets meal
Post-day conclusion: My body hates me

CXGrinder Moon Rooster

Venue: Mason Park – Houston, TX
Date: October 10, 2015
Weather: Sunny, warm –> hot, bone dry
Course length: 1.3mi / 2.1km
Races entered: Men’s Cat 4/5, Single Speed Open

Local Bike Racing (which aims to develop the grassroots level of bike racing in Houston) played host to Round Two of the Houston Grand Prix of Cyclocross. The course was shortened a bit and the routing through the woods after a longer run up was changed to make things more spectator friendly.

Fun fact: Mason Park will also be home to the Texas Cyclocross State Championships the first week of December! I’m looking forward to the course changes (it definitely could use a few tweaks). Parking is going to be a nightmare though since it’s a popular public park in the area, but maybe it’ll be better when it’s cold.

HTXCX #2 Course

The course conditions were the polar opposite of last year’s race here at Mason Park. Torrential downpours the day(s) leading up to the race gave us a sloppy mudfest last November. This entire CX season so far has been a bunch of dusty, dry, grass crits. Not that I’m complaining really (OK a part of me is yearning for the mud), as the races are faaast.

Men’s 4/5 – 30 minutes
Races kicked off roughly 35 minutes late, which was fine (for me) as it gave me more time to do pre-laps on both of my bikes. I was 5th call up (my first front row start!), which was a surprise to me, thinking it was based off USAC points, but since this is a 5-race regional series, I’m assuming it was based on series ranking.

I was 4th going into the woods, and quickly lost what felt like at least 6-8 spots to an army of HAM guys (they were out in full force) within the first couple of turns. The first turn was HUGE, and as the laps went on, I learned I didn’t even have to really hit the brakes on that one. The course featured lots of relatively straight sections with a few overgrown grassy potholes that I swore to remember for the next lap every dang time I hit them. The run up started a little further down this year, making it a much longer climb. I never bothered trying to ride it because I hadn’t practiced that in pre-laps. A couple quick turns and there was the 1-entry/exit pit (neutral service by Bicycle Speed Shop) and HAM Cycles, who you can always count on for a beer handup. Another couple turns led to a straight small incline and descent into a swooping and progressively dustier hairpin switchback.

CXGrinder Pit

Barriers were next, followed by the long singletrack descent (which stayed in the grass this year, rather than going onto the sidewalk [oh yeah, there were lots of local pedestrians walking on the sidewalk parts of the course] ) and into a sketchy creek dip. That was definitely the first major bottleneck. The guy behind me dismounted and ran it first lap. Of course he yells “DISMOUNTING” after he’s off the bike. There were definitely bombs of the F-type dropped on that man right then. (And that’s why you want to be at the front of the race early on).

CXGrinder Sketchy Creek

The last part of the course had a few long zig zags that were similar to last year and a long couple of curves leading back to the finish line. These long non-technical straight sections around the start/finish are ALWAYS the best place to punch it hard and prey on the weak in the 4/5 races. People like to try recovering in this section and take a breather, so this is the spot to gap them and crush their dreams.

I don’t remember all the details anymore, but preliminary results had me at 10th place out of about 70 racers. Post-preliminary-but-not-yet-officially-final results show me at 11th.

Single Speed Open – 50 minutes
No call up for me here since I registered day of. I don’t expect too much from my SS races yet, since I just got the bike and I’m still trying to figure out what gearing works for me. 40/19 felt a bit undergeared for me in Sugar Land, so I raced 40/18 this time. It was great! Although using my chain tensioner was kinda sketch. I felt the chain skipping often when having to stand and put lots of torque into the pedals. Ideally I can actually take out a full link and have it almost be perfect, but I currently need the versatility of running the 40/19 still. White Industries ENO Eccentric Hub is probably going to happen soon.

Without a call up, I started pretty much back row (out of 22 racers). Felt like I was part of the back 5-8 racers after the first few turns. Fast-forward about 35-40 minutes later: Racers were fading and I was gaining spots. I could feel my legs were on the verge of cramping whenever I dismounted on the last lap. I saw a gap between the 2nd barrier and the tape and ran between it rather than jumping over the barrier! Luckily Kenny was there to grab a shot of it. All legal if you stay within the tape =]

One guy found motivation again after I had passed him late in the race, but couldn’t get closer than 8-10 seconds behind me as I kept my eye on him. In the end, I finished 10th out of 22 racers! Far better than I expected, especially after my first SS race where I finished somewhere near the back.

Going into the season, I only had 1 CX bike, and my big goal was to consistently place in the top 50% of all my races. Last season I never broke the top 50%, granted I always started in the back. I’ve learned how important a good call up and start is! Now, I have 2 CX bikes and am crushing my goal!

It’s a Bexar 3/4 (San Antonio): 15/17
CX Scuffle 4/5 (Elgin): 18/49
Houston GPCX #1 4/5 (Sugar Land): 9/61
Houston GPCX #1 SS (Sugar Land): 11/16
Houston GPCX #2 4/5 (Mason Park): 10/70 (or 11th?)
Houston GPCX #2 SS (Mason Park) 10/22

Imagine if I ride my bike more often and actually do some training. Hmmmmm…

Catch the 3rd race of the series this Saturday, October 17th at the Alkek Velodrome in Katy, where the gentlemen of KOLO Promotions look to have some fun surprises (as usual) for the course up their sleeves!

CXGrinder KOLO Bryan


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