Cyclocross season has arrived. This is my second season competing here in Vancouver with the Steed Cycles Team and after a successful first year I am aiming to improve even more. This season I have stepped up to compete in the Master Category, starting in 3-4 and hoping to be in 1-2 by mid season. Once again this year I will be riding a Giant TCX, but not the old Allux bike i had last season. For 2014 Giant Bicycles have improved the TCX beyond anything else out there. Its Advanced Carbon frame is lighter, More Compliant and comes with Hydro Disc brakes and a 15mm front axle. All this leads to a bike that feels amazing on the technical parts of any course, stiffer on the sprinting and agile through the corners. Oh and it looks damn mighty fine too.
After a few days of riding the bike prior to my first race I knew it would be a game changer. The brakes give you the confidence not to use them, I know that sounds weird but the problem with most CX brakes is that they dont work. Rain and bad conditions means rim brakes dont work. So with having the disc I knew they would work. I can wait to the last second before I need to grab them meaning I carry more speed through corners and know I can stop on steep stuff and rolling up to the barriers. The whole team will be riding these at some stage this season once they arrive. I was very lucky to get the first one thanks to the guys at Giant Bicycles Canada. Thanks Sean and Colby for hooking me up.
Me putting the hurt on.
Anyways onto the season. The first race was scheduled for September 1st at Alder Acres. I did not ride this race last year but had heard about it as being a roadies course with two run ups or rides if you were good. When I got there the sun was splitting the stones on this family run Farm. The backdrop was beautiful. I got the Team tents set up with the guys and grabbed the new bike to go for a pre course inspection with Team Manager Dan Gronross.
Dan Gronross over the barriers.
Rolling out of the start it was evident that the first section of the lap was defiantly going to favour a more powerful rider. It was a gravel road that went around the edge of the field before dropping over a bridge towards a hairpin and the barriers. From there you climb up through another field and into the woods. The first run up was the longest. It had a log at the bottom which meant you either dismounted and ran the 60m or you hop it and ride. I opted for the run up as I felt that if I didn’t lead up this every lap it would be too tough to jump and ride behind somebody. From here it meandered through the woods and then down a switchbacked downhill back to the fields. The last part was a fast around the trees and back to the Start/Finish line.
Kim Steed putting the hammer down.
This was my first race as a Master 3-4 so did not know what to expect. I knew I was technically a good rider but was unsure if I had the speed that some other riders would have had from racing Road Crits all summer. After the call up I managed to get a spot on the front row. I was happy with that as I was unsure how the first corner would go. The flag dropped and the riders charged off. I put down the hammer and tucked into third pace going into the first turn. My plan was to stay out of trouble on the loose gravel. As we moved towards the hairpin at the barriers two riders passed on the right and I tucked in between all of these riders. This put me in 5th as everybody slowed down. They all went wide and I used my late braking to take a tight inside line. Going over the barriers I passed all the riders and mounted quickly and rode off. When I looked back I had about a 10-15m gap. I was expecting them to ride back onto my wheel but it never seemed to happen. From there I put the hammer down and rode up to the first run up. I sprinted up as fast as I could and made more time. On the DH I opened up a bigger gap and kept it going hard for two laps. I opened up a gap of 40 seconds. I wasnt expecting to be this strong so early in the season and to be challenging for a win. I was expecting to be top 10 and hanging on for dear life. The course suited my MTB skills and I played on that. Oh and Disc brakes rock too
James Birkenbuel on the climb up through the field.
With a lap to go I eased up a bit as the heat was getting to me. The guys behind kept pushing on and got within 20-30 seconds of me. So on the last DH I pushed on and took it to the finish line. I couldnt believe I took the first race of the season. I was very happy with my performance but know that I need to keep it up so that I can make the move up to 1-2 later in the season.
Kelly Jones on the downhill section of the course.
Thanks to all the Team Steed Cycles members for the cheering support. Thanks Giant Bicycles Canada for the mega hook up to get the bike for the start of the season. Glad I could get the TCX Advanced its first win. Next up for me is the Rapha Starcrossed event in Seattle. Its the first big UCI race of the US Cycling season. Its also 3 days before Cross Vegas so alot of Pros will be there. Im racing in Master’s 3 so expect a tough ride. From there its onto my favourite races of the season. The double header of New Brighton Park and Vanier Park, both right in the heart of Downtown Vancouver. My aim is to podium in these races and make my mark on the Super Prestige Series. Stay tuned for an exciting season.
Awesome photos from Scott Robarts Photography.