I came into this weekend of Cyclocross with big expectations. Ruts and Guts is a very well run cyclocross race over three days in Tulsa. It’s run by Tanner Culbreath and dedicated sponsors that make it a growing premiere event. A lot of people in the region come out of the woodwork to make it to this race both because of the agressive payouts - but also because of the quality of the event and courses.
I had high expecations coming into the weekend from having two great starts to my year at local races and wanting to see how I could match up. Looking at the courses Friday and Sunday are much more technical - which is an issue for me not having a ton of time in the saddle to be smooth on harder courses. But I still felt good about my chances.
Friday night started when it was already dark. On the pre-ride the course had a lot of elevation and loose corners. A light technical riders dream - I’m not a light technical rider… But I was ready to rock and lined up for the start right behind Sklyer Mackey - and rising start in cross in Oklahoma and one of the favorites for the win. I do well at starts and know Skyler jumps hard too, so I was hoping to get a good jump on the crowd.
Note: If you have a small thorn or probable tire issue at the start don’t pick it out. Thats what I did on friday night and my tire started hissing at me. I had time, but had to run to the pit and switch my front wheel out. The second lesson is to get all your tires/tubes with Stan’s sealant in them. It makes those small thorn punctures irrelevant as it seals them up right away.
The official (Jack McNeal) counted us down and we took off. What I had hoped for happened, Skyler was off like a rocket and I was right on his wheel sitting second. Up and through the course I was hanging on until we got to a gravel road with a very loose right hand/burmed turn. Skyler flew through it and I rushed to my brakes. Just haven’t gotten the right feel for sliding through a turn at high speed - specially into a dark section of the course. After the first lap I was sitting third and hoping to settle into a pace and stay top ten….
But my tenativeness in the technical parts of the course caused a lot of stop/starts for me that started to wear me down pretty quickly. That and the hard elevation profile and I was burning up quickly. I felt better towards the end finally starting to smooth out my pace and riding, but by that time I’d had the chance to watch more then a dozen friends roll by.
Note: if you are at the point in a cross race that you start to try and interact with the shinanigans by doing a wheelie - make sure it isn’t the weakest wheelie every seen by man kind, the kind that makes the 10 year old boy inside start wheeping.
I ended up 19th with a lot of lessons in my pocket. I was hacking and coughing a lot from the dust in the air which would become an issue on day two as well. That said, the course was excellent, fun, and exciting to race. The challenge was real and it easily started seperating the roadies (me) from the real crossers and mountainbikers. Those kind of skills can’t come from reading, just through saddle time off road in lots of conditions.
This is actually why I’m considering getting a singlespeed rigid 29ner mountain bike. To get out on the trail and work on technical skills in my cross training for road to get that feel down right.
Day two update coming tomorrow…