This year, the Outdoor Incorporated Cyclocross race turned 31 years old. It’s billed as the longest running CX race in the US, and while I haven’t researched it, I’ve never seen another CX race with a number higher than 31. The race takes place on Mud Island, a city park in Memphis that literally sits right in the Mississippi River, providing a beautiful backdrop. It also allows a nice corridor for wind to funnel through, always creating a headwind in one direction or another.
The start/finish straight parallels the river, and this year the wind was right in your face from the start. The course had a few tricky corners, a couple of punchy climbs, a stair run-up, and a set of barriers. There was a lot of open space, and pedaling would be abundant. I spent most of the pre-ride working on the stair run-up. I found a line that allowed me to ride the obstacle, and I was hoping that most of the racers would simply choose to run it, instead of riding it. Many of the corners had hidden bumps and shallow holes, that weren’t enough to make you crash, but enough to throw you off your line and give you a jolt.
The race had an early start, 9:20. The juniors were the first to go, and the next wave would be a large group: 4’s, 5’s, Masters 45+, 55+, and then the women’s cats. The line up was early, and we sat there for several minutes before the start, The wind blowing the banners around was a reminder that it would have a firm grasp on a portion of the race.
Off we go. I had a good start and took the hole shot with another rider. The start straight seemed like a good 250 yards, then a hard left into a climb. I hit the climb first, get to the top and settle in. The course made another left back onto itself, where I could see the lead group was about 20 riders. A rider passed me just in time to eff up my chance to ride the stair run-up. He tried it and got about half way up, causing me to run into his bike and release a barrage of profanity. Luckily this bottle necked everyone behind us. He quickly apologized and we were back up and racing. I rode his wheel for almost a full lap, but passed him right before the next trip up the stairs, but this time my plan went into action, I rode the stairs perfectly and everyone behind me didn’t. I sprint out to get a gap, and settle in. I was joined midway through the next lap by a really good Master’s rider that I had raced with before. I wasn’t worried since he wasn’t in my category, and I knew that he was quite strong, so I thought we could work together and increase the gap. All he wanted to do was allow me to pull into the headwind, and the next time around… you guessed it, the stairs, he bobbled and I rode around him. I hit the power hard and this was the last I saw of him. I started to get into traffic from the lapped riders, and knew that the chasers would be confused on where I was. This also works the other way as well, as I had to glance back through the traffic to see the chasers. I had about 30 seconds. I peg it again and run the barriers at mach 1. The headwind is kicking, so for the first time ever, I got into the drops during a CX race. I have about 45 seconds with 2 laps to go. I start working the hills hard and pegging the corners. I hit the power again hard right before the run-up. People are cheering and I ask where the beer is, they all laugh and I get back to racing. I weave through more traffic, and when I get a chance to scan back through the riders, I don’t see any of the threats. I get the 1 lap to go, and know that all I have to do is ride cleanly and not do anything stupid. I pull the legs of my shorts down, zip up the jersey, and settle in for the rest of the lap. I bobble the stairs the last time up, but it’s not a concern, I’ve got a good 2 minutes on the field. I throw up my arms and hit the line. I ended up with about a 2 minute advantage, and for some reason, the officials screwed up the lap times and we only raced for about 30 mins. I still enjoyed the race, and other than the timing aspect, the race was top-notch.
Bike Dork Stuff:
Clement MXP: 26 front / 28 rear
Gearing: 42 / 11 -32