Gear

Life in the pits at Blue Sky Velo Cup

Mud surely took its toll on both riders and bikes at Saturday's Blue Sky Velo Cup in Colorado.


Saturday’s Blue Sky Velo Cup cyclocross race on the Xilinx campus in Longmont, Colorado, might already be a fading memory, but there’s a good chance that a few bikes (and riders for that matter) are still bearing the muddy scars.

I finally scrolled through my photos, and here’s a bit of what I saw around the pit. A few new bits and pieces, and a few tried and true strategies for beating back the muddy mess.

SRAM

SRAM’s Michael Zellman and Jeremiah Boobar were in town, checking out the race and helping ensure that SRAM sponsored riders were fully outfitted. Katie Compton dominated the women’s race on her Stevens equipped with SRAM Red, Zipp 303s, and Dugast Rhino tubulars. Meanwhile, the Cannondale-cyclocrossworld.com team swept the podium in the men’s race, also riding SRAM Red.

Zellman pointed me toward new brakes on Mark Legg’s bike, which our own Matt Pacocha first checked out at Interbike (Matt finished fifteenth on the day, after a flat). Zellman said that the Shorty Ultimate brakeset is three or four steps away from production, but by the looks of Legg’s outfit, they are nearly good to go. Note that the front brakes have very wide arms, and the rears are narrower for heel clearance. External spring tension adjustment and a straddle cable barrel adjuster complement the one-bolt pad adjustment. If only they were actually adaptable from wide to narrow profile, as they look like there should be …

Legg worked the pits for his wife, Katie Compton, with a portable Nomad power washer. He said that the SRAM Professional cable system (designed by GORE Ride On Cable Systems) was helping ease his workload, by preventing contamination of the shifter cables.

After the race, Zellman commented on the proliferation of SRAM road components in cyclocross and road racing alike. He reminded me that SRAM Red has only been on the market for a few years, but has rapidly ascended the competitive ladder.

He’s right. Statistics from the 2009 Tour de France are impressive: while sweeping the top three General Classification positions, Red also placed 10 out of the top 29 riders with only four teams (Astana, Saxo Bank, Milram, and Agritubel), won seven stages including every time trial, wore yellow for 12 days, and took best Team and Young Rider titles. Additionally, SRAM occupied the top three podium places at both the world mountain bike cross country championships (Nino Schurter, Julien Absalon, and Florian Vogel) and downhill world championships (Steve Peat, Greg Minnaar, and Mick Hanna). It’s remarkable when you actually frame it in those terms.

Giant

Giant team rider Kelli Emmett pedaled a prototype Giant cyclocross bike to fifth in the women’s race. Her mechanic Steve Kiusalas pointed out that it was a size or two too big for her, but that obviously didn’t hold her back. The new welded aluminum bike has internal headset bearings and a press-fit Shimano bottom bracket to go with the formed tubes of the front triangle.

In an email from Taiwan, Giant’s Andrew Juskaitis said only that he can’t say anything. “Kelli is riding a prototype–can’t say much other than that. Will have more information at CX Nationals in Bend.”

On the men’s side, both Carl Decker and Adam Craig appeared none the worse for wear after a rally car mishap that left them upside down a few weeks ago. Craig sported the new carbon Giant cross bike that we first saw at Cross Vegas. Despite the mud, he rode the Di2 bike (with its $1000, one-of-two-in-existence 46-tooth Dura-Ace chainring) to fourth place.

Mavic neutral support

I checked in with Rob Love, owner of Blue Sky Cycles and part-time Mavic neutral support mechanic, to see how things were going. He said they weren’t doing anything special to fight the mud, and saw more flats than expected. Fortunately, Mavic had plenty of staff on hand, spare wheels, and even new spare bikes from Focus.

“People are flatting on some exposed landscape edging,” said Love. Evidently, as the soft ground wore away, some sharp metal or plastic edging (used as borders for landscaping) created ample opportunity for pinch flats. Love’s opinion was that low pressure wasn’t helping in the alternately sticky and gloppy Colorado mud. “In mud like this you need higher pressure,” he said.

Love also noted that narrow tires were performing better, due to their ability to knife through the sticky mud. “We’re putting on a lot of Michelin mud tires,” he said. “The thinner, knobbier tires are working better.” In contrast to what I might have expected, he said that deep-section rims were not doing as well, either. “They’re not shedding the mud—they’re glopping up,” he said.

Other than correct wheel and tire choice, Love had no secrets for handling the mud. “The power washers are key,” he said. “Any bikes we’re washing we’re just using really heavy lube,” he said, holding a bottle of Pedro’s “GO!” biodegradable chain lube. “We’re just lubing everything with a ton of this – pedals, chains, whatever,” he said.

Alison Dunlap’s Orbea

In the parking lot, before the women’s race, I found Alison Dunlap’s husband Greg Frozley. He was on the way to the pit with a bucket and brushes, and Dunlap’s spare bike. He must have done something right, because she wound up third on the day.

Frozley didn’t have any secrets to waging wet-dirt warfare, but pointed out a section of innertube over the seat collar, to keep out water and grime. “We’re using thicker chain lube,” he said, but nothing special on the frame besides Pedro’s Bike Lust. Also, her bike was equipped with sections of plastic sheathing covering any exposed shifter cables. The sheath fit over the tips of Shimano SP-41 long-nosed ferrules to help prevent contamination.