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By Matt Pacocha
My fall is filled with cyclo-cross. Along with writing about exciting ’cross technology, I race on a single-speed and give up five weekends every fall to help a local promoter put on his ’cross series here in Boulder, Colorado.
The finals, which doubled as the American Cycling Association state championships, were raced this past Saturday at Xilinx Software’s Longmont campus — complete with drum line.
The men’s race was one of the most exciting local events I have been to in recent memory. I was a spectator because a lapse in concentration a week and a half ago, while testing the hardness of the ground on our local Wednesday training ride, left me in a cast with a broken wrist.
Most impressive was the performance by 15-year-old Alex Coelho (Excel Sports) in the open men’s race. The kid made a first-lap selection containing some of Colorado’s best racers, among them Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (Subaru-Gary Fisher), Brandon Dwight (TIAA-CREF), Pete Webber and Jon Baker (Primus Mootry). That was impressive enough — but he went on to become one of the race’s antagonists, paring the front group to three: Horgan-Kobelski, Dwight and himself.
At mid-race Horgan-Kobelski took the reins only to suffer a bout of mechanical problems. A consummate professional, he kept a cool head and easily re-established an insurmountable lead. “Horgan-Kobelski is easily going 20 percent faster than anything else on this course,” exclaimed race announcer Dave Towle.
Horgan-Kobelski took the win in fine fashion — but since he doesn’t hold an ACA license, he wasn’t eligible for the state championship title. So the real excitement came from behind him, where the race within the race for was unfolding.
With three laps to go, Coelho attacked Baker and Dwight, gaining a gap and putting anyone in the crowd that wasn’t already behind him straight into his corner. Almost simultaneously Dwight suffered a mechanical, effectively ending his race for the title.
A last-lap charge from Baker drove the entire crowd to the finish line. Baker caught Coelho with less than a kilometer to go, forcing a tactical finish. Coelho put in one final gutsy effort, hoping to lose Baker, but it wasn’t to be; the older rider nipped him in the sprint. Though Coelho didn’t win, he made an impressive mark in a top-caliber field, besting many a rider almost twice his age.
But this is supposed to be a tech column, so here we go:
Andy Hampsten, the 1988 Giro d’Italia champion, was riding the coolest bike in the race, a custom lugged steel cyclo-cross bike bearing the Hampsten name and a pair of UCI-illegal disc brakes.
Jim Cushing-Murray, Rocky Mountain distributor for TUFO tires, was selling the new Flexus to fellow masters racers out of the back of his truck. A quick look left me reasonably impressed and wanting to get out on a pair.
The new 310-gram tire has an aggressive tread molded in a noticeably softer rubber than the LPS tire. The rubber seems like it will be a vast improvement over its predecessor, but I can only assume wear will be an issue.
Also noticeable is the casing. It’s 210tpi, same as the LPS, but seems much softer, and the trademark Tufo sidewall seam is missing. The unglued sample I was fondling seemed as soft and flexible as handmade cotton cased tires. It looks like Tufo has lined up some stiff competition for all their competitors, but we may have to wait until next year to see how well the tire does.
One of those competitors is Challenge. Many national championships have been won on these tires, and this year numerous teams are racing them, along with the reigning U.S. champ, Jonathan Page.
Most formidable in the Challenge lineup is the Grifo, which uses the same tread molds as the now-defunct Clement Grifo. This tire excels in muddy and soft conditions and comes in three sizes: 30c, 32c and 34c. All are made with a 300tpi polyester casing. The Grifo has a tall profile, which allows for very low pressures if you have a top-notch glue job.
New for 2005-06 is the Grifo Cross ST, Challenge’s take on a file tread for dry, fast conditions. They are made with a 260tpi casing and come in 32c only. Both tread patterns carry a $99 retail price. Also exciting is the fact that open tubular versions will be available in 2006.
That’s it for now. Our first issue of the new year, due out the end of December, will cover the Liberty Mutual U.S. Cyclo-cross National Championships in Rhode Island and finish out the last of the ’cross product for this year. Of course we will have continuing Euro race coverage, but by then I will be neck deep in 2006 product for our Buyer’s Guide, expected to hit maiilboxes and newsstands in February.