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Coming to the tail end of the FLCX season there was a race in Gainesville that I’d heard about in years past. It was a different organizer but I heard the course was muddy and tough. Dumping rain in the days before guaranteed we were going to get dirty, and this time of year in north Florida means it’s going to be a little bit chilly. Mud and cold is about as Belgian as we get here in FL so I knew I had to be there.
After Rodeo Cross I had a bit of a shifting problem but I solved it with a new set of derailleur pulleys. Since I had some other fun MTB races coming up I wanted to do both the Masters Race and Cat 4/5 both days to get a little extra credit in the legs. I knew the course would be a muddy mess, so I just decided to ride it blind in the first race Saturday with no preride.
I learned a few things in that race, but none more important than the lesson that Gravel tires are best suited for hardpack and not ankle deep mud. I was lucky enough to finish in the top 5 but more importantly learned a couple lines for the Cat 4/5 race.
In the Cat 4/5 race I went out pretty hard and tried to skate through the mud as best I can. I’m not sure if it’s the best strategy, but in some of the long muddy sections I’d just try to come in with a ton of speed and slide as far as I could before I dismounted. The gravel tires made it hard to put down power, looking back anytime I went over 200w it just spun out. Unfortunately cyclocross tends to be a lot of short bursts in the high power range, so I was restrictor plate racing due to my choice in equipment. I crossed the line in 3rd and got some much needed points for the FLCX series to keep me in the lead.
Some of the shifting issues I’d had before cropped back up, but I chalked it up to a mud-clogged drivetrain and hosed off the bike thoroughly at the end of the day Sunday. I’d later learn that my derailleur had been so mangled and cut by a misaligned chain/worn pulley that it was completely destroyed. See the difference between the old and new below… Ouch.
Sunday came with a slightly dryer course, but make no mistake there was still plenty of mud, just less standing water. Having watched some of the guys go through faster on foot than riding I implemented that strategy in the Masters race Sunday. Especially since I couldn’t put down power with the wrong tires, running proved to be an effective race strategy and I was able to finish 5th for the 2nd day in a row.
The Cat 4/5 Race Sunday felt like Groundhog Day with a strong start and then eventually fading. A highlight was midway through the race as I was re-mounting the bike after an extended wet and muddy section there was what appeared to be a water moccasin in the middle of the course!
I was sitting 2nd or 3rd at the time and tried to warn those behind me, a few saw it and I think one person ran it over but nobody was bitten and the snake was gone the next lap. I settled in and was able to hold on and ride/run my way to 4th which was good enough to get some points and a good weekend of training for MTB races coming up.
If I were to race that kind of race again I’d definitely bring some mud tires. I love the Panaracer Gravelking SK tires and file treads like the Donnelly LAS, but perhaps something like the Vittoria Terreno Wet or Donnell PDX would give a little more grip for cornering and acceleration when it’s muddy. I could have definitely gone faster with the MTB and a set of Vittoria Barzos, but I figured ruining one bike in a weekend was enough!
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