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Calvin's Corner

Cyclo-Cross kick off at Cross Vegas 2011

The signs of the passing summer are now everywhere, at least in the northern Hemisphere. We need lights for those early morning biking commutes, and the birds are staging in their respective pelotons to head to warmer training grounds. This, of course, can only mean that Cyclo-Cross is coming, and where better to launch the season then in the sin city, Las Vegas. Gambling, smoking, partying all night long, and cyclo-cross? Yes, and all during during the Interbike Trade Show.

Race promoter Brook Watts has put together a real treat for riders and attendees at Interbike. Titled "Cross Vegas", it is a welcome opportunity to get out of the fluorescent lights and air conditioning of the Sands Convention Center and see some actual bikes abused by some actual bike riders, and more to the point, service by some actual bike mechanics.

Mechanic Steve Kiusalas of the Radobank-Giant team uses the PRS-25. He tunes and polishes this ride, mentally blocking out the coming mud he knows will cover it in just a few minutes.

Cyclo-cross is great training for both roadies and the MTB crowd. Train your weaknesses and race your strengths is wisdom from the elders. It is still applicable. Cyclo-cross training for those bent to MTB brings speed. Your handling will also improve, as you learn you are better off going around something rather than relying on your suspension to just go over it. The asphalt crowd will get pummeled a bit, probably more then a bit, and get some nice resistance and power work.

Like all bike work, the cyclo-cross races are fun. The rules state there is no free lap allowed, so the rider cannot just wait around for a repair. The idea is to have a spare bike available so the rider continues his/her progress while you attend to the injured machine. Lap times vary according to the course, and Cross Vegas had about a 5 minute lap. If the bikes are identical, the rider will just keep going on the spare until there is some other issue, or that the race is finished.

However, as the mechanic, you better assume the bike is needed the next lap and get the issue resolved now. It can be as simple as a quick de-mudding, or as messy as a crank falling off. If the former, wear the right clothing to keep yourself healthy. If the latter, remember to tighten things correctly before the next race.

What would Vegas be without some smokes? The Belgians tend to use traditional support crews with traditional ways.

The so-called low spoke count wheels have become the norm. These wheels rely on the rim strength to survive. The spokes just act to connect the hoop to the hub. During the race two riders tangled and a pedal into the front wheel resulted in a few broken spokes.

I cannot prove this, but my gut feeling is that this rim could probably be relaced and would build back up just fine

Okay, more than a few got cut. Every single spoke was broken and the hoop left dangling on the hub. The results are included the video here:

Cyclo-cross racing has much to offer on many levels. For the promoter, it is off road, with minimal need for police road closures and police presence. The lack of cars on the course brings a certain type of safety. For the riders, the benefits are clear. Power, handling, speed, and straight up fun. For mechanics, pressure of the time constraints but enough time to do serious focused fixes.  For spectators, up close action and a chance for a nice stroll in the park. In conclusion, it is clear, get out there this fall and support your local cross racing!