After a record-setting week of rain, the Cross Crusade‘s fourth stop was mired in mud.
Many cyclocross lovers rejoice in muddy conditions: A few mud bogs can be fun and navigating a few slippery corners can be a technical treat. But when about 90% of the entire course is slippery and sticky and so full of grass and muck that it seizes up your entire drivetrain? That’s pushing it.
At the Washington County Fairgrounds in Hillsboro yesterday, there were 105 DNFs (did not finish) out of 1142 starters. That means you had around a 10% chance of not finishing. And the percentage was a lot higher later in the day, as the saturated dirt baked in the intermittent sunshine and morphed into a peanut-buttery consistency.
You can get a sense of how absurd the conditions were by the faces of these spectators who were camped out on a particularly tricky, off-camber section of the course…
The largest field of the day, the Master Cs, started at 10:35 AM and had only three DNFs out of 143 racers. That’s only 2%. The Category A men on the other hand started at 1:15 and lost 27% of their field to the mud (17 racers out of 62 starters).
Typically the culprit of a DNF in extremely mud conditions are rear derailleurs — or more specifically derailleur hangers. As the muck builds up inside the pulleys, it gets harder and harder for your chain to pass through. Then suddenly the whole system seizes up and, it only takes half a pedal stroke to rip the derailleur hanger right off. If you’re lucky, you simply replace the hangar for about $20 and you’re back in business.
I wasn’t so lucky: Just 2 1/2 laps into the race I heard a sudden, “Snap!” and that was it. I looked down and my derailleur was viciously bent, hangar was snapped clean off, and a spoke was dangling inside my wheel.
The funny thing is, I was really enjoying the race before that happened. There’s something zen about the extreme focus it takes to ride well in conditions like that. And I love it!
Many (smart) people opted to leave their geared bikes at home and race a singlespeed. But even without a derailleur, there were 10 DNFs in the singlespeed category. The mud was so sticky by their 3:15 start that it packed into every open space and made some bikes unrideable. One singlespeed racer I talked to said his pedal sheared off. “The spindle’s still there,” he said, “but I couldn’t even find the pedal.”
Here are a few more shots from the scene of the grime:
The Crusade packs up and heads for Bend next weekend. There will be races Saturday and Sunday, and of course the traditional Halloween partying and whatnot.
Stay tuned for more ‘cross coverage!