Sunday, September 26, 2010

Equipment Part II

We get the question a lot about mountain bikes vs. cross bikes at IC so let's delve into that a bit.

First, ride a 'cross bike.

Seriously, this is Iron CROSS not Iron Mountain Bike.

No, seriously, Iron 'Cross is about riding in these places on a cross bike.  The way to experience this thing is on skinny-ish knobbies white knuckled on the Lippencote descent and rippin' across the dirt road in the drops imagining that you have a clue of what it was like for the original Tour de France racers on their crazy rigs climbing in the Alps and Pyrenees.  Of course, you don't have a clue but it is fun to play dress up.

Seriously seriously why would you do Iron CROSS on a mountain bike?  Because it is the only bike you own?  Well, actually that's okay and we don't mind and we will try to refrain from pointing and laughing.  Because you think it gives you a competitive advantage?  Cool.  Or as we said in the 90s's, "NOT!!"  If you win maybe Garmin will call.  Or maybe it will be the the Shack.  Or maybe it will be your mom just checking in to see if you made it through in one piece and to remind you that you are completely lame for racing it on a mountain bike.  Mom is tough.  She'd ride in on a 'cross bike you pansy.  And she'd kick your ass.

Seriously seriously seriously this is about 'cross racing.  Yes, it is a completely different vision of what 'cross should look like and completely different sort of event, but it was designed with 'cross bikes in mind.  The saddle of a 'cross bike is THE way to experience the joys and sorrows and pain and those times when you actually enter a different state of consciousness due to the awesomeness of the event and the aura of Mark Laser that is Iron Cross.

And, while we've not yet seen any mountain bike riding fools actually in tears in the parking lot weeping from the chastising dished out by all the super cool and super sexy 'cross bike riding superstars we don't want you to be the first.  So please, don't ride a mountain bike if you can avoid it.

Remember, Friends Don't Let Friends Ride Mountain Bikes at Iron 'Cross.

And, Only You Can Prevent Your Friends From Looking All Lame And Stuff Riding Mountain Bikes At Iron 'Cross.

We are not responsible for any mental damage caused by incessant (and well deserved) abuse dished out to those not on 'cross bikes during Iron Cross.

No, really, MTBs are okay at Iron 'Cross.  They haven't been banned...yet.  If that's what you got, bring it 'cause you just have to do this thing and all us bike riders love each other.  But not that way.   


Edit 10.4.10 - DISCLAIMER:  THE ABOVE WAS WRITTEN TONGUE IN CHEEK AND MEANT TO BE A LITTLE (or if you know us and Iron Cross - A LOT) FUNNY!!  WE WOULD LOVE TO HAVE YOU RIDE AN MTB AND UNTIL WE SAY DIFFERENTLY, DO IT!  TELL YOUR MOM SHE CAN RIDE ONE TOO!! (AGAIN, THAT LAST BIT WAS TO BE HUMOROUS!  Mom _probably_ isn't doing Iron Cross which is where we were thinking some of the humor would be apparent....) W got burned with this post and we really didn't mean to offend anyone.  Sorry.  Post coming to try to explain it better - at least we hope.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Can Running Win It Again?

Over the next few weeks as we run up to Iron Cross we're going to try to take a look at some of the folks primed for this year's edition.  We got the word in that Newville native and all round super nice fella Josh Beck, owner of the Appalachian Running Co in downtown Carlisle, is in for this year's Iron Cross.  Josh, despite living so close and being a fixture in the endurance sports community in the region for a bit now is making his first attempt at IC.  Keeping Josh from putting the hurt on folks at IC in the past has been an aversion to the technical bits on the course which he has seemingly put to bed.  I can't wait to see what he pulls off.

Josh has some incredible results on his resume from early years as a runner to a time spent racing road bikes on the pro team and with events like the Philly Pro Championship under his wheels.  Over the past five years or so the focus has been on ultra distance multi-sport events.  Google him if you like.  Some might call him nuts.  I might agree.  But whatever you call him the results speak for themselves.

Now, I haven't followed Josh's career over the past couple years too closely, but some very recent successes including setting the run course record at the Savageman Tri, which holds the reputation as the hardest Tri anywhere and making an impressive effort at the Louisville Iron Man coming from hundreds back out of the water to 6th overall show he's ready for the on and off the bike bits of IC.

What will be interesting to watch is how Josh plays the race tactically and whether he's able to use that bike/run strength to overcome the disadvantage he'll likely face on the Lippencote descent and the sinuous singletrack in the last hour of the race (unless he's been out getting that dialed!).  If Josh is within a minute or two at the bottom of Lippencote his power on the flat roads and slight grades leading to the Wigwam run will likely bring him back up to the front and set up a show down on Wigwam and to the finish.  If he's off the front at that point; look out.

Rob Jebb showed us several years ago that a super strong runner with who can keep the race close into Wigwam  has the possibility to open up a big enough gap to hold it to the finish.  Josh looks like he's primed to run that fast, but can he keep it close enough on Lippencote to be able to make that move or will he need to use that fancy footwork to pull back those who rip Lipp?  We shall soon find out.

Anyone know if Josh has been out figuring out the Lippencote line?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Iron Cross Equipment


Choose your equipment wisely. The course has some pretty rough and steep (for a typical 'cross race) sections.  The following are similar to recommendations we've had since the start of this gig, but have been updated to reflect the slightly less technical nature of the current course.

First and foremost, this is a 'cross race.  That's the spirit of it and what we've had in mind from day 1.  We don't restrict what you run though (and we certainly don't hold you to less than 33mm tires!). We know that you can choose to ride whatever you want.  Without a doubt there are sections of this thing that will be faster on a mountain bike than a 'cross bike.  That being said, mountain bikes are fewer in number on the start line each year because the way to experience this race is on a 'cross bike - that is what makes it Iron Cross!  (BTW, at some point MTBs will be no more at IC.  That day isn't here yet, but it is coming.)


  • If you're on a 'cross bike, running the biggest tires that will fit may offer a bit of comfort and will certainly help protect from flats, but the fastest set-up if you know what you're doing on the singletrack is probably something in the 35-40 width.

  • If you're on a mountain bike, run tires as small as won't pinch flat.  A 29er with a true 'cross tire in the 35-40 size is a pretty decent choice.

  • If you're on a singlespeed, choose a gear as big as you can climb on or you'll spin out too easily on the pavement sections. 

  • A long time ago when I was fast, fit and in shape on a pre-ride this is what I said, "I ran a 42 single ring with a 12-27 and would have liked something lower later in the course. It's probably not necessary to go lower in order to ride the climbs, but figure with a time of at least 4-5 hours to finish its going to be a long day. Lower gears may save your legs for later in the race."  Now I would say - bring the low gears!  You'll want them.  A double is very smart.  A triple if you're at all concerned makes perfect sense.  A compact to get you that 34 on the front...stellar.

  • There are no pits so there are no bike changes. You start on and finish on the same bike you ride on the rest of the course.

    You're going to need either some bottle cages and bottles or a camelback, don't rely on the aid stations for water as they're too far apart to keep you hydrated if you only drink there. Eat lots and drink lots during this ride. It sure is pretty out here during fall, but don't get all distracted and make sure to keep sucking down that Hammer HEED.

  • Gettin' ready

    Iron Cross ain't no joke.  Ask around.  It is fun and different and a big hoot - especially if you can laugh at yourself for carrying your bike up Wigwam, but it ain't easy.  Figure 4-6 hours with tons of climbing, technical trail bits that will challenge your skills, fast gravel and pavement and some pretty decent off the bike work.

    The best preparation you can do is mimic the demands of the race a couple times between now and the event.  Spend the days you can't ride for 4-5 hours focused on recovery from the big rides and spend some other days developing that sustainable power for the big climbs and long day on the horizon.

    A couple long rides on gravel roads with lots of climbing should be a part of the training package.  Get used to the feel of the bike sliding around under you a bit on those downhills. You need to add in some long hill reps on other days to work on threshold power and some days of long tempo efforts for the hours you'll be pounding it out around the Michaux roads.

    Getting the 'cross bike out on some technical trails and work your way up to difficult rocky descents since that's where things get most sketchball on a 'cross bike - and getting accustomed to how the bike handles technical terrain will prove very beneficial in your IC prep.  Those of you who've done this thing know what Lippencote Tr. is.  Those who haven't are likely about to ride the most technical descent they've tried on a 'cross bike.  While most people end up walking down much of Lippencote what you should know is that the front guys rip it on their 'cross bikes sliding their bikes through the washed out rocky trough and bunny hopping the downed logs.  They can do this because they practice doing it.  You should get out and practice.

    If you're really geared up for Iron Cross then you need to be running too.  Don't believe me?  One of the guys to win this thing was Rob Jebb, a multiple time 3 Peaks winner and a world high altitude marathon series champion.  Where did he make his move to win Iron Cross?  He RAN up WigWam.  Let me say again, RAN up it.  Most people barely move faster than plodding on that run-up.  It is steep and rocky and then you hop back on the bike for a short stint before getting off to run another section that isn't quite as steep but is plenty loose and rocky making for poor footing.  Another remount and final run section await before you top out.  IF you can move fast through those running sections you can gain minutes - in that 10 min section Jebb gained more than 1 minute on the next rider.  It is a crux of the Iron Cross and of prime importance if you're looking for your best possible result.

    Have fun out there and get ready for the coolest and mostest funnest 'cross racing going.  IC X.X.X.

    Monday, September 20, 2010

    100 Down!

    We're over 100 pre-reg'd for the X.X.X. edition of Iron Cross as of this past weekend!  With registration filling fast we are well on our way to a sold out festivus. 

    Friday, September 17, 2010

    We'll make you famous!

    We're stoked about all the love and coverage Iron Cross has generated the last couple years.  DirtRag, Cyclocross Magazine,  XXCMag, Bicycling...Now we are super excited to have Outside Magazine's television arm coming out to cover the 2010 event!  Yep, you'll see some awesome coverage of the longest cyclocross race in America hitting the airwaves in the near future and maybe, just maybe, you'll be on there!  Then you'll really have something cool to tweet to mom and to brag about/throw in the faces of your old high school classmates on Facebook!  Check out some of their past coverage: Ride Guide TV