Sunday November 23, 2014
by: Laura Pyle
One last report from 2014 that's been sitting in my inbox, the Luray race, possibly my favorite of the season. It's put on by Chris Gould, and through devious bike-and-beer connections I've been included in the crew of disreputables that set up and pre-ride the course on Saturday; have some great food, drink, and conviviality at Chris and Rob's that night; and roar back to race the next day. Since I'd have two days on the course I brought my Surly Krampus up in addition to my 'cross bike. And HUZZA for that. Like last year, Chris put in a wicked hairpin up and straight down a steep embankment next to Route 211. I broke a couple of stakes falling down it in pre-rides last year, then nailed it every lap of both races, so I was confident I could work it out this year. This year, though, he added a turn right at the end of the approach, so instead of running straight up you lost a bunch of momentum at the last second. I did a couple of bike-somersaults from near the top of the hairpin, straightened the bent bike bits, and went back for attempt 3. All I know then is that when I shifted at the foot of the embankment something went clunk and I barely made it halfway up. I didn't really think about the clunk at first (it's a cyclocross bike; you abuse it), but when I picked up the bike, I was startled to see the rear derailleur had made an almost-successful attempt to join its colleague in the front, shearing through the derailleur hanger in the process. So clearly, praise be for spare bikes; the Krampus it was to be, along with instant notoriety when I rumbled up to the start line. Another new feature this year was the "pit of death," a steep descent into and almost immediate ascent out of a deep gully of mostly clay and rocks. Lots of folks lost time on the ascent out of it by taking the wrong line or getting blocked and spinning out. The Krampus and I just charged down and coasted up, lines be damned. (This is why I know fat tires are making me a more careless mountain-biker; why pick a good line when you can roll over anything?) The hairpin of derailleur-death I just ran--call me superstitious, but it was probably almost as fast as riding it too. I had an unusually crummy start, and wiped out in the first section of the course turning too aggressively on a layer of hickory nuts, and I blame those screw-ups for finishing DFL rather than the Krampus. It was so fun I didn't care how I placed anyway. I'd wanted to Krampus-cross it once this season, and Luray was the perfect venue for it. And I turned the derailleur carnage into an upgrade on my cross bike, so all's well that ends SRAM.