All photos by Charles Armstrong

Darren Biggs DCMTB/City Bikes 51/205 overall 32/97 Men Under 40
Time 4:38:31

The Iron Cross………….. I had heard about this race about three years ago. The longest cyclocross race in America… Well to let you know it is not really a cyclocross race , but a race that is best ridden on a cross bike. The race is framed after the Three Peaks race in England which has been run for over thirty years. I believe the race was canceled this year cause of the scare of hoof and mouth disease. The big interesting thing was the 5 time winner Rob Jebb and podium placing countryman Stuart Bowers of the Three Peaks race in England came to the IronCross V to race the event. The Brits came not to play, but to smack it to the yanks! They got 1st and 3rd I believe.

I had talked to a bunch of people about this race, and last year I was about to do the race with Sid. Sid and I did not do the race, so I vowed to do it in 2007. I have had a long season. I have raced two or three times the amount I have ever raced in a year. So I wasn’t really looking forward to the IronCross, but I said I would do it so I did. I was able to talk Mark into doing the race, after he and I did the West Virginia Logger ride(on our cross bikes) in May
We did the the IC in one day so I had to get up at 4:50am!! We picked up Roger Massi on the way to the race, and he was a good traveling companion, with his knowledge of the race (he has done it 3-4 times) and general friendliness. We got to the start with plenty of time to spare. We got our stuff together, did our drop bags (will do mine better next year) and got ready for the start. The weather was chilly but fine. I wore toe warmers, a vest, arm warmers, and heavier long finger gloves. Mark wasn’t dressed as warm so I gave him my long finger gloves, and I put my lighter gloves in the drop bag.
Mark from my City Bikes team was there as well, so it was cool talking with him and lining up with him at the start. They start you down a gravel road, and I started with slower riders, which I will try not to do next year. The gun goes off and we start off going through the IC lite course that they did the day before. There is a spiral of death they call it in the course. Pretty funny, you basically go round and round for a long time, then over two barriers and you are off to the course.
My ride from what I remember:
So I start out passing a bunch of people, and am riding the road that goes to a walking trail, I am pushing myself but not too much, and I am loosing ground to a lot of people. We are going up this climb that goes a ways, I really pushed it up the climb to the KOM/QOM top with this Hagerstown guy Tim Lung on my back we get to the first trail section and he gets in front of me, but I basically would see him from time to time in front of me with him finishing 3 minutes ahead of me. The first single track I was loving my inline lever on the tops of the handle bar. My mountain biking skills were coming into play as I passed a lot of people in there. There was only one section that I bailed on doing, and I thought I would be faster if I didn’t crash. This went to another road section with some painful long rollers (this would be the case the whole day with the pavement sections). The fire road /trail to the run up I was able to get past several people on the climb with my low gear and power abilities. The run up is no joke! I stopped here and took off my vest/arm warmers. My back was hurting from pushing on the bike, so it was my back that hurt the most for the run up (next year more sit ups!) The run up is long and sucks the life out of you.

After the run up is CP2 (I was 42nd place at this point) where next year I will put a bag to leave extra clothes at. After this part you are doing ridgeline gravel roads and it is pretty scary at times cause you are going over 30mph on the downhills just praying that you don’t hit a pothole, or one of the rocks that has worked its way to the surface of the road. I finally get to CP3, by now I am passing every now and then. I was making time on people by catching them on the down hills, or on the longer climbs especially the trail climbs. At CP3 I was out of fuel, and liquids so I had to get a power bar and refill the camelback. The bad thing was I had to piss, that made me lose like seven spots, or all the people I passed. The next part was a hill that was a doosy! I was in my 34-32 going at times as slow as you can go in that gear. I passed everyone that passed me while I was pissing. One big motivator was passing Steve Wahl from Hagerstown bikes, he beat me at a cyclocross race 2 weeks prior. After the long climb there was a scary downhill that had some tight turns. The course marshalls let you know they were ahead so I took the downhill easy, which was the right move. At CP4 you take a right onto the funniest part of the course, basically double track/single track trail that is totally ridable on a cross bike. I was tired so I didn’t enjoy it as much as I would have normally. There was a short run up here, then a hill that I rode up very slowly, but passed three others walking. After this was a pavement downhill to the finish, but there three or four rollers that were just killing your legs that you had to get over before going through the Spiral of death again and then doing two barriers and done. Well no more long races for me this year!!

Some observations of the race:

* The race started really fast to me, I was expecting more of a SM100 kind of feel where people just went their own pace. Here people were trying to stay with people they were around or bridge up to others.

* The field was strong I think at least ¾ of the field were on teams, so most of the people racing the event were strong riders that were shooting for a good time, not to just finish.

* I had fretted over what tire/gears I should use for the event, but my bike worked perfect 38mm WTB interwolfs at 60psi with 50-34, 12-32 in the back. I am a spinner so next year I will go with an 11-34 in back.

* For next year I am going to make sure I do some fast road rides, cause I was not able to ride with people on the road, but was able to pass them on the big climbs.

* The course was a good mix of one really technical trail, easy trails, gravel road, and pavement.

* I think I was 24th place for the second part of the course compared to 43 for the first part of the course. So I think next year if I can improve on the first half and get a <4:30>

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Anonymous said...

hey dude - I'm glad you enjoyed the race. I really enjoyed the day, too. It sounds like your gearing was better set up for the day. My lowest gear was 36/25 and next year need to get a 32 in the back. Best, Mark (new city bikes guy)

Mark said...

whaddya talkin about. it was easy!

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a nice Sunday Drive....I mean RIDE ;)


Anonymous said...

Great write-up D. I'll be at the starting line with you next year.


Anonymous said...

the photo of the long powerline "runup" (and I didn't see anyone running) is amazing. Though after struggling at first, I got into a groove by slinging the entire bike onto my back, holding it in place with both hands on the top bar, and then leaning into the climb up. Worked pretty well, and felt more balanced than resting it on one shoulder.

Mark w said...

that last anonymous was mark w aka wiggy

chris d said...

Great ride and write-up Darren. I was right in front of you going into CP2, but then I blew up on the climb out of CP3. You put a good 30 minutes into me. I think a compact crank is the way to go for Ironcross.

gwadzilla said...

iron cross

I will mark my calendar