Iron Cross

My last endurance event of the year, not really cyclocross and not quite a mountain bike race, race #3 in the American UltraCross SeriesAmerica’s original UltraCross event, Iron Cross never disappoints. Mike Kuhn, Zach Adams and the rest of the High Speed Cycling crew have this race dialed. Roughly 60 relatively high-speed miles that mainly cover paved, gravel and dirt roads. Small stretches of relatively easy mountain bike style single track is peppered in to keep in line any pure roadies that might enter.

I drive up morning of with my neighbor George and my wife Joyce who’s still undecided about if she’s doing the full distance or the 50K distance that’s new for this year. George is doing the 50K. I’m planning on racing in the single speed category. I’ve got my Superfly Single Speed set up with a ridged fork and Bontrager XR1 1.9 29er tires set up tubeless. Yes, a mountain bike. I had a decent ride here last year on it running a 2-to-1 gearing setup, placing 2nd to Harlan Price. I’m going with that ratio again this year running 34×17. My ride is 17 pounds on the dot.

Trek Superfly Single Speed - 17 pounds

With both Harlan and Bernie Shaio absent due to conflicts, there’s a bit more room at the top in single speed. However, my long time rival Gunnar Shogren is here as well as my 29er Crew teammate Dustin Manotti who soundly beat me last weekend at the Terror of Teaberry.

Slightly shorter route for 2011

We’re at a new venue this year in Pine Grove Furnace State Park. My understanding is that after completing one lap of a taped off cross course, we’ll head north on 233 towards the usual starting point at Camp Thompson, bang a right on the hiker-biker trail and pass right by the new starting area right after we ride through the sandy section of Pine Grove Furnace State Park beach.

Bang! We’re off. With no call-ups, huge rows of 50 people across are funneled down to a 15 foot wide lane. I’m lucky my friend Daniel Rapp let me slide in beside him in the first row. I’m through the funnel in 5th or 6th place. I see 29er Crew teammate Mike Keefer driving the pace at the front on his SuperFly 100. I’m two wheels behind Gunnar heart rate already approaching red.

Pine Grove Furnace

I hadn’t pre-ridden this section so I’m really unsure with the direction changes. I’m just following wheels. As we come back down near the start-finish area, I notice that we’re all rolling over course tape that’s on the ground. Is this right? I keep going, but I’m looking around for some confirmation that we’re all not off-course. I look up at the leaders and they are yelling at spectators to get out of the way as we pass the Pine Grove Funace and head out of the park. Is this right? I look back and see a line of riders behind us following. If we’re off course, at least we’re all doing the same thing. I can’t help but think we’ve possibly just executed a 4 mile shortcut.

As we start up the shallow grade of Slate Quarry, the pace is geared-bike high and the guy in front of me has let a gap open up with Gunnar. I’m really too cross-eyed to do anything about it. I’ve got to get my act together and settle down in a group that I can manage. Several geared riders fly by me on the flat pavement and a 12-rider lead group forms that includes Keefer and Gunnar. I’m reasonably certain Gunnar is the only single speeder in that group. He’s known for being a fast starter and is running a slightly bigger gear than I am. For the moment, I settle in with a slightly smaller chase group.

In a stroke of bad luck for him and good luck for me, I soon see Gunnar on the side of the road pulling over to fix a flat. It’s very early but that’s maybe bought me 4 or 5 minutes of head-start. Now in the lead, with an eye on the heart-rate, I keep the press on.

Iron Cross has a decent amount of climbing

By Wenksville Road before the KOM climb, Daniel catches me and I get in behind him on the fast rolling pavement. I gap him a little bit up the climb, but he’s soon back on on the gravel road rollers after the KOM and the 50K split.

Daniel lets me by for the turn into Lippencote Trail. Finally in my element, I pass 4 or 5 guys on cross bikes before the bottom. Back out on the pavement, I’m able to draft a geared rider all the way down Chambersburg Rd. I take a long pull after we go right on Rt 233 since the grade starts to climb and I’m not so spun out. As we make the left on the Gravel towards Long Pine Lake, geared rider asks me if I think a 180 BPM heart rate is too high… ! I tell him that the 3 part WigWam run-up is coming up soon and that he should maybe back off a bit. He does and soon he’s gapped but he’s replaced by 3 of the riders I passed in Lippencote as we ride by the lake.

Left onto the dirt road that has a short steep loose climb up to the grassy field before WigWam. One of the geared guys is encouraging me as I’m able to clean it.

Who says mountain bikes can't be shouldered

I feel surprisingly nimble hiking up the WigWam run-up. It the top I glance down to see all the riders just behind me. No sign of Gunnar. He beat me three weeks ago at Revenge of the Rattlesnake by 12 minutes in an event of this duration. One flat does not take 12 minutes to fix.

I’m out of fluids and so stop to fill my bottles at Aid2. It seems to take forever. I’m thinking bottle drops would have been smart.

The miles between Aid2 and Aid4 go by in a blur. Miraculously, no sign of Gunnar. I’m not comfortable, recalling the last minute pass Gunnar laid down on me at the Hilly Billy Robaix to steal away a 2nd place finish.

All damn day!… As if on queue: All damn day, I’ve been chasing you..

We’ve just started into the single track past Aid4 and Gunnar’s made the catch and is on my wheel. I pick up the pace to see if he can really hang with me on his cross bike in single track. I’m able to open up a couple of decent gaps, but he closes them down. I’m breathing hard as my bike gets momentarily turned sideways crossing a slippery root. Gunnar is right there to respond. He rides through the passing lane and takes the lead.

By the time we hit the pavement he’s got maybe a 20 foot gap. He drills it. I’m pretty anaerobic already and feeling the twinges of some approaching leg cramps. I’ve got no response.

By the time we go right into the last gravel road that leads to the final single track and run up, Gunnar’s got maybe 100 yards on me. I continue to chase, but in the limited way that you can only do when cramping is near. In the back of my mind, I’m starting to accept that I’m likely to finish 2nd today.

What? Again?

As gravel turns to single track with a slight pitch down, my speed is high, my tires are bigger and I’m on the mountain bike. I must have the advantage in this situation. Gunnar must have thought that too and been taking risks, because there he was on the side of the trail starting to take off his rear wheel. He’d flatted again. You better hurry up, because I’m not waiting around!  …and just like that, with 5 miles to go, I’m in the lead again.

Just 4 minutes in front of Gunnar, I cross the line in 4:06 for the single speed win! My teammate Dustin rounded out the single speed top-3 at 4:28. A lucky outcome for me and a good showing for the Crew. I’ll take it!

CyclingDirt post-race interview by Thom Parsons

Cycling Dirt’s Thom Parsons shot more video of Iron Cross 2011.

Iron Cross Single Speed Podium - photo Zachary Repp

Former triathlete Dereck Treadwell took the Senior Men and overall win at 3:53. Gerry Pflug was 2nd overall at 3:54 which was also good enough for the 40+ win. Sure glad he wasn’t racing single speed. Teammate Mike the King of Michaux Keefer and his mountain bike managed to hang onto 3rd overall and 2nd in the Seniors. My rockstar friend Vicki Barclay won the Woman in 4:24 with Gunnar’s wife Betsy Shogren 2nd at 4:35. Wife-unit Joyce managed to squeak onto the Woman’s podium in 5th at 4:58 after deciding on the full distance race this morning at the registration table. Yay honey!

Hat’s off to Mike Kuhn, Zach Adams and the rest of the High Speed Cycling crew… and especially all the volunteers who were out on the course helping us stay upright. This is a great event because of you. Thank you!

When my friend and frequent travel companion Jed Prentice saw the results, he asked: Could Roger and Joyce be the new Gunnar and Betsy?
Hah! Probably not… but thanks for the thought.

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3 Responses to “Iron Cross”

  1. […] Cross Home Page Iron Cross Bike Reg Dirt Rag 2012 Report Roger Masse 2011 Repor Iron City Bikes 2011 Report Fit Chick 2009 Report Cycling Dirt 2011 Report Pez 2005 Report Share […]

  2. U the man Roger! Love your reports. I see you are signed up for 2012. Look forward to racing you in the SS 🙂

  3. […] Home Page Iron Cross Bike Reg What the heck is Ultacross? Cycling Dirt Video Dirt Rag 2010 Report Roger Masse 2011 Repor Iron City Bikes 2011 Report Fit Chick 2009 Report Cycling Dirt 2011 Report Pez 2005 Report Liberty […]

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