A fast start. Photo courtesy of MLKimages
I knew Granogue would be different. The race starts with a quarter mile of flat road, then goes into some fast dirt roads, and a maze of twisty singletrack with no rocks. There are a couple steep climbs, including a dirt road grinder. The mix of a fast start, and the hills, made picking a gear tough. I went with my standby 32×19 (on a 29â€™er hardtail), figuring that it was perfect for the climbs. I knew I would get dropped at the start, but figured that a 17 or 18 tooth cog wouldnâ€™t make any difference. In the little pre-riding I did, this proved to be a good gear choice, it seemed like I could punch up the hills well and gain some time there. The other change I made for this race was to drop my standard Maxxis Ignitor tires in favor of something lighter, a choice I would pay for. I threw a Maxxis Small Block Eight on the front and a Stans â€œThe Crowâ€ on the rear. â€œThe Crowâ€ is a superlight, minimal tread tire, designed to be run tubeless at very low pressure. I figured that with no rocks on the course, and all of the climbs, the low weight would be a nice advantage. I didnâ€™t anticipate the railroad tracks.
See the guy in an awkward tuck? Yep, thatâ€™s the singlespeeder trying to draft. Photo courtesy of MLKimages
At the start line Topher, a longtime Elite singlespeed racer, looked over and said â€œdamn, youâ€™re running the Crowâ€. He had thought about using one too but decided against it. The start went as anticipated, everyone shifted into their big rings and dropped us. At the sharp right after the pavement I was able to get the inside line and gained a better position, then passed more riders on the first short climb. I settled into the racing groove and was riding with Topher, in the top 15, on the first of three laps. Then we hit the railroad tracks. Literally, for me. A steep little downhill section brought us over some old railroad tracks, wood planks had been placed between them, but your back wheel still hit pretty hard on the far side. I heard my rim smack the rail, and 20 meters later the distinctive sound of a tubeless tire letting out air once per revolution. I pulled off the trail and grabbed my pump to see if a little extra air would help the Stans goo do itâ€™s job, no such luck. The combination of a superlight tire and a lightweight rim, plus a steel train track, had led to a dented rim. I knew that my race was pretty well blown along with the tire, but I wanted to enjoy riding the course anyway. I slowly put a tube it, pumped it up, and got chasing. I was able to make my way though the Expert field by Lap 2, with some narrow misses passing on the tight trails, then I came up on the tracks again. I slowed a bit more this time and tried to keep my rear tire un-weighted, but it was not to be. Bang! Another flat. I called it a day and hiked back to the finish line, taking a DNF. Lesson learned. Chris Eatough (Trek VW) took the win, with Topher (Bike Sport) taking the honors as first on a singlespeed, in 14th.