Since my husband and I are pretty much against waking up before 6:00 a.m. more often than absolutely necessary, we decided to head out to Winchester for Apple Cross the day before, ride the course, and check out Winchester, which happens to be a very cool historic town. This gave me ample time to worry about how technical the course was and how everyone else in my race would surely ride the Wall (a long steep hill with 2 seriously off-camber turns that would surely cause me to tumble down the hill) while I ran it. And that my ability to ride the log on the course would hardly be a benefit, because surely everyone else could do that too. Arriving early also gave me a chance to ride my newly converted 1×10 set up off-road for the first time and to figure out that my rear brake cable housing was messed up. Luckily Bicycle Outfitters saved the day by letting us in after they closed for a replacement housing. (Thank you again!)
On race morning, I had plenty of time to continue checking out the course. I watched the 3/4 masters men on the wall and saw maybe 3 people ride it out of the entire field. Those who were able to ride it were not going any faster either. I was suddenly relieved. However, that didn’t stop me from convincing myself that my mid-pack finish at Granogue was a fluke and that I would be crushed by the Elite women’s field because they are in fact, quite elite!
However, after the start, it didn’t take long before people were crashing all around me. I quickly determined that staying upright would be an easy way to do well in the race. I kept it wheels down on the loose, dry, and off camber ground for 47 minutes and finished in 9th place out of 14. That may not sound spectacular, but it was for me. Last year I was lucky to beat 1 or 2 people in these races, and this year I managed to stay ahead of 5 entire people. I call that progress. Crossresults.com seems to disagree with me, but I’m trying to ignore their crazy points system.
The course was also great for testing out my new gearing. After a seemingly constant shifting battle on my cross bike with no clear problem, I decided to just replace it all. Or really, to replace half of it. I ditched the front derailleur, replaced my right shifter, got a simple brake lever for the left, put on a Race Face 40 tooth narrow-wide front chain ring, and used a mid-cage derailleur to accommodate a larger 11×32 cassette. I was worried about my gearing, but I told myself it was 9 more gears than a single speed, and that was the next option. It turns out that I had plenty of climbing gears and plenty of gears for downhill road sections. Why front derailleurs even exist on cross bikes, I have no idea. I highly recommend going home and throwing your front derailleur in the trash. You don’t need it.