‘Cross as ‘Cross Can Be
19 November 2014
Gibson Ranch Park
Sacramento Series 2014
By Thom Fox
Saturday was the Sacramento Cyclocross Series at Gibson Ranch Park in Elverta near Sacramento. The folks who run SacCX have worked hard this year to expand their series and add a few new venues at the same time. ‘Cross racing venues are hard to come by since they can take a very visible but most often temporary toll on the landscape it occupies for a day. Even in the driest of conditions this can beat down and scar hill and dale. Add seasonal rains to the recipe and things can be dramatic.
With the small bit of rain we had last week the ground seemed tacky, damp, but still firm. Great stuff for crossers. Some promoters have discovered small, regional parks that offer tasty expanses of green, a few ups and downs, and natural (or not) barriers. Bike Monkey, SuperPro, and SacCX have excelled by adding these to the calendar.
Gibson Ranch Park is a long, loping park with fenced in fields used for quarter horse riding or practicing dressage. Keen stuff for sure. Towards the back side of the park lay a large open area dotted with oak and some rolling hills, swing sets, jungle sets, picnic areas, bathrooms, and all that a family park might need. Towards one end is a modest lake that is probably shallow enough to walk across. Given its natural attributes this should be one of God’s gifts to ‘cross racers.
And it is.
The parcourse looped around the park area, beginning on a short paved stretch then turning right into a long gently downhill on thick grass. This bottomed out after 50+ yards then went back up as much as we went down. It proceeded to snake thru the oaks, up and down a few times, before emptying out into a flat bowl-like area for horse training. A partial spiral of doom then back out and immediately into a series of short, 12-foot climbs. Descents on the side of a 30% grade hillside made us crest it, do a 180 then back down it on the off camber, do another 180 at the bottom then a short 30 foot straight to get ready for the next ascent. Very technical. Very.
There were a few more short tight turns before climbing up and out to crest another hill before moving around the lakes southern edge. The first section around the lake had us up higher on its banks. Halfway around we turned right then dipped into a mud pit that was 6 inches or so deep at its worst. Starting out with sticky, wheel grabbing goo it then evolved to a dark grey bisque like texture that became well churned and whisked by wheel after wheel of racers. After that a short grass section along the bank before dropping off onto what would be a “beach” but became a firmly set, rutted sand section that was rideable but required considerable skill to keep moving forward without dabbing.
A few zigs and zags and it was back onto the pavement for the Start-Finish line. All told around 1.8 miles in length.
Personally I raced well, bobbled a bit on the off camber sections, and chased and raced for 5th out of 13 or so guys, ending up working up towards just shy of 10th place in the 35B and 45B who went out ahead. Not a bad days work I feel.
Superlatives cannot do this course justice. Rolling hills of grass and wide lanes of parcourse which made passing a breeze. So much so that you could come up on a slower racer and pick your line around them without needing to crowd in to get by. Off camber stuff you rarely get to ride, so technical you keep asking yourself “What would Sven do?” Grippy surfaces to race over that made running 20psi front and rear seem like genius work. If this was the last race of the season I would be satisfied it was that good. Thankfully that is not the case. Much more to come for sure.
Thom Fox is a guest contributor for Fit and Filthy. He races for Team Roaring Mouse and has more than a mere coquetry for excellent food. As evident above, Thom can describe a ‘cross course as one may describe preparing a good dish. Keep a lookout for Thom’s upcoming article on which fare goes well with cyclocross.