What's a Sunday Without Church?

By: Brandon Jan 13

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I'm not a religious man, but Sundays hold a very special meaning. I share this with many others, and dirt church is what I wait for all week. Sunday, January 11 was supposed to be something special, I guess a bit like Palm Sunday.

But, now I'm getting ahead of myself, let's rewind.

The Monday before CX Nats I loaded up my car with cameras and bikes and drove 1200 miles to Austin. It wasn't fun. But, Cross Nationals always is, so I hit the road.

I was greeted to Texas with warm weather and sunshine, exactly like I expected in January. As the week progressed the weather degraded a bit, though that led to exceptional racing. Late in the week the juniors were met with some of the toughest course conditions of the week, and we were all blown away by their conviction that they'd own the course, and they did.

As the weekend rolled on and the rain kept coming the course got muddy, but not sloppy. The mud was a thin layer of grease over some very hard ground, which meant a couple of things. First, it was slippery. Really slippery. Some of the best riders in the country out on practice laps were falling all over on the off-camber sections. Second, Austin freaked out. This is Texas after all, and a couple of days straight of rain sent people into a frenzy. No matter, this is cyclocross, right?

Well, yes and no. Come Sunday morning park visitors were greeted by cops turning them away. At 8:29 am USA Cycling posted a 3-part Tweet saying Austin has postponed the race,

"In light of last night's weather, the city of Austin has postponed today's races until further notice. We are doing everything in our power to make sure these races go today. It is our number one priority to run this event for our riders, and we are working diligently with the City of Austin to make this happen. Please track USA cycling social media for further updates. @AustinCX15".

According to Austin Parks and Rec on Twitter at 8:46 am,

"due to excessive rainfall overnight, @AustinCX15 has been cancelled over concerns for the turf and root zone exposure. #cxnats #AustinCX15".

At 10:08 am USA Cycling tells us,

"ALERT: ‪#‎cxnats‬ is officially cancelled. Austin police have asked ppl at the park to start vacating immediately."

Uh, what?

After the Twittersphere blew up for a bit I loaded my crap and headed home. Disenchanted? Kind of. USA Cycling has managed to let us down more than once, but this one shocked me. I hit the road.

Care to guess what really blew my mind? This Tweet from USA Cycling at 12:41 pm,

"UPDATE: Racing will resume tomorrow at noon local. All categories. Details to come."

Are you kidding me? At this point I has already driven nearly 100 miles out of Austin.

What does all of this tell us? I wish I knew. I wasn't at the table during the organization of the race between Austin and it's parks, race organizers, and USA Cycling. A lot of news has come to light, and it appears race organizers covered their bases as best they could. Walk-throughs had been held throughout the year leading up to the race and many times throughout the week and weekend leading up to Sunday.

But then there's the tree group: Austin's Heritage Tree Foundation. They declared a "911 tree emergency." I'm having a tough time working through my feelings on this one, but I can't say I disagree with them. Now, with that out of the way, my issue here is how it was handled. With 4 days of racing behind us, to call in the emergency mere hours before our best racers were ready to fight it out blew me away.

Where does this leave us? I'm just not sure. Clearly we have some issues on our hands, and the fact that this happened at the premier event, in our fastest growing discipline, with our national governing body in attendance, makes it that much worse. Clearly we have some work to do, I can't help but to assume we're the laughing stock of the cyclocross world.

Unfortunately I'm not the only one left out. 2500 miles of total driving, a week away from home, hundreds in hotel rental and food, and I didn't get to see the main event. Countless others were shafted in exactly the same way. According to Velonews a survey was done by Matthew Montesano at the race "suggests that the average total cost per rider to stay an extra day fell north of $900, with a total cost of almost $350,000, even without taking into account vendors, media, and spectators."

I'm going to leave it to those more closely linked to the organization of races than I to figure out what our next move is. Here's to hoping that our "leaders" can walk away from this learning a lesson, a lesson on how to make every race moving forward that much better. Here's to hoping this never has to happen again, to our racers or our spectators.

photos and words by Brandon Elliott


Horst Engineering Toe Spike Review

By: Gavin Gould Dec 11

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(Editor's note: the spikes reviewed here were provided complimentary for our review, though no promise was given of the outcome of the review.)

Earlier this cyclocross season, I saw Adam Myerson mention Horst Engineering's toe spikes. I figured he knows what he's doing, so why not check them out? Turns out Horst sponsors a number of riders beyond Myerson, including team Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld, Mo Bruno-Roy, Jeremy Powers, Justin Lindine, Cassie Maximenko, and more. A short time later, a combo pack of all four sets was on its way.

The combo pack includes a combination (see what they did there) of all the different spikes Horst makes - small (14mm) medium (16mm) large (18mm) and ice & snow. Straight away, I mounted up the medium and large on two pairs of Giro Code shoes, greasing the threads so there wouldn't be any issues removing them later.

A couple days later, it was race day - I chose the shoes with the medium spikes and got down to business on a course with spitting rain, some steep upward pitches I could ride during course recon, but would end up running during the race as I tired. I'm the worst runner in terms of speed, and it makes my heart rate skyrocket, but I know that many times it's the best way to stay upright and keep moving forward (#svenness.) The Horst spikes gave me grip when my tires - FMB Supermuds - could not.

Fast forward one week later, the second test came on another mildly wet course with a few more steep bits and a deep swampy bog in a flat section that could not be ridden. A good portion of this track also had loosely cut long grass, which when combined with mud easily clogged any tread on the shoe. After a pre-ride with the mediums, I swapped to the shoes equipped with long spikes and found the situation much better. Running the mud and scrambling up a couple steep sections I couldn't find the power to ride was now much easier.

Overall I rate these very highly. They show no appreciable wear as of yet, and since they're stainless steel, no rust. They should last easily more than one race season and can be a big difference maker in some situations.

(Editor's note: The spikes can be purchased directly here for $15.99-16.99 for single packs of each length or $42.99 for the combo pack reviewed here that runs the gamut.)

photos and words by Gavin Gould


Giro Empire VR90 MTB Shoes Long Term Review - Out of the Box

By: Brandon Nov 24

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click any photo to view gallery

Giro sent us an early pair of the new Empire VR90 MTB shoes a couple of weeks ago. Out of the box they fit just like the rest of the Empire line, so we didn't see much need to share that. But, now with some ride time, some weights, and more thoughts, it's time to share.

Unpacking them was as eventful as unpacking cycling shoes is going to get. They come in their own shoe bag, which is a nice touch others rarely take the time for. Boxed with an extra pair of laces (hi-viz laced up, black laces if you want to tone them down a bit) as well as a set of spikes and Giro's own Supernatural Footbed Kit.

Out of the box things stay pretty exciting. Comparing the new VR90 with the Vibram outsole to the previous version (I have the bright blue as well as the Camo LTD versions, all in 45), the new VR90 is about 15g heavier per shoe. A claimed weight of 315g was quite accurate I assume as my 45 came in at 345g compared to 330g for my previous generation Empire MTB shoes. But, put those up next to the Code from Giro, and the VR90 actually comes in over 10g lighter than the Code.

Clearly I'm a fan of Giro's line of shoes, I own more than 10 pairs. I could go on and on about the fit and comfort, but that's personal and I know that. What I'm really interested in finding out is if the addition of the Vibram outsole really gives the rider. Now that these are in open production, rather than limited runs, what will your $300 get you?

photos and words by Brandon Elliott


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