Reston Area Triathletes RATS.net Logo

Race Result

Racer: Charles Barnes
Race: Capitol 'Cross Classic
Date: Sunday, December 7, 2008
Location: Reston, VA
Race Type: Bike - Other
Age Group: Male 40 - 44
Overall Place: 44 / 78
Comment: Cold, muddy cyclocross fun

Race Report:

Capitol 'Cross Classic, Lake Fairfax, VA

Midway through the first lap the annoucer yells, "These guys are strung-out like a Amy Winehouse." I've heard this line or similiar at a number of races, but it pretty well describes how cyclocross races go. A bunch sprint into a narrow, twisty-turny course immediately causes the riders to form single file. After the start, changes in position in the "peloton" are struggles of passing one or two riders at a time until everyone is sorted in order of skill and fitness. Obstacles, man-made and natural, make the course a challenge.


Brrr. It was 30deg warm and the wind was gusting to 40mph. Great day for a bike race. There was a dusting of snow on the ground from the rain/snow the night before. That would make for squishy and slippery race conditions. Truly, this is what cyclocross is about.

I got to the race with plenty of time to register and pre-view the course as a warm-up. I registerd, pinned my number to my jersey, sorted the many layers of clothes I would wear, put my bike together, got my helmet -- OMG! No helmet. I shoved the bike back into the car and did a quick roundtrip home and back. A few laws were broken. So much for warm-up or course preview. I got the bike ready and sprinted to the start. I got lined up 1minute before the gun, so was forced to start at the back of the pack. I had no time before the start to adjust tire pressure to match conditions, but my tires happened to be nice and squishy (~40psi) which is what the course required.


The race was at Lake Fairfax. The start/finish line was on the road below the new parking lot. From there the course twisted and turned all over the lower part of the park. If you can't ride it, run it.

The major feature of the twisty course were:
- Double barrier - think steeplechase with 18" jumps about 12' apart
- Mud! - damp grass on squishy ground quickly gets rutted and slippery
- Gravel - deep blue stone road through the camping area of the park
- Countless twisty turns, u-turns, zig-zags, potholes, etc.
- Run up - steep hill with logs across that force dismount (about 3 flights of stairs worth)
- Off-camber turns - One section was a steep decent into a 150deg turn around a tree on a slippery steep hill
- Steep, fast decent into sharp turn

This link shows the route -- it looks like a maze.

The 40mph wind was another major 'feature' of the course. The tape that normally marks the sides of the course was at times blown loose. You had to be very careful the tape didn't catch handlebars.


The race was way fun. I started dead last, but sprinted hard to move up as far as I could at the start. Since I didn't preview the course, I made a number of poor choices of which line to take around obstacles, but was still able to steadily pass people. For instance, in one section there were two deep mud puddles which I went splooshing through. I didn't get too wet, but that certainly could have sucked had I put a foot down. I missed them the following laps.

The run-up section was great for me. I passed several people each time -- being a triathlete helps here because I can outrun any pure cyclist. The off-camber was very tricky. I had to unclip my up-hill foot each time and creep around the turn since my front wheel kept slipping down hill when I was trying to go around. On the last lap, I went totally anaerobic trying to keep someone from passing me in the approach to the finish -- it was flat and semi straight, but in the deeply rutted mud/grass I was doing no more than 10mph.

As always, my goal is to finish NOT LAST. I managed to finish respectably in the middle which is fairly typical for me since the race wasn't age graded. The race was too short at 40min (they're usually 45-60min). Despite that, this was still my favorite race of the year because of the great course.

Sadly, this is the last race of the 'official' cyclocross season, although there are two new races scheduled for Jan. If at all interested, the course is still well marked in worn/torn grass at Lake Fairfax. Way, way fun.