Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Anticipating The Equalizer

When the WCA cyclocross season begins on Sep. 6 in Sheboygan, one of the most challenging features of the course will be the very steep hill known as The Equalizer. It can be ridden, but for many riders it will be a run-up. Other WCA courses will feature stairs and/or tough hills, so practicing run-up techniques is an important part of preparing for the season.

Today at Royal Oaks Park, our weekly practice session ran on a slightly different course. We placed a barrier at the base of the sledding hill, just behind the baseball backstop, to force a run-up on a steep piece of singletrack. It’s as close as we can get to the conditions we will face on The Equalizer: not nearly as tough, but a good exercise for a Tuesday evening.

In the picture below we see contrasting approaches. Jeff Wren (Team Extreme) clears the barrier with a traditional “suitcase” carry, while I am already grabbing the downtube and preparing to shoulder the bike.

A moment later, Jeff hits the hill and starts to lift the bike to his shoulder. I’m running comfortably with my shoulder under the balance point of the top tube.

This shot gives some idea of the steepness of the sledding hill. What looks like the top is really just the spot where the singletrack meets the turf trail that we normally use. At that point we can remount and ride to the summit.

Next week I might simply push my bike up the hill a couple of times to see whether there’s anything to be gained or lost. If I recall my 2013 Sheboygan race correctly, I didn’t shoulder my bike on any of my ascents of The Equalizer. Shouldering is still an important technique—I fully expect to use it if the Sheboygan race takes us across the sandy beach of the quarry lake—but it’s not the only way to get the job done.

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