Clasica De Rio Grande Recon Report
by David Odom
I had the chance to recon ride the Clasica De Rio Grande road race route (formerly Weld County) this past Saturday and wanted to share that experience with the rest of the team. Overall, the route is a straightforward loop of 17.5 miles consisting of seven total turns, a 1 mile dirt section, and a 7.2 mile run of progressive hill climbs. The first half of the lap is basically flat or downhill until you turn north on 17 for the 7.2 mile run back to finish line/lap point. The following are a few things to consider for the race:
The dirt segment is not surprisingly the most demanding. It contains a mix of terrain that changes over the length of the segment. The first half appeared to have a lot of washboard (read almost everywhere) with hardly any sections of clear hardpack. We found the most clear areas closest to the centerline and occasionally near the side. There was also a significant amount of rocks and sand across the segment. My back end cut loose slightly, at higher speeds, when caught in the deeper sandy sections. Because of the center line rule I think it will be tough to negotiate a really clear path through the dirt segment. As you move closer to the end of the dirt section it begins to clear slightly and more hardpack is revealed.
As you progress through the next set of turns, leading to the final return back up 17, the roads are in good shape with minimal debris. There are two sets of paved train tracks on Co Rd 19 ½ near the fire station to watch for and some of the intersections did have accumulations of rock/gravel. Also the turn onto 66, leading up to 17 North, had some larger pieces of rock in the shoulder. Once you turn on 17, heading North up to the lap/finish point, there is a section of curves to consider. That section contains areas of sand adjacent to the shoulder, and the shoulder itself abruptly drops off to a lower level of soil. Something to consider if you are on the inside of the turns in a pack.
While I do not proclaim to be an expert on tire setups, I think it would be worth considering tire configurations for the dirt section. I experienced two flats on the third lap of the recon ride. I was riding 1 week old Continental GP 4000s ii 23mm tires that measure out as 25mm on my wider rims. I generally ride a lower pressure that is inline with my weight: ~95psi rear, 85psi front (25mm effective tires). My bike took some serious hits across the washboard and rock pack of the dirt section but seemed to survive those first two laps. I am highly suspicious that the third pass, at higher speeds, created the punctures. There was no debris in the tire and one of the punctures was a slight break at a tube seam. The rear puncture was observed shortly after the dirt section and the front, a very slight puncture, was apparent at the tail end of the third lap.
I am considering either a higher pressure, with the trade off of handling in the dirt, or running with my 25mm(effectively 27mm on my rims) Continental GP 4 season “roubaix” tires. The 4 seasons have reinforced sidewalls and were designed for rougher road conditions. The downside is a heavier tire on the rest of the course. I spoke with a rider from a different team, who also lived in the area, while paused on the start of the dirt section. He was running a 25mm tire setup.
Again, I am a new racer, so please take this section accordingly. In my opinion there is very little advantage or opportunity to make an attack stick on the first half of the lap, since it is largely flat to downhill. In my mind there are only two possible areas: rockstar high-speed handling in the dirt section, and the last set of mild to punchy hill climbs preceding the finish/lap point. I practiced some attacks on the final hill climbs during the first two laps. What I liked about this section is that there are three relatively short progressive climbs that give you the opportunity for a slight recovery in the respective short descent between each. I felt that I was able to gain momentum by leveraging the descent and recovery to push over the next hill.
This should be a fun race at a relatively fast pace. I know others have previously ridden the Weld County version, and hopefully they can chime in with thoughts or suggestions for this race. I look forward to seeing everyone out at the start line!