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Craig and Kappius: single speed ‘cross nationals strategies and steeds

January 9, 2013
Adam Craig (l) finishes USGP Smartwool Cup at Fort Collins with Ben Berden

Adam Craig (l) finishes day 2 of the 2012 USGP Smartwool Cup at Fort Collins with Ben Berden

Like most bike racers, Adam Craig pays little heed to predictions. USA Cycling’s race prediction engine has called Craig the expected winner of today’s single speed race which takes place on the opening day of the Cyclo-cross National Championships near Madison, Wisconsin. When asked what he thought about the prediction, Craig said, “We’ll see if that’s right.”

Craig will ride at nationals as part of the Giant Factory Off-Road Team; his three-year relationship with Rabobank concluded on December 31, 2012. A many-time mountain bike national champion, he recently won the Single Speed Cyclocross World Championship race in Los Angeles. It’s been about a month since his last race at the USGP Deschutes Brewery Cup where he placed third both days in the elite race. Since then he’s been training at home in Bend, Oregon. Craig won the 2010 single speed national championship event.

While he’s “cautiously optimistic” about his potential single speed results today, the field will consider Craig a favorite, especially in the messy course conditions which should play into his strong bike-handling skills.

Those skills developed in part from training on a single speed bike during college in Maine when he was twenty years-old. Calling that time his “break-through year as an elite professional,” Craig said, “I got a lot stronger that year. Since then I enjoy it [single speed] but it’s also invaluable training…it not only makes you strong physically, it teaches nuanced lessons like using momentum and line selection. It makes you be clever and fast.”

This year’s 3.2 kilometer hilly Badger Prairie Park nationals course will hand riders lots of chances to find out just how clever and fast they can be. Craig explained that single speeders will have to take advantage of momentum and “be forced to carry more speed through corners before the uphills…” Then he added, “There are a couple of fast awesome downhills that will be pretty rad.” Getting onto the podium will require the nerve and skill to carry speed and remain upright.

Other starters who can do well include last year’s champion Aaron Bradford (Bicycle Bluebook/HRS/Rock Lobster), Craig Etheridge (Raleigh-Clement), and Brady Kappius of Clif Bar. JT Fountain earned silver last year but commented in social media that he won’t start tomorrow.

Isaac Neff (Trek Cyclocross Collective) and Adam Myerson (Team SmartStop p/b Mountain Khakis) scored single speed second and third places respectively with the USA Cycling prediction system.

Kappius’ thoughts about the race also indicated the course and conditions should ferret out a deserving winner. He’s looking forward to the challenge. “The conditions are favorable for me I’d say,” he wrote in a message. “I like bike driving courses not dirt crits. The best rider will win on this course, I’m sure of it. Adam [Craig] will be hard to beat but I’ll give it my best.” Kappius’ last single speed win took place at Castle Cross in December. He finished fifth in last year’s single speed national championships.

Chris Key, cat 3 & junior, behind Kappius on backside of Castle Cross course

Brady Kappius on the backside of the 2012 Castle Cross course

Craig and Kappius both view the single speed race as great preparation for Sunday’s more prestigious elite race. “It’s cool to have a single speed option,” Craig said. “It lets people do a good, solid, legit single speed race. [My] real goal is the podium in the elite race.”

“I don’t put much pressure on myself for this race,” Kappius wrote. For him the single speed event provides another benefit: he can explore a full lap at speed before Sunday’s elite race. “I know the conditions will change but every other pre-ride time is jam-packed of people going different speeds.”

Craig rode the course yesterday near sunset. A plow recently shoved aside eighteen inches of snow that covered the circuit which he described as one to two inch-deep “warm-packed snow,” with grassy and muddy sections. After that sunset ride he tweeted, “Some seriously entertaining hooligan riding is going to happen on this #cxnats track this week.”

Perhaps he was referring to those “rad” downhills. Even if today is a “preparation” race, these guys will show some serious speed. “I’ll be going as fast as I can,” Craig said. “That’s the plan.”

Craig’s single speed steed, in his words

“I took delivery of two brand-spankin new Giant TCX Advanced SL’s with SRAM Red kits a couple days ago and promptly removed the drivetrain from one and turned it into my preferred (and likely only option) magic gear of 42×16 with a half link and a semi-roached SRAM 1x chain.” Craig said he prefers not to use a chain tensioner. Instead of a new chain which would be too tight, he played with chains he’s already broken in (“semi-roached”) before selecting one for today.

Craig will execute his plan to go fast on Schwalbe tires. “Just had two sets of Rocket Ron’s glued up for this week, presuming some kind of mud/snow/rain junkshow. They work awesome. Good to see some serious siping on a tubular. Next level stuff. And, I’m sick of cotton sidewalls. They look cool, and rot, and perpetuate antiquated technology in cross…”

Kappius’ single speed steed, in his words

“I’ll be running my standard Stevens Super Prestige Disc bike. I’ve put a [chain] tensioner on for the race. I like the handling of the bike and it’s what I’ve raced all season so I’m used to it. I will change the gearing after I see the course. 39-14, 15 or 16. We will see.” The bike is equipped with Kappius Components front and rear hubs with their single speed cap on the rear.

“I’ll have Challenge Limus tires front and rear, I’m expecting plenty of mud.”

From → Cyclocross

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