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I spoke too soon…
By Andrew Juskaitis
Okay, okay, I spoke too soon.
A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned how clever I believed myself to be by running SpinSkins tire liners in the season kick-off cyclo-cross race here in Boulder. You see, Goathead thorn season is in full swing around these parts, and many of my less fortunate competitors fell victim to their penetrating bite.
Me? I was able to finish the race thanks to the lightweight Kevlar tire liners I had installed the night before under my Michelin ‘cross tires. How clever I thought I was.
Fast forward to the first annual VeloCross cyclo-cross race held in and around Denver’s National Western Complex. While the name might sound a fancy, it turns out promoter Clark Sheehan had us riding and scampering about the corrals used to hold the thousands of cattle that make their way into the convention center for auction once a year.
Actually, the racecourse turned out to be quite a trip. With more left and rights than your average 6th grade science fair mouse maze, racing action was relegated to hair-raising brake passes and lightning fast accelerations out of the corners–a unique experience for sure. Spectators could watch racers dart to-and-fro through the corrals from overhead walkways normally reserved for enterprising cattlemen in search of the lot’s “best bovine buy.” Announcers Dave Towle (of adventuresportsradio.com) and Richard Fries (of OLN) had a 2-ton chokehold on the spectators attention with their ever-whimsical and insightful ‘cross banter.
The only downside of the event was the nasty little goathead.
Now, I’m not just talking about a few, or even more than average. I’m talking about an insane number of them. Just how many qualifies as “insane?” Well, here’s a statistic to help clarify: just under 90 percent of the category 3/4’s DID NOT FINISH the race.
In war, generals would refer to this casualty rate as “unacceptable,” in a cyclo-cross race, that would be considered “a waste of $30.” The winner of the race was rumored to have undergone six! wheel changes just to finish the race. After flatting out less than halfway through the race, I counted 32 thorns in my front tire.
My point here? Tire liners can only do so much. It was the guys who ran both tire liners and some form of sealant who managed to limp across the finish line. In the pro 1/2 race, some of the more savvy racers even resorted to running a beadless road tire mounted underneath their cyclocross tire, for extra protection. If only I knew exactly how thorny this issue would be…
For those interested in exactly what a goathead thorn is, here’s a bit of insight:
Puncturevine (Tribulus terrestris)
Puncturevine is a member of the Caltrop family and is an introduced annual that reproduces by seeds. It is a prostrate, matforming plant with trailing stems, each 1 to 6 feet long and hairy. The leaves are opposite, pinnate, one to two inches long with four to eight pairs of leaflets. The yellow flowers are 1/4 to 1/2 inches wide with five petals. The fruit is a hard, spiny bud which at maturity breaks into five tack-like sections.
Puncturevine, also known as goathead, is most common in eastern Colorado up to around 6500 feet. It grows in pastures, cultivated fields, and waste places. The burs may injure livestock and – as I am now keenly aware – are the bane of bicyclists.