On Friday, the final day of the 2013 Masters Cyclocross World Championships in Louisville, Kentucky, one set of the power washers had been moved to the Elite World Championship course at Eva Bandman Park, and the remaining set was left out overnight and would freeze solid and be useless for the day’s championship races.
The lack of power washers had a major role in several races, particularly the Masters 40-44 race won by Mark Savery (Trek Cyclocross Collective). In that race, two main contenders in defending champion Pete Webber (Boulder Cycle Sport) and Spain’s Marco Prieto (MMR Bikes) weren’t able to get clean bikes during pit exchanges, and both eventually suffered broken derailleur hangers due to all the accumulated mud.
A costly day: No podium and a destroyed Campagnolo Super Record derailleur for Pietro.
Webber was lucky enough to break his derailleur hanger in the pits while in the lead, while Prieto was far from the pits and forced to run quite a bit, losing his podium spot. After breaking their hangers, both racers would be forced to finish the race on just one bike, which would be triple in weight by the finish.
After the dramatic racing that saw Savery and Michael Yozell (Kapelmuur Independent) pass Webber and Prieto, we caught up with Boulder Cycle Sport pit crew member Dan Horndasch to discuss the power washer troubles of the day. Horndasch not only worked the pits for Pete Webber’s race, but also managed the power washers for WD-40 Bike for both the Masters and Elite races.
Horndasch explained that the power washers were drained Thursday night, but with the freezing temperatures Thursday night, “It was so cold they just froze completely solid,” he said. “You go to pull the cord to start them, and they wouldn’t crank over…the motors were just blocks of ice.”
With only one set of power washers left for the whole day (the power washers by the finish line were moved to the Elite course for practice laps), racers and pit crews had to get creative. Some teams ran to hardware stores to get portable garden sprayers to fill with hot water, while others did whatever they could with existing materials and tools to try to get bikes working.
“We went the old fashioned way,” says Horndasch of his strategy working the pits for the Boulder Cycle Sport crew. “We used hands, brushes, WD-40, de-icer, chain lube, spitting on them, whatever we had to get the stuff off. You clean something, you put the brush in the water, and the thing you just cleaned was frozen over. It’s nasty, easily the worst conditions I’ve encountered anywhere … worst conditions ever.” [See our Mechanical Monday piece on how to best use power washers.]
Cyclocross Magazine pressed Horndasch, who has experience working many pits including for the Rapha-Focus team, as to how such problems could be avoided at another high-level event. “We’ve got security at these sites to make sure nothing is tampered with, [so] there’s no reason that the power washers couldn’t have another small E-Z Up [tent] put up, brought inside, with a heater going on outside overnight.”
It was interesting to note that whether a racer was going old school with alloy rims, or new school with disc brakes, they were severely impacted by the conditions and temperatures. In both cases, the water would quickly freeze on metal surfaces, making for terrible braking with either alloy rims or disc brakes. It was a rare situation when carbon rims and cantilever brakes actually provided the best braking. Thankfully for most racers, the mostly flat course and incredibly thick mud offered few areas that required hard braking.
WD-40 Bike’s Dan Horndasch Talks Power Washer Problems:
Masters Men 40-44, Webber and Pietro Bike Battle and Bike Problems Photo Gallery:
I know of UCI race promoters who have been fined for lesser infractions at their races, but will USA Cycling be fined by the UCI? I think they could've put the equipment/pumps/water in a warm garage etc and not let it sit there overnight in the projected way below freezing temperatures so they'd work the next day. With the money you pay to enter the events I don't think that's too much to ask.
We give these guys the title of World Champion and they are allowed to wear the rainbow jersey. To give them anything but the highest possible level of support is pathetic. Race organizers knew the weather forcast, they knew the course conditions and did nothing to prepare for it. Total FAIL by the race organization.
Friday was the second day with this same problem. I raced Thursday morning and the power washers were frozen up as well. We had the same issues. My second bike became a single speed because we weren't able to get the frozen mud out of it after my pre-ride and it was stuck in the wrong gear. Yeah it effed up my day and I'm sure it hurt others as well. The focus seems to only be on Friday but Thursday competition was impacted as well and should have provided a red flag to the problem.
David, it's completely a different story than Oregon mud, It's evil freezing mud.
I've raced really muddy warmer races before without needing to pit. This on the other hand was mud that flew onto your bike and then somehow froze. Causing your bike to get extremely heavy and slow with the added friction against all moving parts.
I also experienced something strange before the race, my King rear hub must have got some water in it on Wednesday(not sure how that could happen) and the pauls froze creating a complete freewheel hub. I put it in front of a header and that seemed to allow it to engage.
Back to the original issue. It's complete BS that the pit crew didn't have a pressure washers to use. I ran half a lap with what seemed like a 50lb bike because I couldn't pedal it. To add insult to injury, I'm one of the lucky ones with a broken rear derailleur now.
In the end, I had fun and was stoked to be part of the race.
I was in the pits supporting Patrick Gallego.
Mark Savery floored us with his performance. Period.
There was also the issue that Marco was using his FAMILY to pit for him, not some well-vetted crew knowledgeable about what disasters could affect the race. I witnessed them casually pouring bottled water onto his drivetrain, including one moment towards the end of the race when he wanted a bike exchange. Being novices at pitting, they weren't paying attention as Marco zoomed through the pit moments before breaking his derailleur off. AFAIK, this is a violation of UCI regulations as I saw a commissar nearly relegate him.
In the end, everyone dealt with the same conditions and the fittest, most prepared rider/pit crew came out on top.
Someone should have gone out and rented at least a couple (or maybe the 8 required by the rule book) heated power washers the minute they discover the ones on site hadn't been properly stored. They knew damn well what the forecast was, they should have been on top of it. The organizers did many things well, but on this point they failed miserably. "UCI rule 5.1.034 At UCI world championships and UCI world cup events the organiser must provide eight high-pressure cleaners in the pit area." Not even close.
David Bussey. I'd take those conditions over what we had to deal with. Were you there? Did you see the pics of the bikes after just 1 1/2 lap? Bring your Oregon pride and be prepared to fail. We literally used a blow torch on Don Myrah's bike just to keep the whole mess from freezing. By the time my race was in affect everyone's crap just started failing. And I have never seen so many SRAM loaner pit bikes in action. It trully was apocalyptic. And damn good fun. ;)
David, does the mud freeze onto the bike solid like concrete in Oregon? There was a WD40 employee who told me "I once saw frozen Kentucky mud rip the track off an Abrams tank. I was stationed here in the military years ago." I personally counted 15 completely grenaded rear derailleurs. Conditions were apocalyptic for bikes.
Really no pressure washers in CX. big deal. Come out to Oregon and race cross Crusade in the mud. none of the masters here that I know have power washers, pit washers, or even a spare bike. many have pit wheels. get over it and race your bike in the mud. Portland courses are like that over half the time, sans snow.
Spraying bikes down with water at 25degrees isn't that great, plus lets not forget, a huge part of cyclocross is keeping the bikes working in bad conditions. Mark savery's pit guys, Tom price and rafal doloto did an amazing job at giving mark functioning, clean bikes. They had a plan from the minute they got there and executed. I'm not sure that pitting twice a lap was a great idea for some, les time for pit crews to clean bikes and causes confusion. Bottom line in the 40-44 race is that mark had clean bikes and just as important , he had the legs for the win.
tis a bummer, but shit happens and I'm sure the local organisers will have learnt lessons. After all many / most are hard working volunteers who readily give up their time to enable us to participate in our beautiful sport.
It was hard to be prepared for the weather conditions, and impossible to anticipate the failure to have the support that was advertised. Everyone delt with the same conditions, and I didn't see any team that had an advantage over others due to being ready for the lack of power washers. Masters 40-44 was run in the mid afternoon, I can't help but wonder why when the power washers were found frozen, the Org. Didn't scramble to replace the machines, or thaw the parts before the noonday sun thawed the mud?