By Steve Medcroft
Not only were the elite cross country national championships decided in Mammoth Mountain, California this past weekend, but more than 100 jerseys in all kinds of categories were awarded as well. Everything from beginner to semi pro, sport and expert age group classes. And since singlespeed bikes are a third-option in many cross-country racers' arsenals, USA Cycling, for the second year in a row, decided to award a one-geared cross-country category as well. In keeping with the open nature of singlespeed, there were no age or gender divisions.
Trek's Travis Brown, Kona's Barry Wicks, 24 Hours of Adrenalin Solo World Singlespeed Champion Dejay Birtch (Subaru/Gary Fisher) and U.S. Elite Road National Champion and defending Singlespeed National Champion Carl (Giant) Decker (a.k.a. the Dekerator) made up part of the twenty nine strong field. Facing four cold, windy and dusty laps of the six-mile cross country course, Decker and Brown worked off the front together in the first lap to build a lead. One lap later, Decker streamed through the start/finish area in an aero tuck, a comfortable minute ahead of Brown. It was a gap he'd never give up.
We caught Decker at the finish line for a brief chat about the race and about his affinity for one-geared mountain biking.
Cyclingnews: You're a road racer, a cross-country race and a singlespeeder. How do you manage to train for all three disciplines?
Carl Decker: I don't know. I think a bike race is a bike race and I do a lot of cross over riding; when I'm at home, I'm usually on the road bike, when I'm on the road I'm usually on my mountain bike. I just ride different bikes at different times for different reasons and end up spending a lot of time on all of them.
CN: What motivated you to race the singlespeed category Cross Country?
CD: Well, today is a down day between two races (Friday's cross country and Sunday's short track). I tend to feel better the more I race so to me it makes sense to race today rather than sit out. As hard and miserable as it is to do this today, I might feel better for it tomorrow.
CN: How long have you been singlespeeding?
CD: I've had one in the quiver for six or seven years. They're good around Bend, Oregon (where Decker lives) because we have a lot of low angle stuff – long climbs that aren't super-steep. You can run a big gear out there and still ride almost everything. As for why I ride a singlespeed; it's simple, it's quiet and your bike doesn't jam up in the mud. It's so much more reliable for where I ride.
CN: In today's race, Travis was your main challenger but it looked like he was spinning out on the flats where you seemed to be riding comfortably. Were you geared differently?
CD: Very, very different. This bike (Decker lifted his bike at this point) is not a singlespeed frame. It has vertical dropouts and I had no way to adjust the chain tension so I cut off my derailleur hanger then I sat down with a bunch of different cogs and chainrings until I found a set that fit the frame. The gear I ended up with is 32x15 (55.4 inches). He (Brown) was on a 32x20 (46.4 inches). He was geared for the climbs and I was geared quite a bit bigger. We yo-yo'd back and forth early in the race - I had to walk some of the climbs he was riding - but he couldn't put enough time on me on the steep stuff to stay away and I had the advantage on the flatter stuff. I kind of knew I had it; I just needed to keep it together and it worked out.
CN: This is your second Singlespeed National Championship in a row and your second National Championship this year. You're happy with your results?
CD: I think it makes up for being an idiot and not tightening my chainring bolts properly in singlespeed world championships; I folded my chainring while I was in the front of that race so this feels good.
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