TT.2 Crab Orchard

Little Egypt Time Trial Series second race was scheduled to be at DeSoto on some State owned land with old mine roads.  The 8 mile loop is like a mini gravel grinder adventure ride; mostly gravel roads with some dirt and a water crossing thrown in.  Rains on Sunday and Monday made the course very soft and prone to being ripped up with ruts so we made a decision to swap in the Crab Orchard course.

We filled up the parking lot.

Since I had picked the Crab course out I was responsible for marking it, luckily I had the day off and was able to pre-ride the course with a rattle can.  In the days leading up to the DeSoto course I had worried over what bike to take, mountain bike or cross.  Now that decision was out and a new decision had to be made, which road bike.  I’ve got two road bikes that are pretty similar, both Cannondales, one a CAAD9 size 58 and a the other a Six13 Size 56.  Besides the size difference the only other difference is that I recently mounted a set of Airstryke aerobars to to the CAAD9.  These are those bars that used to be very popular where the pads are on spring loaded bars that pop up when you’re not on them.


I’ve had these bars for about 10 years and used them a couple of rides after deciding that the aerodynamic boost wasn’t worth the noise they generated when not in use.  I loaned them to my friend Luke when he did Tour Divide and he found them nice for hand relief on his 150 mile days as well as great to zip tie more stuff to his bike.  I decided that the aerobars would be the way to go and I’m sure it was the right decision.  During the pre-ride I adjusted my saddle position 4 times, taking it up and forward which seemed to let my legs work better in aero mode.  Saddle tilt was also a concern, nose down and I kept slipping forward, totally level meant I was getting squished while on the aerobars.


I got back from a my pre-ride at 5PM and there were already several cars in the parking lot, by 5:30 we had a crowd. 18 riders attacked the course Tuesday night, only 7 of those had done the previous race.  We had a guy who had just finished a half iron man and a girl who had only ridden 3 times.  It was an awesome turnout.  The tri-guy had a Shiv that looks like the fastest bike I’ve ever seen, like a cross between a bike and a katana.  He had a very respectable time but whats mind blowing is that he finished a half iron man only 2 days before.  There were scattered clip on aerobars like mine and lots of standard road bikes.


I started closer to the front his time at number 7, my pal Donny started in front of me instead 0f behind me like last time.  We started with one minute intervals butconsidering the the size of the group it was suggested we move to 30 second intervals so Donny was only 30 seconds ahead of me.  I’m 100% sure that the pre-ride made me way faster this time, the course starts with some rolling hills and then a long gradual downhill turning to flat.  On the hills my heart rate maxed out but I wasn’t hurting.  I was staying with Donny and feeling great.  On the downhill I was on the aerobars and spun out at 36 mph.  At this point I really regretted not changing out the crank from the compact to standard.  Still my big weight and aero advantage had me gaining on him.

At about 4.5 miles in I knew I had gone too hard.  It was starting to hurt, I had to back off a bit but I tried to keep it hurting as much as I could.  The turn around spot on the course required everyone to slow down but it didn’t look to me like any major bunching up was happening.  At around 11 miles we started back into the hills and that great downhill which had given me the speed to pass Donny was now my enemy.  I had been gaining on a rider ahead but now I was struggling up the hill.  There are about 5 hills in a row here and by the next one I was having side splits and gasping for air.  It was hurting bad.  I didn’t feel a cramp so I just pushed as hard as I could.  The last few hundred meters had me gasping, I don’t think I could have gone any harder.

I’m sure the aerobars were a good choice, I was only out of them for a few of the hills, but the spring loaded arm rests and lack of shifters made the aerobars annoying to get in and out of.  A real time trial bar setup with bar end shifters would be the way to go.  I think the the tri-athelete had a aero helmet.  It’s fairly accepted knowledge that an aero helmet is the cheapest and fastest way to speed up your time trial.  An aero helmet provides about 3 times more drag reduction then aero wheels.  Of course the only cost is the fact that they look pretty weird. Still I wish I’d had one Tuesday night.

Despite all this high tech aerodynamic action the fastest time was set by Lee Messersmith by a MINUTE with a standard STEEL road bike with standard wheels, no AEROBARS.  Considering the next 7 places were all within 30 seconds of each other Lee’s time is stunning.  Of course it shouldn’t be too surprising, he does teach spin classes in his own cycling studio and he trains for some pretty extreme off road endurance races.  Aaron Moore came in second to take the overall series lead from Brian Davis.

On the women’s side a newcomer, Monika hammered the course in 40.20 for a commanding lead but Kalyn Waller took second to hold on to women’s points category.

In the master’s age group Tom Harbert had the fastest time and took 3rd overall, he’s second overall in the points and has a commanding lead in the Masters group.

On April 26th LETTS will return for the gravel course at DeSoto.  I’m expecting this to shake things up as the gravel and dirt roads should be unpredictable.  Hope you can make it.

About Matt Gholson

Cycling, school teaching, husband.
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4 Responses to TT.2 Crab Orchard

  1. Moe says:

    Nice report! It was nearly as exciting standing at the finish line waiting on everyone to come in and trying to figure out what order you guys would be in when you arrived.

  2. James Russell says:

    Just curious; what is the average speed for the riders during this event? Top pros with skin suits and aero bikes normally average around 31 – 33 MPH; be interesting see what local club riders are doing.

  3. Moe says:

    James – we wish we were pros, but we aren’t even close. Plus, we don’t have access to the top doping doctors and very few of us can afford the mechanical doping (motors for our seat tubes).

    The winner of the Crab Orchard TT averaged 21.4mph for 14 miles with about 600′ of climbing.
    The winner of the Owl Creek TT averaged 20.2mph for 13 miles with nearly 1000′ of climbing.

  4. Matt Gholson says:

    LOL, that’s got me cracking up Moe, no doubt the dope adds 10% and the motors like 20%. 33mph is really a stretch, on a recent 10K TT Fabian Cancellera won with around 31.5 Some TTs are even shorter and might get 33 mph but most are longer like 30K and are more around 29 mph I think.

    If you took away their pro level gear and give them regular bikes and kit they’d probably be 2-3 mph slower I think.

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