My first foray into cyclecross

Why do you have to carry your bike??? Photo by Scott Mosher

While cyclocross has been gaining prominence in the last 5 years and moving from the odd-ball cycling sport to a rather popular winter undertaking, I have been sitting on the sidelines about it for more than a year. Not wanting to try it because I was afraid I’d enjoy it, and not wanting to try it because I was afraid I would land wrong and really mess up my nerve. But I put my fear aside and did my first race last Sunday, the CCCX #3 at Ford Ord, CA
While still pretty unfit from all of my time off recovering from the achillies injury, I was able to crank out 50 minutes above LT and survive, so I’m carrying a little fitness into winter season this year, as compared to last.

Event: CCCX #3
Category: M35+ B
Field: 30ish
Place: 6

Two weeks ago, I hopped on a cross bike for the first time, and I was instantly hooked. The thrill of sliding around through corners on skinny dirt tires and wondering just how far I push them before they slide out. Ive always avoided cross because I didnt want to go through the whole dismount/run/remount routine, because really bikes are for riding, not carrying, right?

But over some finely brewed home beer, Erik and Ross convinced me to come out and give it a try. So we headed out and I lined up to do the Mens 35+ B race. After test riding the course, I knew the start was going to be entertaining. It went downhill for about 200m, then went to a near U-tern left hander. I was in the third row, and all I wanted to do was get a decent start so I could get moving. Sadly, the guy in front of me had other ideas in mind. After missing his pedal a few times, he seemed to panic, started swerving, and before I knew it he was full on endo-ing, right in front of me. I tried to break out to go around him, but being elbow to elbow with everyone else and going full out I was resigned to slam into him. So 5 seconds into my first race, I was on the ground staring at the sky and cursing.

I got up, straightened out my handlebars, and wondered what was broken on my bike and body, and I see Erik, Ross and Dave S. all looking at me wondering if I was going to get up. Then I got angry, because I had just dropped $30 for 5 seconds of riding, so I hopped back on and started chasing after a field that had disappeared from sight. My knee was in a fair bit of pain, so my first lap I was only 80%. The course was a great combination of semi-technical singletrack, sandy straights, and great downhill chutes. The climb was short and had two tracks up it, so I was able to reattach myself to back of the field fairly quickly. I made the mistake of looking down to see my HR pegged up around 190, so I quickly put my eyes back on the line instead. I was able to pick off about 10 people by taking some risks and then settled into a rhythm. I was still exploring the limits of the cross bike, so I had a few close calls but kept going. I ran up on Joe from 3rd Pillar and he cheered me on, which helped me dig in a little deeper and just focus on the riders in front of me.

the aftermath

Each lap afterwards, I worked hard not to puke or crash, but felt like I was getting the feel of the bike and the course, and was able to steadily pass other riders. On the downhills I consistently went faster each lap and passed people on the climb and singletrack sections. Our field had started 1 minute behind the Mens B race, so I really had no idea where I was in our field of about 30 or so riders. The last lap I pushed as hard as I possibly could, flew through the downhills and corners, which almost had me on the ground several times as my handling skills went down as I got more tired. Finally, I ]cleared the last hurdles and began to sprint to the line only to hear the announcer say and here is the 6th place finisher. Surprisingly, that was me.

Overall, for my first cross race I was happy to get a feel for how a cross bike handles, remount without killing myself, and finish the race smiling. While Ill hardly become a cross addict like the rest of you, Im certainly going to come along for the ride!

2 Responses to “My first foray into cyclecross”

  1. Elizabethon 06 Oct 2010 at 9:08 pm

    Dude, show pix with blood, not bandages. MUCH more compelling! 🙂

  2. menkoon 07 Oct 2010 at 6:02 am

    There’s a bit of it on my knee that isn’t covered in dirt, does that count? Sorry for the lack of good drama!