I started racing cyclocross last year. My previous race experience consisted of alleycats and street races the like of which we still occasionally put together with Go Means Go. Racing cross was something I just couldn’t (and to this day haven’t) figured out.
There are so many reasons NOT to race bikes- that I had to do it.
What compels a Cat 4 racer get up at the butt crack of dawn? To drive an hour from home and their warm bed to a cold, wet field in the middle of nowhere. To pay $30 or more for one race. To race their bike in the mud, sand, rain and sometimes snow. All to finish mid pack (or lower) in a field of 70+ riders. What the fuck is wrong with these people?
I had to figure out why people throw their money at something that they never get anything back from. Sure, there are prizes- but unless you stand on that podium every week, your race fees would have purchased you a much nicer prize than a stocking cap, a six-pack and a bag of Bob’s Redmill Steel Cut Oats. Why not race an alleycat? We’ve spoiled racers- $5 and you are probably going home with a prize AND drunk. I just didn’t get it.
People said that it’s fun. Well they’re a bunch of damn liars. If you are having fun out there- you’re a sick individual. I guess for some folks getting jumped in a dark alley can be fun too. Or getting wailed on by a dominatrix. Maybe you like smashing your fingers with a hammer? Then you’ll love cyclocross.
You know whats fun about cyclocross? When the race is over. You can sit around, drink beer, talk about how crazy that one section was and how you could’ve used a little little pressure in your “somethin’ somethin’ tubular disc somethin’ carbon somethin’.” Taking a hot shower. That’s a fun part of cyclocross. Shivering outside because it’s raining and you didn’t bring enough warm clothes and you just can’t warm up after your race- not fun.
I could use ‘cross to get me in better shape. Though I’d love to- I don’t “train”. I never have. I don’t have the discipline to go to the gym by myself. My work has generally kept me fairly fit- though not by a cyclists definition. I went back to commercial fishing this year after a couple years on land. Oddly enough, 4 months on a boat does not prepare your body for cyclocross racing. Not to say that I’ve ever been in “race shape,” this year was as hard as the year I moved to Seattle, fresh off the boat.
Much like putting Craig Etheridge on a crab boat after a race season- throwing my ass on a bike after fishing season has me feeling like, well- a fish out of water. People say it’s fun. Yeah. I guess so. Every race my lungs are on fire while my feet are frozen. I can taste the acidic mixture of blood and vomit in my throat and my body fights every step that I have to get off the bike and “run.”
Though I didn’t make every race last year or this year- I still keep coming back. I race with a team and wear a spandex kit. I never thought I’d see the day. To tell you the truth- I still don’t know why I race. I don’t know why I try and convince other alleycat racers to come out to race cyclocross. Perhaps there is a broken part of me that loves the abuse that ‘cross gives me.
I don’t ever see myself standing on the podium and I’m ok with that. I’ll be slogging along trying to stay upright and hopefully not getting lapped… more than once. Winning for me consists of keeping the 3 simple goals: Finish the race, don’t come in last, and keep the rubber side down. I do all three and I’m feeling pretty damn good about myself.
This goes out to all the lost souls of Cyclocross. To the wanderers and to those that are trying to figure it out. To the wives, girlfriends, husbands, boyfriends, friends and family members that don’t understand why their loved ones would prefer to suffer in the cold and rain than to spend a comfortable day at home eating brunch and drinking mimosas. Honestly, I don’t know why we do it- but I’ll see you out there.
And for the assholes that are vying for a spot on the podium, remember: SECOND PLACE IS THE FIRST LOSER. NO FEAR®