My First Cyclocross Race

One year ago Eric raced his first cross race, Nittany Lion. I spectated the race but didn’t really think much about it. It looked fun, but not for me. I spent most of fall/winter going to the races and watching Eric, and by the end of the season I was hooked and really wanted to race (but lacked a bike). Eric spent most of the spring searching for a bike for me. It took a few months and a few deals to fall through, but Eric came home one day in May with a great bike for me (he is really awesome!).

I spent the first few weeks of summer trying to ride more and get more comfortable on the bike. And then a few weeks ago we started doing more cx specific bike workouts, trying to gear up for the upcoming season. Over the past few months of riding I have felt like I have been on a mental roller coaster. I have finished some rides feeling like “you got this! you can totally race!” to “omfg i am never riding a bike again. this sucks. i suck. i hate this all.”
The best part about all of this, though, is that there is a great little community, especially in Philly, and I feel like so many people have taken me under their wing and are all eager to help me learn. It’s really nice and helpful to have that kind of support, and I’ve really enjoyed the social part of riding bikes.

I haven’t been able to ride my bike as much as I hoped (that pesky marathon training plan), but I spent this past week feeling pretty good about the race. I wanted to race my own race and my only goal was to finish. And then I woke up incredibly nervous Saturday morning. Like couldn’t shake it nervous and I got sick in the car ride to the race. I’m sure Eric really enjoyed me puking in a plastic bag while driving on the turnpike.
We got to the course and did a few laps before any of the races started, and after riding the course I started to feel more confident.

After pre-riding we gathered our spectating supplies and cheered on the men’s cat 4 race. Our teammates Geoff, Brad, and Ben along with a bunch of friends were racing.

There was another race and then the women’s cat3/4 started lining up. The whole start of a race is pretty nerve-wracking. You are in a tiny space, surrounded my people on all sides, and everyone is going full speed. I had practiced starts, but nothing really compares with an actual start.

I’m not a fast rider so I just tried to hold my line and avoid any of the crashes that happened (there seem to always be crashes during the starts, or right after).
My race was 40 minutes and you usually do 4 laps around the course. The first lap is always pretty crowded and I was just trying to work my way around people. I felt like death during the first lap while my body adjusted to the high intensity, but then my body was like “hey ok, cool, let’s do this!” I started the second lap feeling strong and started passing people which was great.

About halfway through my second lap I made a turn and started to climb this short steep hill when I heard this crunch and realized my bike wouldn’t move. I grabbed my bike and ran up the hill so I could be out of the way and check out my bike. And then I saw my derailleur was completely destroyed. The only thing I wanted to do was finish the race and now it seemed unlikely.

The cool thing about cx races is there is a pit where people put their extra wheels and bikes. I’m not that fancy, but this race was a big race and they actually had spare pit bikes! The pit guy was great, as I ran into the pit (while carrying my now broken bike) he asked my height, grabbed my bike, and gave me a pit bike to ride.

I rode the pit bike for half a lap, it was too big and had platform pedals which were hard to ride with my cleats on. When I came back around to the pit I was ready to quit. I hopped off the bike and then saw Eric running towards me with a bike!! My teammate Ben grabbed his bike and brought it to the pit and let me finish the race on it.

Because of all the bike issues and bike switching I lost a lot of time and got pretty far back in the race. I tried to make up time in the remaining laps and was able to pass a few people. When I finally crossed the finish I was pretty happy. It definitely wasn’t the race I expected, but I am so happy I went out there and did it, and finished.

That was long…let me summarize it:
I was nervous about the race. I broke my bike. I rode three different bikes in one race. I finished.

Eric’s race was an hour after mine which was great because I could cool down, change, eat, then get ready to spectate his race. Since I wrote so much up there, I’ll keep this short. Eric moved up into a harder race category this year. There are some really fast, experienced racer’s in his field.
I don’t think he was expecting to do well, but he ended up coming in 22nd out of 130 people, which is AWESOME. I think he even surprised himself.

We drove home that evening, went to dinner at Circles, and celebrated the first race of cross with a Belgian beer.

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One Response to My First Cyclocross Race

  1. Chrissy says:

    How exciting! Congratulations on your first race. I’ve never ridden cyclocross, and the idea terrifies me, so I think you’re a total bad ass. :)

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