What I enjoy most about Cyclocross racing is its accessibility. Here in Seattle the races have a Beginner class, which oftentimes has one of the largest fields of the day. On the other hand, road, criterium and track events are daunting, no question about it, and few folks have the nerve to just “show up and try.” Mountain bike racing is a bit more of a come one come all attitude, but even there it’s easy to feel intimidated: “am I a good enough rider to handle the technical portions, what if I get hurt or have a mechanical out in the woods, what if I get lost” these types of anxieties tend to keep newbys out of the race. In cross the prevailing attitude is (or at least should be): “well what’s the worst that could happen.”On the flipside the Beginners are often the bane of my existence.
In every race there are probably twelve to twenty guys who are in it to win it. They train hard, they do a proper warm-up they learn the course, their bikes are prepped and ready to go, in other words they take this stuff seriously. In a race I’ve noticed that nearly everyone throws down hard, I’ve rarely seen or encountered a person who is just out there on a sightseeing tour, but for those twelve to twenty guys the digging is just a little deeper, the pain just a tiny bit crisper.On Sunday I was holding off a juggernaut of five strong guys, if I held them off I’d be on the podium, if they absorbed me I’d be in ninth – at best. I was sitting one point out of second place in the series standings with the possibility – if I managed to hold third – of actually moving into first place, depending on how my two rivals fared behind me. In other words the race was getting serious.
By lap four I was catching up with the tail end of the Beginner guys who had started a few minutes behind. I’d yell “on your left” and nine times out of ten the guy would move right and shout words of encouragement. Once or twice I think the guy thought I was telling him to move left, and thus did so causing me to ride into the tape or into blackberry bushes.With two to go, I was approaching a short punchy hill with three guys in front. The good line up the hill was to the left, in the center were slick tree roots and the right-hand turn at the top was too tight if you took the hill on the right. For me riding the hill was critical if I was going to hold my position.
The three guys each duffed the hill and as I started up I yelled “get out of my way!” Not nice I’ll admit. I ended up having to do an awkward dismount.As I ran past, one of the guys said “hey man you know we’re beginners right.”
I replied “I’m fighting for third here man.” That’s about all I had breath for.I’m sure the guy thought of me as a jerk. Third place big deal.
For me, at the time, it was a big deal. I was full on pushing the red line; third place had become all or nothing.It’s a fine line trying to balance “hey it’s just a race” on the one hand with “this is what I’ve spent six months training for” on the other. Yeah I know I’m just a Cat 4 Masters guy competing in some local race, but I take this stuff seriously, I put in the time, I put in the effort and it matters. Next time I’ll try not to be such a dick, but I can’t make any promises.