I'm super green to cyclocross. Prior to Saturday's race, I've completed only two other races and both were roughly 3 years ago. Needless to say, the whole dismount and remount, along with obstacles is completely foreign to me. I'm usually in the thralls of last minute preparation for track nationals with one gear, no brakes and left hand banked turns. But this year, I decided to give cross a try.
What is cross? It's where you take a road bike with knobby tires and ride it through, over and around obstacles. Courses are a mixture of mountain biking, road riding and barrier hopping. Sound strange? It is. And thousands of people love it. It has become one of the fastest growing cycling disciplines as of late.
A few weeks ago I begged Benjamin to show me some basics. We went to a grassy park up the street and I began committing those awkward motions to muscle memory.
"Don't bobble. Make it one fluid motion to maintain your momentum. Like this."
I watched as he gracefully leaped off his bike at speed and jumped right back on. Right.
So what did I do? I bobbled. I looked down. I hesitated and looked like a moron. But slowly it started to click. I'm slow. Painfully slow. But teaching yourself proper technique and getting it right means going slow sometimes to reinforce good habits. And every now and then, I still eat shit. Part of the learning process, right?
What better way to test my new found skills than to take it to a race? Luckily cross season kicked off locally here in Colorado Springs, at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs campus. The flier boasted a 2 mile course with it all: sand, run ups, barriers, single track and sidewalks. Game on.
I registered for the 35+ women's category (how did I get so old all of a sudden!?!) and we had 6 women show. The women's open field had 6 as well, but with two big guns: Katie Compton and Amy Dombrowski. GULP. Such is the talent in Colorado - world champions and multi-national title holders. No big deal. Thankfully my group was less intimidating and Katie and Amy only lapped me with less than a lap to go. As I rolled over bumpy single track when Katie zoomed by, all I could muster was: "Get it girl." Who am I to stand in their way?! We all start somewhere.
The race itself was a blast. Well, as fun as going at 95% can be for 45 minutes. The sand pits proved frustrating but in great proximity to the run up. The male hecklers at the top of the hill cheered and sneered, adding to the fun. I kept imaging my brother chasing me so I'd push harder when it hurt and put some distance between myself and 2nd place. But I'm sure she would have caught up had there been more barriers. My slow remounts cost me at least 3 seconds, every time.
"Go Baby!!! Faster!" Benjamin would cheer as I'd come into view. I just smile in response, putting a mental note on the line I should take next time. Time to work on those remounts, at speed.
One thing is certain - with cross everything is new and I'm improving leaps and bounds each time I ride. I look forward to improving my skills in terms of speed, summed up with one word: PRACTICE.