I raced in my very first cyclecross race this week and OoooooWeeee was it ever a lot harder than I’d expected.
I’m not clear on what I was anticipating, exactly. I guess I figured you just go out there and ride fast until you’re done. There really aren’t any super hard skills involved, at least none that might have helped me that greatly. I mean, someone who races cyclocross might protest this point, but my bike handling skilzzzz were not the issue – my issue was purely fitness.
It was my first race, so I’m not drawing off a lot of experience here, but essentially, this kind of racing is all about tearing around at your max, your red line and holding there until you’re done. It’s a full on, lung searing, quad shredding surge with no breaks, no coasting sections, no lengthy downhills, just loamy wet grass and slick mud. If you’re not pedaling, you’re not moving. Ah right, I forgot to mention it was about 5 degrees, raining and that winds were gusting to 60km/h… What else should I have expected for my first foray into the cyclocross world?
There might have been 40 riders, and to my surprise I recognized most of them from earlier mtb races in the season. There were however only 3-4 riders at my level from what I could tell, and then the rest were expert and maybe elite. This told me right away that I wasn’t likely going to fair that well in the standings, but let me tell you, I came in dead bleepin’ last – good times, good times. I guess someone always needs to be last one to cross the line, and thankfully I can’t say I’ve ever experienced that in my short racing career before and it’s not something I’d like to repeat. It’s humbling experience at best, and an embarrassing one at worst. For me it was somewhere in the middle.
So what are my thoughts on cyclocross? Do I disregard it now as something I’ve tried but decide it’s not for me? Do I secretly hate it now but tell people I found it boring and not worth my time to avoid further embarrassment? Nah… I’ll suck it up and give it another go for sure, and maybe as soon as this weekend in Nationals!
All in all, I enjoyed the experience. I got schooled, big time and that’s cool. Racing like that can only make you fitter, stronger, faster.