A first-time racer’s tough introduction to cyclocross

Editor’s note: We’re happy to share this great submission by reader Dave Hodgson about his first attempt at racing ‘cross. Have a story you’d like to share with readers? Send it to web@bicycletimesmag.com.

By Dave Hodgson.

I have read some great race reports over the last year of heroic deeds by ‘cross riders. This, my friends, will not be one such report. This is on the other end of the racing spectrum.

After spending all year training to ride long road races, I thought I would try my hand at cross this fall. High intensity sprints in field— a natural choice for a roadie. I mean, it’s only 40 minutes long. How tough could it be? That idea would come back to haunt me.

My first cross race was at New Brighton Park in Vancouver, B.C. Along with the usual obstacles of barriers and small hillocks there was a 25 foot sand pit—not bad the first time you rode through, but decidedly dodgy after 30 people had been practicing on it for 45 minutes.

I thought I would go to the very back at the first race, so my inexperience would not cause any mayhem. There I meet a girl in a pink tutu, a fit looking 20-year-male and, I believe, a blind guy.

“I got the blind guy," I thought.

Well the race started, and someone promptly fell at the first corner in the leading group, leading to a bit of a pile-up.

“I could have done that!” I chuckled.

I was happily hanging on at the back until we reached the sand pit. I figured I would run the pit, as it might be quicker. What I didn’t figure on, was putting the bike on my shoulder, immediately falling over and having the big cog take out a chunk of my right ear. Picking myself up, and dripping blood, I thought “Great, a smaller ear will make me more aerodynamic for the second lap.”

Already the transformation to cross racer had started.

Passing the pits, some bloke yelled, "Pick it up, you’re getting beat by a girl in a tutu!” and you know, he had a point.

The second lap involved another fall against a tree stump, but at least I negotiated the sand pit without the need of a surgeon.

On passing the start/finish line, I must have looked a bit of a sight because a marshal asked me if I wanted some bacon. I grabbed it most heartily and shoved it in my throat. Unfortunately, in my throat it stayed, as I spent the rest of the lap choking and praying maybe someone might know the Heimlich maneuver.

By the 4th lap I was completely shagged and not very impressed with the lady who cheerily told me there were still 2 laps to go. By this stage I was looking for a friendly face, and I spotted one of my club riders on the sidelines. I was just about to acknowledge him, when he shouted “Come on Jason, don’t get stuck there," and with that, Jason promptly overtook me, although he at least had the decency to say sorry when he passed.

By now the finish line couldn’t come fast enough, but on the last lap I was able to get by the tutu girl in what I thought was sprint, but was more accurately a crawl.

As I was dry heaving at the finish, she came over to me and said “Nice stamina, how long have you been training?" That was when I realized that maybe a bit of training might not have been a bad idea.

She looked me in the eye and said, "There’s race a tomorrow at Vanier park, are you going?” And before I could help myself I said, "Hell yeah, that was fun!”

And really, that is what cross is all about—the winners and losers all suffer in their own way, but in the end, everyone has a bunch of fun. I would thoroughly recommend it to those of you thinking about giving it a try.

I think the only way I can accurately describe the new fever I have for ‘cross, is the look of total political incorrectness and horror on my wife and daughter’s face a few weeks later when the results were posted and I jumped on top of my chair and screamed out loud "Yeah baby! I beat the blind guy!"

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