I’d been toying with the idea of racing cyclocross for some time. It hadn’t fit well with my nordic ski prep, but I had rekindled my passion for going fast on the bike over the summer, and the global warming induced delay to the ski season left me wanting for some intensity.
So I got my hands on one of Adam Myerson’s old cross rigs: a KindHuman Kudu running Sram CX 1, threw some wheels and new Clément rubber on it, and I was back — 15 years after my last cyclocross race.
I could have spent a little more time preparing before my first race back. Two short off-road rides and some dismount practice, a few times along the bike path to and from work, including laying it down on a wet footbridge and banging up my hip and elbow. The bike, fortunately, was fine.
So when I lined up for the 40+ race at SeaSports CrossMas on Sunday, I was in for a rapid refresh on cross technique. Hairpins. Roots. Sand pits. Gravel. Puddles. A steep climb.
I was flying on the first lap, trying to close up on the leaders after a slow start, burning lots of energy, losing speed in the corners. Bogging down in the sand. Until I found a slower rhythm…and took more care through the technical section.
It was cold. It was dirty. I was overgeared on the climb. I was slow to transition over the platform. I slid out and went down on a traverse. But I was having a blast. Suddenly, I was 15 years old again, flying through the woods on a battered 10-speed that I had converted into an off-road racer, no idea what I was doing. And having a blast.
With two laps left in the race, I went down hard. My front wheel slipped out on a muddy patch and I collided with a fence. Broke the rail with a combination of the front end of the bike and my testicles. I had to stand down more than a few seconds to catch my breath and make sure I wasn’t going to start coughing up blood. Plus, I had cracked the brake caliper and had to rig it back to working order.
I took the rest of the race with more caution. The front brake was barely working. I wasn’t going to catch the guy in front, who had overtaken me when I was extracting myself from the fence, at least not without going down again.
I made it to the finish without further incident. Dirty. Tired. Satisfied.
It’s snowing in Mont-Sainte-Anne. Ski season is just around the corner.
But I’ll be back next year.