Cyclocross Nationals is Emotional

Many things are said about Cyclocross, it’s like mountain biking in the early days–a carnival of bike culture replete with epic races and wildly enthusiastic fans. Back when Missy Giove and Shaun Palmer engendered a carnival-like attitude of establishment-rocking and epic hucking.

Cross is like that now–it’s the only sanctioned racing where you can see both passionate fans and spectators dressed like gorillas, side by side. Or industry playahs like Chris Matthews starting his race in a faux-fur coat.

What I learned at the National Level, during the championships though is that it’s really all about emotions like this.

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Teary

Your friends, teammates, and those you love are there watching. Your hard work is all on the line. There are winners, losers, and also-rans. Some are happy to finish, some are merely happy to start.

Taking that photo was especially emotional for me because earlier in the day, I placed 141st out of a 182-strong field. That’s last out of those that finished. The rest DNF’d or DNS’d and I got pulled at the finish line when the hard-charging leaders lapped me.

Being out for 6 weeks with a busted up knee before this race, I could’ve skipped racing or even stayed home. But I decided to race it and experience Nationals. The win for me was not crashing, not injuring myself, and just finishing.

Other racers had a much tougher day then me with crashes and mechanicals.

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Felt 4% better at this point in the race, after a lap of puke burps

Just like my race at Starcrossed, I went as hard as I could until someone told me to stop. Mahan, who’s comforting Russie in the photo, pulled me off my bike. He then dragged me to the Redline tent to get warm and a few minutes later handed me a cup of Espresso. In the tent, Tim Rutledge checked on me, made sure I wasn’t hypothermic, and handed me a plastic rain cape. The propane heater steamed the cold and wet perspiration off of my kit and I felt at home. Pam had helped me get ready for the race earlier that morning and now calmed me down while I fretted. She wasn’t happy I didn’t come back to the car, but understood when I told her I don’t remember how I got to the tent.

The last time I was that cold in a road race, I pulled out and sat in the car with the heat blasting. This was a cross race, suffering in nasty conditions is part of it. I didn’t let my frozen-into-a-paddle hands stop me. Puke burping when I ran didn’t stop me either. Starting the race at the very back and racing with little fitness was just part of it.

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20 years of racing, still get the number placement wrong

The fans cheering, yelling “go Hugga!” helped my legs turn faster.

Seeing Russie place 2nd and podium, and being out there myself a few hours earlier made it, in a word, awesome. Russie and I ride together on the Cycling Northwest club. You may notice in the photos, he’s wearing our cap and our logo is on his sleeve.

That was like a bonus, extra-for-the-DVD special to a day full of pride. The end of a good Cyclocross season. I expect in ‘11, we’ll ramp it up from participating to full-on racing. Get out there again and drive it like our boy Russie does.

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Driving it to the podium

Photos uploaded by mathowie. More from Cyclocross Nationals in this photoset.

Gear

I Raced in a Hugga kit with 3 layers on a Redline Conquest with Hutchinson Bulldogs and Shimano Ultegra Tubeless. All worked far better than my body did.

Props

  • Russell Stevenson for his dedication to the sport
  • Tim Rutledge for popularizing Cyclocross and partnering with us via Redline
  • Mahan for being a Bro
  • Pam for being there
  • Matt for the photos

and fans of the sport for cheering me on when I was in an absolutey-bad, whole-world-falling-apart way. As David Lowe-Rogstad told me at the Tweetup that night, “you looked so miserable, I couldn’t bring myself to heckle you.”



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