Learning to Win Cyclocross

Note: This story was told to me by Chris Mahan, REI Designer.

The best part of spending your cold, wet, winter Sunday mornings racing cyclocross is the group of racers. Most of these people are just happy you’re dumb enough to be out there with them riding knobby-tired road bikes in the mud. It’s an old school mountain bike vibe.


Last Sunday the race was at Evergreen Fairgrounds in Monroe. A new race course so everyone was ON (even if unsure footing). Fresh off my first ever series race in Bremerton I was ready to prove it wasn’t just a fluke. Cyclocross courses have varied terrain and can be fast and flat, slow and muddy or have big climbs. They all have some road, some single-track and places you have to dismount and run with your bike. The Monroe course had fast road sections and deep mud so it favored a powerful rider over someone with more skill (just my place to be).

I started slow, letting other riders take an early lead. Getting through the first half lap in about 8th place is perfect for me. Then I started grinding out the watts pushing through the mud pits and taking advantage of my horsepower. After the 3rd lap I had a little bit of a gap. By the final lap, I was trying to keep the speed up but not make any mistakes (like flying over the handlebars on the downhill which I did manage to do). With a fast remount I got back after it; my shifter was bent over, but at that point it was best just to keep riding and not mess with it. One last time through the 100 yards of gruesome mud and to the finish! Win number two for the series with just enough gap to enjoy the finishing straight.

One race to go! Next week at Sprinker Park in Tacoma. See you out there.

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