11.11.2006

The Worst Cyclocross Racer Ever

Well, not quite. But in my decidedly inauspicious bike racing 'career' (I really need to find a better word to describe this) I had the ability to go fast in criteriums and had some small mountain bike racing successes. So, I figured that cyclocross would be a good cycling discipline for me as it seemed to require elements of both.

I couldn't have been more wrong, and it wasn't exactly from a lack of trying. Part of the problem was the impossibility of training correctly in the short days after Labor Day while working for a living but I think that there was a more fundamental problem -- lack of core strength and fitness. Cross takes a lot of brute strength and this was always a limiter for me (just like it was time trialing or climbing high mountains). Cyclocross also taught me how little I knew about riding a bike as it places a huge premium on bike handling.

Despite my lack of success cyclocross was still mostly pretty fun. It was safer than road racing (no possible car-bike interactions, and crashes were usually much less of a big deal) while being more like bike racing than mountain bike racing, which always felt like just riding around in the woods to me. I also liked racing in cold weather, there was nothing better than racing on a crisp fall day in New England, about 45 degrees, with leaves blowing in the wind and the smell of BenGay (smeared on racers legs) in the air at the start. I remember that racing at the UMass/Amherst campus was one of the highlights of my season as the course wasn't too technical and placed a premium on speed rather than power... which did favor me -- not that I ever did well there!

Velonews contributor Patrick O'Grady wrote about his affection for cyclocross despite a similar lack of success/aptitude for the sport in a column called "A Dirty Girl", it's much funnier than anything I could come up with here. O'Grady's usually ranting about the drug-addled antics of the pro scene and Byzantine cycling federation politics...very funny reading sometimes.

Just a few old snapshots that I scanned:

Snow, very cold water, mud. Racing at the "Schoolhouse Cyclocross" at U32 high school in Montpelier. Time flies, I think this is c. 1997 or so. This venue had showers which was nice as I remember racing in the snow there at least three times.
Racing at Catamount, a year or two after the above picture was taken. Vermont races tend to be small events because racers from down south don't want to make the long trip up here.
The photo at the top is the start of one of the Gloucester, MA elite races in 2003, the very tall guy is Ryan Trebon, who looks like a basketball player but really is the current dominant domestic cross racer. Marc Gullicson is next to Trebon in the Verge series leader jersey.

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