by Kristin Weber
I look down, pedal flat and low, check my gearing, bend my elbows, nudge my tire forward, centering it on the line and then take my last deep for the next 45 minutes. Nerves calming, or at least resolved, breath it out, brace myself… “start is in 15 seconds or the sound of the whistle”.
The shrill sound sends me forward in some Rorschach-ian response ingrained in my nervous system after years of racing cross. The brain fires and muscles react close behind; up out of the saddle, clip in, push hard, and pedal like a fury of stampeding horses. Eyes forward, trying to calm my brain enough to start making decisions. I pull forward into the hole shot position, dictating the triangular formation behind me, as we enter the first corner. A wattage wave moving all in the same direction at the same time. Pouring into the funnel that is the best outside-inside-outside corner without giving away our speed.
Now after what seems like a long first acceleration, we begin to settle in as a group and the real race begins; jockeying for position, setting up for best corners, surging to overtake people–45 minutes of 30 second intervals ensue.
Some wins are had, some are lost, but these women and I do battle in this way every single weekend from September to December.
Bike skills merging with fitness, merging with experience and passion, for this uniquely beautiful and messy sport we call Cyclocross.
It’s September and Mother Nature has caught a whiff that it is time. She rains down a decent amount of early season snow and cold temps reminding us that #crossisINDEEDcoming.
My first cyclocross clinic is in the books and that cold, crisp air is a beautiful change from the hot temps and smoke-filled air we have been experiencing for weeks.
As a community of racers we are unique bunch– the muddier the conditions the happier we are. We gather every fall as a family to pour our souls out on the course, we drink beer and get covered in mud and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Photo credit: Cyclocross Magazine
But then in walks Pandemic.
She’s a right nasty one. So much has been canceled, so much turmoil has ensued in the past year. We have all had to put our best foot forward during a challenging time to navigate a few hurdles (aka barriers) in our personal, family, work and racing lives.
Our perspectives have been shifted about tolerance and acceptance. Opinions have been tested, grit has been formed, and tenacity bred deep into our communal souls. Throughout this mettle-building, we are seeking our outlets, our distractions, our happy moments where we can just feel alive for a moment.
And then in walks Cyclocross.
We weren’t sure she was going to make it. Her timing is impeccable and she is just the right amount of everything we need: presence, joy, slop, community (6’ apart of course), competition, beer, and $1 hand-ups (okay I guess cash isn’t a thing anymore, I will shout my Venmo to you, oh wait, we won’t have spectators either, or warmup laps).