One of my favorite things to do at cyclocross races is to walk around the course after the race. I’ve always enjoyed seeing and being in a place with all the people removed from it. I think it’s partly the calm that sort of settles over the landscape after all the races have been run. But it’s also the silence. A cross race is noisy. Between the booming announcer who’s trying to yell over the din of the sound system blasting the latest 90’s pop hits to the spectators that are trying to out yell the cowbells they are banging, cross is loud. So when I walk through the course afterwards it’s almost like I’m in some kind of parallel universe. It’s silent and a little lonely but definitely beautiful in it’s own way.
The racing lines are burned into the ground. If you look from far away you can see the flow of the race over the land. If you get close you can see what tires everyone ran. What lines they took and where their luck and skill ran out.
Muddy days are the best for this kind of thing. The rain clears the people from the course even faster but it also means the race burns it self in to the grass with even more force. I wish I could find more then just a few minutes to be doing this. Sometimes, I like to think ahead to the time when I won’t be racing bikes professionally and I’ll be free to show up to the race after the winners have crossed the line. Although maybe I wouldn’t enjoy it as much. Who knows?
On Saturday, after my race at Charm City CX I did plenty of walking. I was covered in mud from head to toe and needed to collect my two bikes and get them cleaned up. Maybe not an ideal way to enjoy the course after the races but I’ll take my pleasures where I can. Plus there is something extremely meditative about using a power washer to methodically blast mud and grass out of every nook and cranny on a bike. It’s almost an enjoyable process when the weather is cooperating which it was this past weekend. Otherwise it’s easy to freeze while standing in the wash line. Not to get too tangental here but this just reminded me of the time our bikes literally froze at Nationals in Madison, Wisconsin. It was well bellow freezing and the water we used to wash our bikes simply froze on every surface. Fortunately this is not a common problem. But it does make for a cool story.
The mud on Saturday at Charm City CX was a slick top surface kind of mud. Not particularly heavy but it mixed enough with the grass that slowly it would clog your bike and it gave every corner a nice slick coating. It wasn’t the kind of mud the required a lot of power to ride but the kind that required very careful driving and power application. Otherwise the rear wheel would go sideways and you’d soon find yourself facing the wrong way on the course or maybe on your ass. That is to say the conditions where great for me. Driving a bike is something I consider a strong point especially when it comes to my ability to mash the pedals really hard. The race played out sort of as expected for me. The conditions rewarded steady focused riding and punished any lapse of concentration. I managed to make it across the line in 17th.
I rolled around for a bit, found my way over to my car, and then kinda just stared at it for a while. Every time I finish a muddy race there’s always this moment where I’m coming down from all the adrenaline my body just dumped into my system but, before the blood flow is properly restored to my brain, and it’s nearly impossible to clearly think about anything. Particularly how I’m going to get all this mud off me.
In a slightly strange reversal from the typical race schedule, the C1 day at Charm City was slated for Sunday. After a few hours of cleaning the night before and another hour of replacing derailleur cables in the morning I think the team was ready or at least our bikes were. The wind had picked up over night and the sun came out. What was muddy and slick yesterday had dried out into the perfect race track for us. The lines were perfectly tacky and firm at the same time. That combined with the wind this usually signaled big groups would happen in the race.
As has become typical for my UCI rank I lined up on the 4th row. I’m actually pretty used to it at this point. Sometimes I think about how I’ve typically been besting my call up spot by 10 places and how nice it would be to line up a row ahead. The only reason I mention this is because Jesse Anthony (a pro roadie and former NECX hotshot) had waltzed right up from his 50th or so call up position to what appeared to be his very own row 3 1/2 on the grid. I wont go into the specific words that were exchanged but the interaction ended with a bit of both the 4th and 3rd rows clapping as Jesse walked back to his designated call up spot. I wonder what the dudes on the second row would have to tell me if I just decided to go stage my self on row 1 1/2?
The race was stupid fast as predicted. I ended up 19th, happy to be consistently be in the top 20 at these C1 days. The one note I did want to mention about the actual race itself were the wonderful fans. At one point someone was playing the star wars cantina song and everything I heard was fun and encouraging. When I have a bad experience with hecklers who are being dicks I wonder if it’s just me. Like, am I missing something and being a bad sport? Good experiences with fans who are just having fun and being encouraging reaffirms to me that no, those others are dicks and this is how it should be done.
After the race, I did some more course walking. It’s not as pleasant on Sundays because instead of being deserted things actually stay busy with clean up and break down. But it’s still nice and I get a chance to catch up with friends. Dan Timmerman and I chatted for a long time. Mostly about how the roof of his new home addition was going. He’s planning to skip Gloucester this year to finish it. When I got home a few hours later I found out that he was in a neck and neck sprint with Jeremy Powers narrowly missing out on 2nd place. In typical Dan Timmerman fashion he did not mention that part at all. Bike racers are funny people and I do tend to like the ones that don’t actually want to talk to me about bike racing all that much.
Next week I’ll be writing from the New England World Championships aka Gloucester. In the mean time leave questions for the upcoming CX advice column in the comments below!