My first bike race was a cyclocross race at the University of Massachusetts in 1993. I was a junior at UMass then and it was the middle of cross country season. I was having the worst season of my life. Man was I awful that year. I don’t even know what was wrong. I just sucked. I saw a poster for some bike race taking place on campus. I did my run with the team and headed up to Orchard Hill to give it a shot.
I don’t really even remember how I did. All I remember is that I was in the lowest category and past most of the filed by the end of the race. I was hooked on bike racing! I finished my running career at UMass the next year and headed off to Colorado for graduate school.
During the winter of 1995-1996 I found cyclocross again in Colorado. They did a 16 race series that year that went all winter. Boy was that a hoot. I raced in all kinds of mud, muck and COLD. What a blast! I really fell in love with the sport of cyclocross.
I remember like it was yesterday the first cross race I did in Colorado. It was held on the campus of the University of Colorado in Boulder. Like a fool I didn’t even preview the course. I recall the first lap when I came around a corner to find a huge concrete flight of stairs that I had to carry my heavy mountain bike up. Goods times.
The first year in Colorado I did several races and had fun. The second year I got serious and started to get good. This is when I won my first race. Granted I was racing the 4-5’s which was one category above “citizen” but it is where I had to race because of my Category 4 classification as a road racer. I was happy to find success regardless of the level. I have fond memories of racing cross in the altitude of Colorado.
In 1997 I had the opportunity to race Nationals which were held outside of Denver. There were many different races that day. The pros, juniors and college guys raced for national titles. I raced in the “everybody else” race at the end of the day on a freezing ass cold, December day on a course that was destroyed from a day of racing. I was fortunate to have a good race and even better luck and ended up winning the “B” race at Nationals.
All good things have to come to an end. My days in wonderful Colorado were no different. In the spring on 1998 I moved back to New England. I spend the next two summers racing road and mountain bikes and my falls doing cyclocross. I even ditched my mountain bike and bought a real life cyclocross bike. In 1999 I finally moved up the “A” category. I didn’t do all that well but I did race with the big boys.
Then I stopped racing bikes.
In 2000 I got married, had a kid, and moved to northern New Hampshire. I let life get in the way of racing bikes and doing the cyclocross series. I missed it but I moved on to other things.
In 2004 a local place where I raced mountain bikes staged two cyclocross races. Cool! I know how to do that.
The first race 3 guys showed. I won in a sprint finish against a pretty good “A” rider but it was kind of silly with only 3 guys. The second race 4 guys showed and I finished 2nd. I put my bike away till just last weekend. January 2009.
I saw a flyer for a cyclocross race in South Florida a couple of months ago. I knew my friend Jim Beyer would be up for it and I’ve always wanted to race cyclocross again so I told him to mark his calendar. We were doing a cyclocross race. Nice.
Race day found Jim and I ready to go. I’d dug my cross bike out of storage, put on a new back tire and got a quick tune up. Jim was ready for anything. We brought Jim’s friends Billy to help with the feeds and we had amazing positive attitudes. We were ready to have fun at all costs!
The fun began at registration when I was signing up. Jim was a newbie so his one day license and a spot in the “C” race were perfect. They wanted to put me in the C race as well because it had been so long since I’d had a license. Realistically anyone that gets a one day license should race with the C’s. I explained to them as gently as I could that it would be silly if I raced the C’s. They agreed and entered me in the B race.
So I’m registering and I heard someone mention the name Adam Myerson. Hey, I know that guy. He’s here? What the hell would Adam Hodges Myerson (I never did understand why he used his middle name) be doing in South Florida?
When I used to race bikes in New England in the late 1990’s Adam was a race promoter and top notch Cat 1 racer. He’s a real fast dude and now he was here. Cool.
Eventually I found Adam and he actually claimed that he recognized me. I think it was the c. 1998 speed suit from the “Mass Bay Road Club” that I was wearing that gave me away. Anyway, we chatted for a bit and mentioned a few mutual friends. I am now friends with him on Facebook.
Jim’s race was first. Jim’s funny. He’s a fairly intense guy even by my standards. In the previous two weeks he had called, visited, emailed and Facebooked every person that he knew rode bikes trying to get advice on racing cyclocross. I told him to just get on the starting line and do his best. So he got to the line with lots of advice.
Jim raced hard and did well. He had a lot of trouble staying with the front guys who were on cross bikes. Jim’s mountain bike held him back a lot on the flats and pavement sections. He did a great job on the barriers and worked his butt off to finish 8th out of about 20 guys. This was his first bike race on any kind so he did a great job.
After the C race was my B race. It became obvious that there were not going to be huge numbers for the A or B race so they combined the two. On the line the race director even gave me a hard time for sandbagging as a B. I couldn’t believe it! She wanted me to race as a C! That would have been dumb.
A’s and B’s together. We were off. First cross race in 5 years.
Did I mention that I had just taken almost a month off from any type of training after running a marathon in December? During the warm up my legs were dead! It’s all for fun…
The first few hundred yards were on pavement with a bit of an uphill. A couple of things were apparent. First of all it obvious that Adam wasn’t going to blow the field away. That’s nice of him. I knew that he was simply going to ride near the front and pull away late. I was with him for the first pavement section up the slight hill to the left turn then right turn up the steep little hill to the 180 turn. Then came the hardest part of the course. Long downhill followed by a massive patch of sand with a climb up to a road. Going into the section I was around 3-4.
Coming out I was in 8th.
Tactical error. Pre-riding the course I foolishly assumed that I couldn’t ride that section and neither could anyone else. Yeah, I was wrong. I lost a lot of time on the first lap. A hundred yards of pavement into a left turn an up a solid dirt hill. Sharp left to a short pavement section then a left turn into a technical section that included a short steep section, some mud and a bit of sand. I past a couple of guys through here and was around 5th. Short pavement section then a left into the woopty woops, a grass section, then the barriers.
Barriers in cyclocross require you to dismount your bike and pick it up. You need to keep the speed up and then remount on the other side. This is super fun. Then the mud pit; this was super-duper fun! Long pavement section now. Left turn into a long dirt, but mostly solid, off road section. Back onto the pavement for a silly “S” turn and back through the start finish area.
At the end of lap 1 I could see the leaders and I was in 5th. I moved into 4th going up the climb.
10 laps of this? Nice.
I went into the sand climb again and got passed again. This time just one guy. I fought to catch and pass him on the ensuing sections onto to be passed on the hill again. This went on for several laps. Meanwhile the top 3 were pulling away.
On lap 5 I got smart.
On the lap before I hadn’t been able to pull away from 4th/5th place dude so I let him go ahead of me on the downhill leading up to the sand climb. Low and behold he rode the whole freakin’ thing and so did I. At the top I passed his ass and never saw him again. Later in the lap I saw the 3rd place guy and gave him the same treatment. I was making into an interesting race to watch. I even heard a spectator say “This is turning into quite a race”.
I was feeling better and keeping a solid pace. My fastest lap of the race was lap 6. I was now in 3rd and looking up at the top 2. Within the next couple of laps Myerson did what I knew he would and turned and burned leaving the other dude shell shocked. I took this opportunity to chase.
Chase I did. By the last two laps I could see him at places on the course I hadn’t seen him since very early in the race. I was feeling great and absolutely flying around the course. I was taking every risk and gamble that I could to try and gain time.
One lap to go. I was going to give it everything I had to try and catch second place.
I did but I didn’t. In the end I fell short but I was happy. I gave it my all. If only I had ridden the sand hill the first 5 laps…
Oh well. With about 20 guys in the A/B race I was 3rd overall. They gave me the award for the top B racer. Next time I’ll do the A race.
We had a great time and learned a lot. The venue was nice and course very challenging. Who would have though there were hills in South Florida? I’m glad that I did this race. I hope that I get to do more cyclocross races in the future. Apparently I’m still pretty good at it. Who knew?