Two years ago I decided that I wanted to give Cyclocross a shot. I grew up riding BMX and over the past few years have fallen in love with road cycling. Yet there is something about Road Cycling culture that bothers me and I was always looking for away to escape it. Every ride I'd seek out the back roads, the fire roads, the single track, anything that would challenge me beyond just pedaling fast and sticking with a group. I am inherently a rebel, a loner and I felt like Cyclocross could bridge that gap. I spent months looking at articles focusing on what to expect at your first Cyclocross race. Racing is intimidating and I sought out comfort in these stories. In away; all I was really doing was talking myself out of actually signing up for a race. Cyclocross came and went on the East Coast. Another season in the books where I was just too damn terrified to sign up.
Fast forward to present day and I've found myself in Santa Cruz California on contract with a local Production company. My wife had to go back East for a bit; so I am working and riding and working and camping and working and riding. Santa Cruz is home to the Surf City Cyclo-x Series presented by the Family Cycling Center and I talked myself into signing up for the first race in the series. For a lot of people thats not a big deal but for people like me who are just getting started; it is. That first step, registering, taking your wallet out and typing in your credit card information. It's a big step. The best step!
The following banter is a fragmented snapshot of what happened during and at my first Cyclocross race.
A few days before the race my friend in San Francisco asked if some of his racing buddies could have a place to spend the night. Racing is both physical and mental. Not having to wake up and drive 90 miles to the race makes a huge difference. I was happy to help out.
The race was 10 miles from my house in Twin Lakes. Geoff and Brandon the racers whom I was hosting offered to give me a lift but I decided that riding there would be better. 10 miles to open my legs up, watch the sunrise and pre ride the course.
The course at Aptos high was really fun. Twisty single track, gnarly descents, sand and a few places to even get rad.
Racing Cs meant we'd be responsible for making lines through all of the loose sections. Those loose sections would be super hectic during the race but something I definitely excelled at. Towards the last couple of races those loose sections would be clearly defined and riders would have no problem riding them.
Lining up for the C race I was a little nervous but not as much as I thought I'd be. Geof and Brandon told me to make sure to get out front and try to get the hole shot. So I made my way to the front but eventually got pushed back to 2nd row by some dudes that have obviously raced before. After a quick introduction by the organizers the race was off.
I immediately made my way up to fourth position. The pace was comfortable, my legs were strong and I was very confident on the technical aspects of the course. Then boom! We hit the run up which was a super steep and rutted hill with a barrier below it. Every advantage I had was gone immediately. Gasping for air I clumsily pushed my bike up the hill. Racers started to pass me. One, two, three, four and then I loose count.
I managed to hold on to the back of the pack that had passed me. On one of the technical descents there was a crash and I was able to rail it past them. Riders were crashing left and right and I quickly found myself alone. Calling it chasing would be a huge hyperbole but technically I was chasing the lead group. I could see them in the distance but I think I just gave up on the idea of winning. Instead I decided to concentrate on going fast and riding smoothly through all of the technical sections.
I really found my rhythm throughout the race and was able to float through the technical sections. There were two sections that you had to run (or in my case walk up) during the race and I lost so much time on those. It was very frustrating but at the same time I was making it through the race and I let out a smile anytime I wasn't gasping for air.
Somewhere on the second lap I started to catch up with a rider in front of me. I stayed on his wheel through a technical climb and was able to pass him once we reached the top. My new goal was to keep him off my wheel and finish before him. During the third and final lap I had made quiet a gap and was racing alone. I made a lot of mistakes. Spots that I had dialed, I rode sketchy and I even slid out on one of the technical descents that I had owned earlier on. The lead group was nowhere in site; all alone.
I crossed the finish line in 7th place. One minute and thirty three seconds behind first place. I was stoked! I had so much fun and all I could think about was how I wanted to do it all over again!
The rest of the day I was buzzing. I watched my buddy Geoff and his friends race Bs. Brandon was racing As which was pretty incredible to watch. Looking back the best thing about it all was that I got hooked on racing Cyclocross and over that initial fear of doing your first race. I am already looking forward to racing next season in Oregon.
Before you scroll down and check out the rest of the photos from the day here is a quick run down on what I learned at my first Cyclocross race.
- Warming up the legs and pre riding the course is essential. - Carry a small water bottle in your jersey or have friends give you some hand ups. I was so thirsty the entire race! - Bring a towel so you can jump into your civilian clothes after the race. - Bring plenty of snacks since most races are in the middle of nowhere. - Always bring a pair of gloves. - Smile. Smile a lot!
If your considering your first Cyclocross race. Shoot me an e-mail. Now enjoy all of the radical photos from Surf City Cyclo-x below!