Cyclocross is its own nature. The animals found between of the course tape on a saturday live according to their own set of darwinian rules. An ecosystem of it’s own. Sculpted by the evolutionary force of lactic acid pulsing through the veins of the chased and the chasers.
I played the rabbit this weekend. Chased by the cunning fox behind. It’s a law of averages: the higher ups in the food chain normally win. But the prey has to give it a shot to survive. Sitting and waiting to be caught is only for the weak. I bolted from the gun. Scared. Eyes dilated and lungs shocked into action.
Brady Kappius played his typical game; get to the cameras first. An obstacle in their own right, the photographers mark the trickiest sections of the course. They’re the thorns that we run through, hoping to emerge without fumbles and falls caught in their boughs.
The pack was shattered quickly. The Bowl of Death living up to its name. The tape strung haphazardly around the the park formed brutal climbs interspersed with dry but tricky descents. It wasn’t a race for sitting around and waiting to be pounced on.
I attacked early, as the wind really started to howl. Going to the front on a scheduled rotation in our group of four, I upped the pace just enough for the first capillary to pop in the back of my throat. Taste blood: pedal harder. I was alone now. A couple seconds, putting on the pace, who would come chasing? I’d made myself the rabbit.
Allen Krughoff took up the role of the fox. He stalked me for a lap – a had breathing room but I knew he was coming. The cheers got closer together – I could hear his name called only seconds after mine. The photographers at the sidelines snapped faster; just a moments’ hesitation between the shutter closing for a second time. Finally you can hear the low pressure of rubber buzzing against the ground and you realise you aren’t alone. What do I do? Being the rabbit involves showing your strategy to the opposition. Getting caught is normally fatal. How do you struggle away for a second time?
Cyclocross is simple: pedal harder. Technique is the 5%. The chunk that you want to keep in your back pocket, to call on when it’s needed. But the 95% is more important: pedal harder. The muddy run up burned me. Clipping in to my pedals became an abstract idea of working out where my feet may be. But it worked. The elastic snapped, and the heat went out from the chase. When the gap grows, that’s when you go all in. Cut the ties, sever any hope still lingering. Call on that 5% now, because you’ll be riding cross-eyed for the last lap. That’s when the technique really matters.
The clouds had descended. Strands of moisture were striking down against the mountains to the west, and the wind had picked up to summon the storm blowing quickly across the Front Range. I crested the last climb onto the dangerously short finish straight and steered the bike into the wind. Letting go of the bars seemed dangerous, but the worse that could happen is that I fell over and made a fool of myself. But I didn’t, and the worse that happened was I ended up celebrating like a bad replica of John Travolta doing Night Fever. Oh well – live and learn.
I would like to say a big thank you to the people without whom success would not happen: particularly Brandon Dwight at Boulder Cyclesport, who has invested in me enough that I’ve felt like a truly valued team member. Secondly, the Boulder Cyclosport team that never fails to stick around and heckle, cheer and goad me into riding faster. Thirdly, the companies that make the community: my Focus is so far advanced compared to any other cross bike I’ve ridden that it’s changed the way I race. Alongside Clement tyres, they’re the biggest things that have improved this season for me. Finally, Yogaglo has made the day after races infinitely better, having easy to access Yoga programs to follow means I have no excuses when it comes to looking after my body. Thanks all!