This past weekend I spent a fair amount of time hanging out with my Team 10 Barrel teammates at the cross races here in Bend, OR. It’s a big weekend of racing as part of the cross crusade series and wow is there a lot of energy at these races! It’s so different than the triathlon scene that I’ve become so accustomed too. Triathletes are very serious, focused, quite often OCD about their gear and nutrition, trying to stay off their feet during the days leading up to the race…the list goes on and on. Cyclocross is very different. There is a lot of drinking, tons of running around to watch the races and cheer on your team, and of course there is the insane racing – and there are some serious athletes at the races. I cheered my team on while hanging out at our team tent on Halloween which was a blast. There were back-to-back races going on, tons of teammates to connect with, and of course 10 Barrel brewing supplied us with more than our fair share of beer, snacks, and Halloween candy. Needless to say, the atmosphere was electric and it was energizing!
After watching a full days’ worth of races, our Portland team captain told me that I should come down the next morning to race in the beginner’s race since I’d never raced Cyclocross before. The Sunday races were costume themed, so he told me that the vibe would be fun and it would be a fun way to connect with the team as I’d be experiencing what they were all doing.
I woke up to a text message from a friend asking if I was going to be at the race. I pulled out some sort of excuse, probably something along the line of: “I’m pretty tired and ate too much candy last night, I’ll probably just head down later to watch.” After he told me that he was heading down to race, I jumped out of bed, texted him “ok, I’ll rally!” and I was down there in my camo onesie within 20 minutes.
I quickly registered for the event, and OBRA has a very organized process which was great as a first time participant. I pre-rode the course, getting a chance to test out the sharp corners, obstacles, and getting a feel for what was in store. Our race was set to go off at 8:40am and since it was the first race, I was told that it would definitely be starting on time. I got in my designated coral, which was based on my bib number and energy started to creep up. I love racing!!!
The gun went off and it was an absolute sprint. I was racing on my full-suspension mountain bike, as I don’t have a cross bike. The benefits of a cross bike seem to be that they are fairly light, solid frames with no suspension so you don’t lose power when pedaling (just like a road bike), and they have disc brakes so you can brake in the mud. On a mountain bike, you have suspension which is awesome for rolling off-road, but for this type of event I definitely had a few disadvantages. Every time I pedaled the suspension would absorb a lot of my power output – additionally, my bike is roughly 29 pounds so it’s not light by any means when you are jumping off and carrying it over obstacles.
I gave it my all and did my best to use my aerobic engine to make up for the lack of equipment, and it worked! The first lap was tough as I was climbing through the field fighting for position since I’d started near the back of the race due to my corral placement. By half-way through the 2nd lap I’d found myself in the top 5 and just tried to manage all of the different things going on: sprinting past competitors on straights, not dying on the technical corners, and trying to get on my bike after dismounting for obstacles without destroying my downstairs.
I entered the bell lap (they literally rang a bell for me which was awesome) and had only a few guys left in front of me, the only one in sight was a fellow teammate. I pushed out as much power as I could and on the final descent before the last sprint I made the pass for 4th and held on to finish my first 40 minute Cyclocross race.
All in all, the experience was awesome. It’s very different than my normal training and racing experience as a triathlete which was refreshing, especially this time of the year. The comradery within our team, and all of the energy with the thousands of attendees was definitely electric. I’d highly recommend checking out the Cross Crusade series, or a local Cyclocross event in your area to get a brutal threshold workout in, enjoy some drinks, and experience this awesome sport.