1st Race: Charm City Cross, Baltimore, MD.
First bike race in 15 years, and first CX race ever. I rode from the time I was 15 until I was 23, then I was out of the sport for the next 12 years, only returning two years ago and only getting really serious this year. I used to race road and mountain, but I always harbored a 'cross fetish which dates back to the days when I would mount plastic BMX saddles to beater bikes and wire up bolt and clothes hanger contraptions to make getting into and out of toe clips just as I had seen on the bikes of Paul Curly in the late 80s. Still, I was just a pretender, always thinking about but never having done a CX race. In rejoining the sport, I at first planned to buy a road bike, but when I saw the Cannondale CX at the LBS, it was bike lust at first sight; a must have!
I hooked up with a serious 'cross crew through the Bike Rack, a new shop here in Washington DC (www.bikerackdc.com), which decided to put together a team open to noobies and first timers like myself. I attended two practice sessions with them, and decided to do the Charm City CX with them.
I was pretty nervous at the start, but also a bit stoked. I rode the course a few times, adjusted my tire pressure, and worked with the goal of finishing and not finishing last. Thankfully, I did just that, but man did I have to suffer for it. Thankfully, no flats and no crashes, but the officials screwed up the results, and I ended up finishing umpteen-somethingeth, or forty somewhere, or fifty who-knows? Either way, I had a total blast and learned a lot, while also meeting some great people. Most of all, by finishing, I slayed a big personal dragon and finally did a CX race. BTW, none of it could have been done without the great work of Bike Rack guys, who as a new shop, reached out to the local riders and got us riding 'cross. Big, big, BIG thanks also to my wife, for whom without her support, none of the day could have been possible.
Second Race: Ed Sander Cross, Buckystown, MD.
If you've never done this race, do it! The course is ridiculous amounts of fun to ride, very challenging as it is both fast and technical. The setting is also as lovely as they come; it's set a Lilypons, as farm featuring lovely little LillyPond and aquatic plant life amidst the most pasteaural of landscapes.
I was more serious at this race. I felt like a dorky little recreational at the start of the the Charm City Cross. Here I felt like a cyclocrosser ready to do battle. The warmup revealed that I would have to ride hard and fast in places, and up the bravado to tackle some steep dropoffs. Goal was the same; finish and don't finish last, and do it without crashing or breaking the bike or body.
I started from the back, riding with the slower riders and avoiding the crashes, of which there were a few early on. As I felt better and more at ease with the course, I began moving up, dosing my strenght and using different parts of the course to my advantage, such as the climbs and the hardpacked dirt roads. There was still a lot of hurt her, but much more enthusiasm as the course was just too much fun. In the end, I battled here and there with a few riders, and after it was all over, I ended up 34th out of 50 finishers in the Men's C race (yes, they got the results and this result is based on initial results posted after the race.
Again, big thanks the Bike Rack, and to my wife for her uparalleled race-day support.
CX racing is awesome, and well worth the pain. The next time you here somebody say "I did a race and got hooked", believe them that getting hooked is easy and worth it. At a CX race, you'll see everybody from Belgian superstars down to average Joe weekend warriors, and every kind of CX and CX-ish bike imaginable. The atmoshpere is always fun, the people are always great, and the results of the effort always worth it!