I move into position as my name is called and glance at the women around me. We smile at each other and high-five, exchanging words of encouragement. But the nerves kick in as I click my right foot into my pedal. I grip my handlebars, anticipating the start of my first 30-minute cyclocross race.
“Racers take your mark. On three…”
I look down at my feet and then up ahead, reminding myself to breathe.
Everything falls silent for a brief moment. I grip my handlebars harder and lean forward. Here it is – the high-pitch whistle blow.
And we’re off. Sprinting up the slight incline of the pavement. I hop the curb and enter the course, winding through pine trees. There’s a burn in my chest as I push through the open grass and up a slight hill. I gain speed on the decline and hit a bumpy section before rounding a tree. The course opens up again and I see a set of barriers ahead. My right leg swings over the saddle and I unclip my left foot, completing the dismount. I pick up my bike and leap once, then twice. Upon remounting, I smile to myself. People I’ve never met before yell my name and cheer for me as I continue to complete my first lap.
|Racing in the first Star City CX Race at Seacrest Park.|
I knew my first big purchase with my post-college career was going to be a cyclocross bike. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do and this fall I had the opportunity to give racing a shot. My first season has been surrounded by the theme, “I just want to say I’ve completed a cyclocross race, even if it’s just one.” Well, I’m proud to say that I have completed three local Star City CX races, Sunday of the Omaha CX weekend race and recently traveled to Kansas City to race in the Boulevard Cup.
And I’m addicted. It’s an atmosphere and camaraderie unlike any other. (Where else will you race past a group of spectators shaking cowbells, heckling you and holding out pancake hand-ups)? It’s for the simple reason that cyclocross has made me a better cyclist. I’ve come a long way since that first Star City CX practice at Memorial Park. Prior to that evening, I had my cleats only two weeks and had no idea how to swing my leg over the saddle to dismount. I hadn’t even biked on grass before, let alone around trees. But I was determined to work toward the completion of my first race. (And this is where I must give a shout out to Elisabeth Reinkordt and Josh Rice for their hard work and dedication to teaching and encouraging beginners).
This first season wasn’t about the podium, but you can bet I’ll be riding so much more now and will be looking forward to Fall 2014. Perhaps my theme for next year will have to be, “If you’re smiling, you’re not racing hard enough.”
|Jumping barriers at the Omaha CX Race.|
|Running through a sandpit at the Omaha CX Race.|