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Cyclo-cross, Like Life

October 13, 2011

New Belgium Cup, Day 1, course view (Mary Topping)

Twice in the last week I’ve enjoyed spectating at cyclo-cross races. Here’s what they’ve taught me.

  • Getting to the front after the start is really important in cyclo-cross where races last from 30 minutes to one hour. More than one rider in the parking lot at the New Belgium Cup in Fort Collins said: “Man, I got stuck behind a bunch of guys who went down in front of me. I couldn’t catch up, got lapped, and directed off the course.”
  • The guys started to put on serious faces in the minute before the start when they stripped off their jackets and passed them to staff or family or friends on the other side of the barriers. In that moment the air began to crackle. Some, like these guys, seemed to be saying in that minute, “I don’t know why I’m here but what else can I do now?”

New Belgium Cup, Day 1 elite men at the start-line (Mary Topping)

  • The women – not all of them but more so than the men – expressed themselves with facial expressions and sounds on the course. Perhaps that’s their way of muscling through a tough corner or mentally preparing to leap over a barrier. Some uttered muted roars with lips pressed lips together; others wimpered, “aaahhhwww,” open-mouthed. An observer might interpret the latter as cries for help but change his mind when these women returned for the next lap and finished the race. A good number of the women said, “thank you” after you cheered them on.

Fierce focus: Sage Wilderman finished 20th on Day 1, New Belgium Cup (Mary Topping)

  • It’s easy to make new friends at a cyclo-cross race. I overflowed with questions at my first race, and everyone was happy to help.

A photographer at the US Gran Prix of cyclocross New Belgium Cup taught me the most important lesson: a rider fares better in mud if she lets herself slide instead of forcing a line through the muck. This sounded like a metaphor for a good life lesson. Our journey isn’t a clear line from A to B; expect a lot of slipping and sliding along the way. And sometimes you just have to take a flying leap.

Back to Basics Cyclocross Series, Golden, CO (Mary Topping)

(my apologies for the camera dates of 2007, which are incorrect)

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