What does cyclocross give me apart from bruises and sore legs…and why I can’t wait for the next race
Yesterday was my first cross race of the season. It was brutal. I was expecting it to be brutal, and clearly it didn’t disappoint. So why do I love this discipline/torture so much? And why on earth would you want to try it?
I’ll let you into a secret- cross is one of the most rewarding style of racing you can do on a bike (my entirely biased view, obvs). There will not be one single rider in a cross race that does not feel this way.
Cross gives me confidence, at rapid pace. Riding a practice lap yesterday my heart was up around my ears. It was twisty and technical and contained questions I had never come across before. I waited on the line with a massive sense of dread. The first lap passed in the blur it always does. By the second lap I had figured out some of the answers to those questions. By the third lap, I was flying with a confidence that was simply not there 20 minutes earlier. You watch good people riding ahead of you and follow their line. Then you ride it well and give yourself a mental pat on the back- ticked that one off, what’s next? If you don’t ride it well, you remember what you did for the next time. You’ve moved from being well and truly in your ‘worry’ zone, to being firmly in your ‘comfort’ zone. What happens after that is that you simply get quicker, and you waste less energy thinking about how you are going to overcome that problem. It’s a great feeling. (Before you lose all your energy completely- but we won’t worry too much about that!)
Cross gives me the best workout you could ever imagine. There is not one muscle that is not aching today, I’ve been on my bike all summer, I feel fit, I’ve done big climbing days and long mileage- but nothing compares to this. You really use your entire structure to get that bike around the course. Whether it’s jumping on and off, lifting, hopping over planks, running up stairs and pushing through mud, it’s the best fitness class you would have been to in a while- and there is no stopping for a 5 minute chat break in this class. If you’re lucky you’ll even get a prize at the end.
Cross gives me camaraderie. I met a few girls on my first cross skills session last year, and we are lining up one season on at the same races, genuinely pleased to see how well everyone is getting on. We are all improving, and we all shake hands and share photos after the race. Magic.
Cross gives me amazing support. There is something about the discipline that draws in people’s interest. Dogs, kids and adults alike stand on the course and cheer you on- usually at the tricky bits where the entertainment value is pretty high! One guy from my club stood at the side lines at yesterday’s race and on every lap he told me where I was in the field. It was invaluable. It gave me the hunger to work harder as every lap passed- being told I was going from 9th, to 8th, to 6th- then knowing I was in 4th I squeezed every last drop of energy out to try not to get caught by the girl I had just passed.
Cross gives me the reason why I love riding bikes. No stresses about traffic, no concerns about having the right kit or fancy bikes. Adults and kids all race within a few hours of one another and enjoy a massive slab of cake afterwards. It’s a true family affair and simply put, I love it. I’m looking forward to the day when there is enough women to have our own race, but for now I’m happy being in with the veteran guys, who usually give me massive kudos on the course and me them.
Hopefully you fancy the bruises and wobbly legs too, because you get all of the above with it. Either get stuck straight into a race or find a local skills session like I did. See you on the line!