The Mountain Bike Life

Two weeks ago I took part in my first cyclocross race.  I’ve never before been a part of any race involving a bicycle, so the whole experience was incredibly new.  After agreeing to do it with a few friends a week or so before, I proceeded to not train at all, instead opting to go into it with a “whatever happens, happens” attitude.  In a nutshell: cyclocross dudes are fit as hell and even though I’m not, cyclocross is incredible fun.

Photos from the Saratoga Spa CX Facebook page

This was the Saratoga Spa CX race, which drew people from different parts of New York, Vermont, and some other surrounding areas. I raced in the 4/5 category, and placed pretty closely towards the end of the ~55 racers. It was a ‘however many laps you can fit in 40 minutes’ type race, which had us doing 4 laps.

Because I hadn’t at all prepared myself for what to expect-we didn’t even do a practice lap-it was thrilling and nerve-wracking to just take it as it comes. I took the first lap pretty slow, and kind of built up on the succeeding laps.  I should also point out that I was riding my GT Karakoram 29er.  I was eaten alive on most of the flatter sections, but I killed it on the mud and sand.  A couple spectators were laughingly assuring me that I had the advantage through the sand as I went by.

I really loved the atmosphere of this kind of an event.  To my surprise, there were a ton of neat tents, families, moon-bounces, free pre/post race massage tables, and awesome pint glasses.  There was an awesome sense of camaraderie amongst the less serious racers.  My friends all rode hardtail mountain bikes, and we sat in the back of the pack at the start line, joking quite loudly about how we were the wildcard picks for the podium.

For me, it didn’t even compare to the pleasure of mountain biking a technical rock section or a wild descent.  As much as I love the adrenaline of competition and camaraderie of an organized race, I still prefer a solo ride through technical trails.  However, after actually taking part, I definitely see the merit of the sport as good training for any type of rider.  There’s definitely something to be said about how even though I placed in the end of the pack, I’m still writing about how much fun it was.

Note the curious lack of mountain bikes.

At one point during the race (around the time when I was confused if I was going for a 4th lap or not), one of the spectators at the sand section asked me “this your last lap?”  Barely able to catch my breath to respond, I realized I honestly had no idea.  I laughed and shouted back, “hope so!” and rode away as we both were cracking up.

Coming from a life of organized sports, it was kind of a funny identity crisis for me to be on my bike (something I’m usually doing completely alone) and have people whooping and cheering as you ride by.

If you were skeptical about CX but wanted something fun to do on a Saturday morning with other people that like biking, sign up with some friends and bring your mountain bike.  You might get your ass kicked, but if you’re not serious about it, it’s a great time.  And if you don’t get your ass kicked, you’ll look very impressive holding your 40lb bike after the race.  Hopefully they sell pint glasses, and you can break ’em in after the race.

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