My first real cyclocross race ever was about one year ago at the Battle at Barlow. It rained most of the week before the race. And it rained the day of the race. The course was a soggy, muddy mess. To be quite honest, if I hadn’t already shelled out my twenty dollar enlistment fee at Veloce Bicycles while riding home from Mount Tabor one evening, I bet I would have slept in on that chilly, rainy fall morning.
I was alone that Sunday morning. I arrived more than an hour early for the 9 a.m. race and aside from the folks setting up the course, I was one of the only people parked in the lot. What the hell was I doing? After the race, I walked around for a few minutes and watched some of the next race. I was wet and muddy and tired. I left.
This year was different. It was dry and fast and I felt pretty good despite a late night at the Calexico concert the night before. The course was exactly the same as last year, so I knew what to expect with each twist and turn and uphill charge. The big difference came when I got to the top of the big run up that left many of us nearly vomiting. There were yelps and cheers with my name attached. It meant I wasn’t alone out there.
A few hundred yards later, more hollering from deep inside the dark woods. And while no one needed to shout out how many seconds I was behind the leader – because it was hundreds of them – that really didn’t matter. I pedaled harder and felt stronger just hearing those voices.
It seemed with each bend in the course there was more cheering, jeering and clanging of cowbells. I could feel cracks and canyons form deep inside my throat. I was parched. The crash on the fourth lap, quickly followed by two dropped chain events, left me a tiny bit dizzy and searching for breath. But every time I came upon a pile of friends yelling words of encouragement, a sense of strength surged through my skin. That is if you call hearing “Oh man, Tim took a digger,” encouragement upon noticing my dirt and blood stained legs.
On the final lap of the race, I shouldered my bike and bounded down a ravine, crossed a bridge and barreled back up that steep climb for the sixth time. Nearing the top, a voice blasted, “Now that’s how you do it. That’s how you carry a bike. Come on man, get up this…”
As I ran past the top tier racers chatting and sizing up the course, I squeaked out a scratchy, “Thanks.”
See more pictures at our new site pdxcross.
all images © Tim LaBarge 2008