I spent Saturday morning waffling back and forth about racing my bike. It was cold outside. Really cold. And snowy. I was worn out from the previous day of ski touring. And frankly, after two-weeks of no racing and very little training, was feeling rather indifferent about my bike. And so I debated myself: Yes. No. Yes. No… and then, when the time came, I sort of just put my stuff in the car and drove to Wheeler Farm. Still not exactly excited or committed.
The course was covered in snow. Slick, icy, hard-packed snow. None of the corners could be trusted. And neither could the straight-aways. In fact, not much of anything about the ground was trustworthy or confidence inducing. I lowered the pressure in my tires, lathered DZ Nuts In Heat on my legs, and my back—which turned out to be a revelation—and lined up with the smaller, albeit more determined, group of racers.
We shivered idiotically in the waning winter daylight.
What the hell were we thinking? Why were we not all on the couch watching football and sipping drinks? The thought of my wool blanket and fireplace at home only increased the shivering and sense of forlorn, icy desperation.
“Maybe the race will only be a couple of laps…”
“Maybe. But probably not.”
And then we were off.
Within moments the cold and the chill were gone. the burn of the embrocation cream blended into the heat and pain of the effort. We were racing. Cold or not. Riders slipped and flailed and skidded through the dirty, glassy snow. Some crashed. Others dabbed. I pedaled. As best I could. I don’t remember when it exactly happened, but I realized, despite logic and sanity, that I was having an absolute fantastic time. I slowly moved my way through the field, climbing further up the ladder than I have yet this year. Which, while pleasing, does warrant an asterisk—there were simply not as many racers. But nonetheless, I rode well, and felt surprisingly good after the 3,000 vertical of ski touring just 24 hours before. But quite honestly, the result was eclisped by the ridiculous and unmitigated fun of racing at break-neck speeds through snow covered singletrack—and on narrow tires no less.
However, as is often the case with ‘cross, the fun was also eclipsed, or perhaps complimented, by the vomit-inducing pain of 50 pinned minutes. (The above photo displays that pain quite well) I crossed the line ragged and blurry-eyed. Numb. Probably from the cold as much from the pain. But I had a stupid, snowy grin on my face. And once again defying and ignoring the common-sensical urge to flee to the cars and dive into warm, dry clothes, we stared at one another laughing and sharing battle stories.
Some claim that cyclocross is meant for hard men. And that very well may be true. But there can be no doubt that it attracts men who, while perhaps tough, are also dumb as rocks. What other explanation can there be? We must all be mad. And not because we raced in the snow on this particular occasion. No, each and every ‘cross race seems to challenge the intellectual and mental faculties of each racer. Those who are willing to descend deepest into that dark chasm of masochistic dementia somehow come out the other end grinning stupidly and hungry for more.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: cyclocross defies logic.
Ski touring on Friday. ‘Cross on Saturday. Can there be a better way to spend a weekend?
But then, probably not. After all, any weekend that ends with a toothy grin, sore legs, and a dirty car, had to have been a good weekend.
More snow is in the forecast. But not to worry: I’ve got my climbing skins—and my skinsuit—ready for action.
Photos above, once again, taken by J.W. (Thanks!)