I awoke to snow.
Lots of snow.
The naked aspens were frosted and frozen. Only days ago these same trees were vibrant, colorful. But now, now they stood lifeless in the bleak, white, bitter cold. A bike race? In this? Surely not. I convinced myself that the weather in Heber must be better. Would have to be better.
And it was.
But only slightly.
The wind blew indiscriminately. Fresh snow covered the ground. Riders warmed up as best they could in the cold. I thought of Steve Jobs…
After a month of fantastic, perfect, pleasant racing conditions, cyclocross weather had finally arrived in Utah. The twisty course wound through the Wasatch County Fairgrounds, over snow-covered grass, sand, clay, and crumbled asphalt. Fast, except when it wasn’t. Slippery. Greasy. Mucky. And the crux move, a slip-n-slide run-up. Fun? Obviously. But more than simply being fun, racing that sort of course in those sort of conditions was the epitome of the warped and frenzied mindset of ‘cross. Why would anyone choose the cold and mud and absurdity over the warmth and comfort of hot coffee and a roaring fireplace?
And yet, there they were. There I was. Huffing and puffing. Racing.
‘Cross is easy to dismiss as an enjoyable ‘tweener season time sink. Nobody takes cyclocross seriously. That is, nobody takes cyclocross seriously until the gun goes off. When the gun goes off, everybody takes cyclocross seriously. Everybody is racing. Attacking. Squeezing through gaps, throwing elbows, jamming sticks into the spokes of competitors.
I crashed. In a blink, my bike disappeared from underneath me. I slid across the liquid-addled snow and grass. Victim to yet another 50-50 corner. I panicked. Remounted, and sped through the mire. Grinning like an idiot. Suffering like a fool. Laughing, and then cursing. “Go damn it! Pedal!” I never feel so panicked, so frenetic, as I do while racing ‘cross. Riders sneak away, riders chase, riders crash, and flail, and dab. One mistake can change the race entirely. But on a day like this, everyone crashed and slipped and flailed.
And in the end…
Another sprint finish. But this time for… 6th.
Clearly, I was the beneficiary of the thin, if determined, field. Apparently hot coffee and a fireplace were more appealing to some than they were to me.
One can only guess who is, today, regretting their choice. But I’ll give you a hint…
It isn’t me.