Cyclocross – is it really a cycling race?
I’ve been pondering this question over the last few days since I competed in the NZ Cyclocross Nationals Race #4 on 11 August 2013 and I have come to the conclusion that the answer is in the eye of the beholder. What I have still not come to the conclusion about though is whether I really enjoyed the event or not. Think cycling (love!), mixed with sprinting, hurdles, steeplechase, the latter three while carrying a bike. Recipe for disaster for a girl who avoided PE for much of her youth.
Writing this bothers me though as I don’t generally like to be all down and out about things in life, so I’m going to switch the order of my usual writing and say my HUGE thank you’s first. To Ra from Nduro Events NZ for your funny as comments everytime we went through the “pits” – awesome (picture Ra watching us in pain saying “I love Ra, Ra this is an awesome course, Ra this is so fun”). To Gaz from Nzo and mates for the cow bells everytime I went past – you guys were the best at getting a smile out of me. To Belinda (Tim‘s super patient wife), for cheering as I passed every round. To Jenna, for kind words on the hairpin section near the end when she could see I was struggling big time. To D, for the company, even though you slept a lot on the way home lol.
My friend Duane and I travelled down from Auckland for the event, representing our local club, Department of Cycling. He said on a few occasions as we were travelling down, “it’s fun before and afterwards, but not during”. Now I’m not sure if I really want to be doing something that I don’t actually enjoy during the doing of it.
Take xc mtbing for example. I can be in a heap of pain, but at the same time be experiencing an amazing adrenaline rush from an awesome section of singletrack, or because I know that when I get to the top of a certain climb, there is a wicked downhill to follow. During the cyclocross race I didn’t experience any of this…
The race started and we had barely been on our bikes 200m when we were dismounting and off charging like a herd of wild animals over 4 sets of hurdles spread out over a 100m straight. I was never good at athletics, in fact, I avoided anything athletic for much of my youth so you can imagine that hurdles and I are not a good mix. Embarrassingly during warm up, I hurt myself after failing miserably trying to get over the second hurdle I tried (!!) and ended up with a cut and swollen right shin within minutes. Doh!
Back to the race though, after the hurdles it was back on the bike for about 200m before we hit the mud pit (I have to admit this was kinda fun!). While 1 or 2 people managed a ride though this, is was a hike-a-bike section for the majority. Then we were back on our bikes for 100m before we were dismounting again and running up 5 steps followed by a zig zag run up and down a rocky, rooty bank.
From here we were back on the bike for a decent distance, say 800m or so which consisted of a manmade sand pit, lime path, clay singletrack and then a short pinch climb on the bike, followed by a short decent into a creek crossing. Rosebank backwards, if you know the area. And then there was the climb, the short yet nasty climb out of the creek which made your legs burn before you were allowed back on your bike to enjoy another short section of singletrack…don’t get too excited though.
Some 400m later we were off the bike again to jump a log (although I say some people jumping this on their bikes!!), dash through a short mud section, then remount to ride around the back of the Waipa Mill carpark in a zig-zag fashion, before once again dismounting for a log…and then a fence…then off for another lap of pain (race format was as many laps as you can do in an hour).
I’m not sure why I didn’t enjoy it but it makes me quite vividly remember my first xc mtb race in Jan 2012. I had been mtbing for around 3 weeks and thought that I would enter Total Sport’s RIverhead Trailfest, a 22km or 44km race in the local forest. I had a crappy as bike, no proper apparel, flat pedals, was totally unko and had almost zero cycling fitness. The hills were damn painful and the downhills were so scary, I loved every minute of it!!! Even when I was in pain I was loving it – I felt alive.
I’m going to stop here though for fear of overanalysing why I still don’t think I enjoyed the race. It is what it is, but I’m not ready to give up on it just yet. And to my cyclocross bike, don’t take it personally, you rock!
If you are curious about cyclocross, check out this awesome long running comic by a cyclocross lover on FB https://www.facebook.com/CXComic#!/CXComic or via their blog http://slonie.wordpress.com/2010/10/04/cx-comic/.