Cyclical Sanity

Another cyclocross season in the books – thank God. They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. By that definition I would say racing cyclocross is certifiable. For those of you not familiar with this niche sport, allow me to provide a brief overview. Cyclocross is a form of racing in which you ride what looks like a rode bike around a variable terrain course that include dirt, mud, grass, sand, steep climbs, steep descents, stairs, lots of turns, and the occasional barrier or two. The objective is to complete as many laps as possible in a timed window- usually 40-60 minutes in length while jostling with other riders. The sport originated in Europe (See: Way pre-mountain bike era) as a way for road racers to train in the off season, is most popular in waffle-consuming countries, and takes place in the fall/winter timeframe. 

For those who have never raced cyclocross before the experience is, well…unique. Essentially you red-line for 45 minutes while trying to keep your eyes uncrossed so that you can finesse your bike around that off-camber sandtrap and keep it rubber side down. Once you look up and realize you made it all the way around the course, you get to do it again! And again, and again, and again, until you hear the sweet sound of the last lap bell. 

My description of course is somewhat embellished (not really) and there are many riders that have a much different experience – namely those who are actually fit and ride their bikes year round. You see cyclocross attracts a lot of road racers and cross-country mountain bike racers, both of whom prioritize training miles way more than I do. While I do mountain bike, I opt out of the heart-rate monitors and hardtails. Jealous? Yes, because these guys finish a lot faster than I do, which means they don’t have to suffer as long. I always make it a goal to finish on the lead lap, I have to admit that when I’m deep into lap five or six a small part of me hopes that the leaders come whizzing by so I can stop my free fall into the pain-cave.

It is the suffering that binds us together though, we racers of the insanity. Whether you are racing Cat 1s or stopping for beer hand-ups, cyclocross is a sport that forces you to find your limit. It is what is commonly known as type-II fun. The kind of fun you have during the post-race beer with friends laughing about the fifth time you fell or that hill you started to roll backwards on. It’s the type of fun where later you go through in your head and think about how you could have taken that turn better or how you ended up with course tape wrapped around your cassette (Most likely the turn you didn’t make). Cyclocross is the type of maddening fun that you not only do voluntarily, but decide its worth doing the next week and next season. 

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