Load up the car and head out. The rhythm of the drive is a soothing thing, and the venue is always some park you’ve never heard of on the outskirts of town. As the traffic thins, you begin to notice other cars with cross bikes. Each person with their own goals for the day. Each rider with their own rituals.
Some people get overly nervous, circling the Port-O-Johns and refusing to engage in normal conversation. Others overly social, perhaps thinking that if they treat it all as a joke they won’t be held accountable.
Arrive and unpack. Pick up your number.
“What side do numbers go on today?”
A cyclocross course is a promise of pain. But it’s an exquisite pain… One that distills your thoughts and emotions, discarding useless things. People say that cross keeps you honest and I agree with that. You’re either fast enough or you’re not. You either force yourself to get out of the saddle on straightaways, or you let the others ride away. I’ve learned so much by racing my bike, and the longer I race, the more respect I have for those who excel at it.
I still want to be one of those great riders. I still want to win. No, fuck that! I don’t even care about winning. I simply want to cross the line as a broken man, knowing that there was nothing else I could have done. In truth, that’s a hard thing to do. And if I’m being honest with myself, that’s probably only happened a few times in my life.
There was a race a few seasons back, I don’t remember where or how I finished. It doesn’t matter. What I do remember was the tunnel vision of the ride. I remember every part of my body aching and the yelling of the spectators. I remember finishing, loading up the bike and sitting in the passenger seat of my car, unable to move. Ten minutes after that, when I finally bent down to change my shoes I vomited all over myself.
There was some truth there... And you either understand that or you don’t.