I am a cyclo-cross racer. My husband, Marc, is also a cyclo-cross racer. This means I spend a lot of time at cyclo-cross race venues. Typically Marc’s race is early in the morning (10 a.m. or so) and my race is in the early afternoon (2 p.m or so) – we like to arrive two hours before Marc’s race and we stay until my race. So I really do spend a lot of time at the ‘cross race.
Over the years I’ve learned a lot of tips and tricks that come in handy when preparing to be a fan all day. First off a few tips on things to bring with you to make your day of cheering as comfortable as possible:
- a folding chair – one that you can easily cart around with you
- a good book – yes there will be moments during the day when you won’t know anyone racing or simply want a break from the racing action – a good book goes along way in beating the quiet times
- a thermos – fill this with your beverage of choice: earl grey tea, strong dark coffee, chai latte, hot chocolate, soup – the options are endless – but know that you’ll be happy to have a nice warm drink to keep you company during the day
- easy-to-eat real food – think tortilla wraps with peanut butter/banana, sandwiches with hearty fillings like chicken and avocado, fruit that doesn’t requiring peeling or stickiness (so basically an apple or pear), natural energy bars (Clif Bar products like the Clif C bar come to mind)
- clothes for all conditions – a hoodie to keep you warm, a scarf to cut the crazy wind that pops up out of nowhere, waterproof tops and bottoms, a hat (or as we Canadians like to call it – toque), warm gloves, and a complete change of clothes – somehow you will end up muddy, wet, or if you’re like me – manage to spill your thermos of warm drink on your lap and dribble your tasty food down the front of your shirt
- an open mind – chances are you traveled to the race with a cyclo-cross racer – remember that said cyclo-cross racer might be a bit tense or stressed as the race time draws closer – keep this in mind if the conversation seems to get a bit “short” or if your racer starts to act a bit crazy – this is the race talking and nothing else…
As a racer myself, there is nothing worse than racing by a bunch of spectators and not hearing any cheering. Truly this is just not cool. If you’re going to stand out there and watch the cyclo-cross race then cheer for each and every racer. Even simple things like “That’s It – Keep It Going”, “Pedal, Pedal”, “Ya – Doing Good”. These words make a difference even if I don’t know who is yelling them. So do the racers a favor and cheer for them – whether you know them or not – believe me – we appreciate it.
The last thing to keep in mind when attending a cyclo-cross race with a racer is that time slows down once the race is done. Your racer will want to discuss the race with his/her fellow racers for what seems to you like an eternity. Your racer may go out on a cool-down ride or ride the trainer for what seems like a very long time. The changing, cleaning up and repacking of the car will also appear to take a long time. This is normal. We racers need some space after the race to decompress, relax and take stock of how the race went. Rushing your racer won’t help matters – often this will cause your racer to slow down even more… Luckily for you, you’ve brought a good book, a folding chair, a thermos, and some good food…
So there you have it, a few tips from me on how to be a fan for the day. Hopefully you can use these tips this weekend at whatever races you’re out watching. If you’re in Bend, Oregon this weekend, I think the warm clothes, thermos and change of clothes will come in very handy. Remember to cheer for all the racers out there ripping it up at the U.S. National Cyclo-Cross Championships – they will silently thank-you as they pedal by. If you’re heading out to Essen or Overijse for the elite men’s races in Belgium this weekend – definitely cheer for racers that aren’t named: Bart, Sven and Niels – remember to cheer for Jonathan, Enrico, Thjs, Radomir and all the other non-Belgians racing…
(Just heard from Marc – he was in 4th place at his race in Varsenare until a flat tire forced him to pit… he finished the day in 7th… Still an excellent result. Nice ride Marc!)