Fun on Cyclo-Cross Bikes

Yesterday was simply a solid and fun day on the bike. Marc and I stayed home this weekend and raced in our local cyclo-cross series: the Ottawa Bicycle Club Cyclo-Cross Series. This is a fantastic series that offers a welcoming environment, challenging courses, excellent organization, friendly faces, good hard racing and some exuberant fans. Can’t ask for much more out of a cyclo-cross race. I don’t get to race at home much (in fact, I think this might be my only race at home this season), so it was a real treat to get out and race with my local “cyclo-cross community”.

I first started racing cyclo-cross way back in 1994 in this very series. Back then we were a small but dedicated group of racers and it is just awesome to see how this local series has grown to have over 200 racers of all ages and abilities. The one thing the Ottawa Bicycle Club Cyclo-Cross Series has is a true sense of community. This is what really made my day yesterday. I really enjoyed watching the first race and cheering on so many of my friends and then racing in the last race and being cheered on as well. It sure helps a lot when you’re “running” up that darn hill at Laurier Park to hear people cheering you on and giving encouragement. (Thanks so much for the cheering – that hill seemed to get longer and steeper each lap!)

As for the race? Well, I wasn’t sure how I would feel given the health hoops I’ve been through all summer and of late. But I’m happy to say that I felt pretty much okay. I didn’t kill myself out there since I still have to be careful with my energy levels and health. But the legs were turning over fairly well and I felt like I was riding smoothly in the technical department. My goals for this race were pretty simple – good dismounts/mounts, sprint out of the saddle after the remount, no front brake, always pedaling and to look up. I think I did a pretty good job on these goals. My dismounts still aren’t as smooth as I would like – seems to be a timing issue, I’m either getting off too close or too early – but this will come with more training and more racing. I’m very happy with how I was able to stay off my front brake and to remember to keep pedaling while braking. As for looking ahead – this was another checkmark. So all in all, pretty good. But of course there were other things that I noticed that I can improve on – I struggled with maintaining momentum on the uphill barrier dismount – I felt like I was coming to a complete stop, making the run up the hill very challenging. And admittedly, my running was probably the weakest part of my game yesterday – need to think about high knees and fast feet.

Post-race my biggest concern was my fatigue levels. Well, pretty happy to tell you that I wasn’t completely wiped out and even managed to stay awake until 11 p.m! A definitely refreshing change from the past weekends when I was completely wiped out after 40 minutes of racing. It was also really nice to be out there for over an hour riding my cyclo-cross bike. Have to say that grass was pretty soggy in parts! A great day indeed. Many thanks to Bob and Cheryl for giving up their morning once again to setup and manage the race and not to mention the post-race score tallying to figure out how we all did. Also thanks to Bob for being so accommodating and allowing me to race the last race of the day. Thanks to the guys for letting me race with them – hope I didn’t get in your way when you went flying by!

I said to Marc in the car after the race, “I haven’t been this happy and smiling this much in a long time after a race.” What a feeling. Thanksgiving indeed.

(To get an idea of the race, check out this video made by Karl Hoppner. Looking forward to more fun on cyclo-cross bikes with these young guns this afternoon. I can definitely say training with Karl, Conor, Marc and Evan has helped me so much this year. Thanks guys for the help, advice, and encouragement.)

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