Perth Cyclo-Cross Lessons

Yesterday was the third race in the Eastern Ontario Cyclo-Cross Series – a large number of hardy and eager cyclists made their way out to Perth, Ontario for a great day of racing and fresh air. While the day started out a tad brisk, the sun soon came out and most racers (myself included) were complaining of being overdressed for their race… Yes, it seems even with lots of experience racing and training in all sorts of conditions, I still can’t get it right – I forget that the body warms up rather quickly when faced with the task of a 50 minute romp through grass, over barriers, up hills, down hills and through numerous twists and turns. Amazing how much warmth that thin spandex suit actually provides!

(Lesson number one: a cycling cap provides a great deal of warmth – more than is needed on a 10 celsius day, especially when all ready wearing leg warmers, a long sleeve skin suit, thickish socks and gloves.)

The race in Perth was a big step forward for me. I’d be racing for a full 50 minutes in an all women’s field. I was a bit nervous. Okay, I take that back – a lot nervous. Each time I saw another fit woman show up and pull on her racing kit, the butterflies in my belly got a bit more active and I started to feel a bit more hesitant. But then I reminded myself that this was for fun – there was no pressure. And hanging out with some long-time racing friends, helped take the edge off.

The course in Perth is a lot of fun. Long power sections where if you have the fitness you can really open up your legs combine with some sand riding, some nifty twists and turns, good use of the hill and two sets of double barriers. Really a course for everyone but one that I think allowed the true cyclo-cross riders separate themselves a bit with smooth brake-free riding through the corners and knowing how to ride some of the more “boggy” sections. (Lesson number two: when you see a long wide section of tall grass and there are tracks that look wet and muddy – look for the dry grass. You don’t have to ride where everyone else is riding.)

So the race. Well, I had a decent start – should have gone harder at the start as I wished I was on Sophie’s wheel as she was able to get free of the bottle neck and traffic that clogged up the first two turns. I was sitting comfortably in the back of the “chase” group, looking for spots to pass and trying to figure out how to get up to Alyssa who I was hoping would take me up to Sophie… Then came the steepish hill and I made a big mistake – I dropped my chain at the bottom of the hill. Drat! I had to stop and put the the chain back on and then I had to run up the hill… Sigh, I lost many spots – oh well, I put my head down and executed my typical race strategy – chase, catch and pass. This actually turned out to be a lot of fun. I ended up riding in a group for a while and simply tried to ride each section as cleanly as possible. (The cheering squad by the sand was fantastic!) With one lap to go though, I kind of ran out of steam – I could no longer accelerate out of the corners and my barrier technique had become rather poor. So I let go – and simply rode. All in all, I’m satisfied with the race. Having a better start and not making the mistake with my chain would have made a difference. But really, this only would have made a difference on paper…

The real outcome was still the same. I got to be outside racing my bike and having a good time. Until yesterday when people have asked me if I’m racing again, I would answer with something along the lines of “well, I’m not really racing. I’m just going out and riding around”. But this is not true. I am racing. I am lining up and giving it my all. It doesn’t matter that I’m not as fit as I normally am or that my technical skills are not as sharp as they normally are. I’m out there and I’m doing it. So yes, I’m racing again. And it is fun. Darn fun.

Big lesson learned: racing is what you make it. It doesn’t require that I be in tip-top shape. It doesn’t require that I have flawless barrier technique and that I sprint out of every corner. Racing requires that I’m out there, digging when I can, huffing and puffing and at the end of it smiling.

I suppose it is fitting that this big lesson sunk in on Thanksgiving weekend. On August 21 there was no way that I would have dreamed of lining up for a cyclo-cross race. But I did it. I couldn’t be more thankful for this.

A big thank you to the person who yelled this out during the race “It is great to see you out here again Vicki”. Wow – that really hit me hard – I think I grinned when I heard it. Because you know what – it is great to be out again. I wouldn’t miss it for anything.

Next race is in Renfrew, Ontario. Another fantastic town that has welcomed the Eastern Ontario Cyclo-Cross Series. See you out there!

(Oh, check out the new website that Marc and I launched today: Guide To Racing Cyclocross In Belgium. Our goal with this website is to help anyone out who is interested/curious about racing cyclocross in Belgium. We’ve spent the last five years there racing, training and living – we’ve learned a lot along the way – some of it the hard way… and we want to enable others to go to Belgium and have the same experiences we’ve had.)

4 thoughts on “Perth Cyclo-Cross Lessons

  1. Vicky,

    I’m not the one who yell that line that you mentioned, but I sure thought something along that line! Instead, I offered a quiet, probably barely audible, “go Vicki” from the lap/finish line (couldn’t distract my time keeping colleages). See you next week!

    • I think I heard you cheer for me Lucie as I struggled up and over that darn steep hill. I tried to say Thanks but I think I might have been huffing too much. Thanks again for coming out to volunteer – myself and the other racers really do appreciate it. See you in Renfrew.

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