Ah can you feel it? The air is getting a bit more crisp. The morning sun takes a bit longer to rise. The evenings are slightly cooler. The leaves are even starting to change colour. This means one thing – cyclo-cross season is right around the corner.
For the first time in a long time, I’m looking forward to this cyclo-cross season. Last year I didn’t get to line-up once. The season before was okayish but I was struggling mentally with my newfound reality. This year, though is different. Initially I hadn’t planned on participating in our local Eastern Ontario Cyclo-Cross Series – I really don’t have any fitness, haven’t been training, haven’t been riding much and I’m slowly coming back from my pesky running-related injury.
But, I’ve changed my mind. I’ll be out as much as possible on Sunday morning lining up with the rest of the enthusiastic women and girls who make our local series so special. Really what turned me around was a recent cyclo-cross clinic that I held. This was a one-on-one clinic with a young woman who is brand new to cyclo-cross. Her zest for this sport is overwhelming, she watched one muddy late-season race in Almonte and was instantly hooked.
On a very hot Sunday afternoon we rolled around in the grass working on the dismount. It was so exhilarating to watch this young woman go from not being sure about riding around clipped out and what would happen when she moved her right hand from her hood to her top-tube to being fully confident and super agile on the bike. A complete natural.
Seeing her so happy and thrilled with learning this essential cyclo-cross skill rekindled long lost feelings. I flashed back to my first races in 1994, hauling my Specialized Rockhopper with toe clips around Conroy Pit. I thought about the Ontario Provincials at Mooney’s Bay many years later when I was thrilled to secure third place in the masters’s women’s category. I became a bit teary when I remembered that first season of racing cyclo-cross in Belgium and the doors this experience opened for me. I could hear Marc cheering me on as I raced at the World Cyclo-Cross Championships in Tabor, Czech Republic. I thought of all the people I’ve met over the years. The trip my dad and I took in 2010 to Germany, Switzerland and the Czech Republic is a very special one. To last season watching so many awesome women duking it out in the cold, rain, and mud, while smiling and having fun.
How can I possibly miss out on this? So often we forget how the little things really do make a big impact on our lives and of those of others. The Eastern Ontario Cyclo-Cross Series has really been a life-changer for me. 2007 in Belgium racing on the road and then on my cyclo-cross bike exposed me to what is possible. So, I’ll be lining up again, I’ll be doing my best to ride hard and to ride with a smile. It’s going to be fun. It’s going to be hard at times. But once the bike is packed up and dry clothes are on, it will have been the best way to spend a Sunday morning. Bikes. Good people. Fresh air. Stories. Life-changing experiences.