by Karen Richardson, Team Podium Member
Cyclocross is something I have wanted to try for years but I have always been too afraid. I’m not the most coordinated person, especially off-road. I tried mountain biking several years ago and loved it but I wasn’t any good. I fell.......a lot!
I bought a gravel bike over the summer and when my triathlon season ended I was finally able to take it out. Gravel biking is something I could do in the off-season and seemed much more low key than mountain biking. I was so excited to finally get out on my new bike. I have gone on a few rides and I have found it to be everything I had hoped it would be - challenging, a great workout, and so much FUN!
My gravel bike can apparently also be used for Cyclocross (CX). After a couple of rides, I found myself going to a CX race. I’ll credit (blame) a couple of teammates, Tony & Rusty. What started out as me just going to watch, ended up being my first CX race!
Never having been to a race, I wanted to see first-hand what it was all about. I was encouraged to bring my bike and just “ride the course” before the races started to get a feel for it. I should have known better.
We showed up in Ellenwood, GA where Tony and I did a practice lap. It was kind of fun. I was really slow but I didn’t fall and made it around alright.
We started the second lap and this time a guy directed us towards a wooded section. Apparently what we rode first was for the Juniors, everyone else did that plus a wooded section. I asked if I could just do the Junior course but was instead directed into the woods. That section was a bit more challenging, with a steep climb, steep descent, and a jump out of the woods. I walked the hills but made it out alright and we continued on. Rusty joined for our third and final practice lap. I was starting to feel more confident on my bike.
I was still very nervous about racing, thinking, should I just watch? I was still learning how to clip in with new cleats and imagined the worst. Tony & Rusty were very encouraging and said I needed to race to see what it was like. They told me to start in the back and treat it just like
a ride. That didn’t sound so bad so I paid the fee, got my race number (which goes on your back! how cool is that!!), and waited for the start of my first CX race.
Juniors went first and women were up next. I thought it was a women's only category but I found out it was combined, with Women CX4/5 and Men CX5 in the same race. I didn’t expect so many people at the starting line. (There are multiple categories including Elite & Pro levels, they went after us.)
I lined up in the back and we waited. They sent the guys off first, then 30 seconds later the women. I started out in the back, and pretty much stayed in back the entire race. It’s only 30 minutes total, which ended up being 3 laps for
me. The course is a lot of zig-zagging back and forth, with the hills in the wooded section and a couple of barriers you have to get over. I walked the hills every lap, which is where I lost a lot of time. I’m pretty sure I was the only one walking the 2 hills. But everyone out on the course, either cheering or helping, were so encouraging. I even managed to get over the barriers in one piece!
I felt more confident each lap and picked up my pace. On my final lap some of the leaders started passing me including Tony. Those guys fly out there!
I am so glad I got out of my comfort zone and raced. I have wonderful teammates to thank for that. I had so much fun out there and can’t wait for my next race! If you have not tried CX, I encourage you to get out there and give it a try.