Here’s another entry to our “Spirit of ‘Cross” essay contest. This fun one is by Ross Schueller, describing his first ever cyclocross race at a KissCross race. We’ll be posting some of our entries over the next week or so.

(View the growing list of published Spirit of Cyclocross Essay Entries here.)

All ‘Crossed Up

Your teeth are chattering…possibly because you’re cold, possibly because you’re scared out of your mind. Got the sweater on, the full finger gloves, the tights, a warm hat under the helmet. Got you’re game face on, and you are standing with 25 other nutcases at the start line.

What is that guy with the bull-horn saying near the start line? Something about laps…3 laps?

GOOOOOOOoooooo! All the bikes around you are moving…Fast.

First little bit…ok, breathe, find your rhythm and get comfortable. You’re still near the front after 50 feet. I guess that is a moral victory of sorts. At least you didn’t crash before you crossed the starting line!

Man everyone is making a hard right turn ahead…you should probably slow down to get ready…too late, crank it around. Back tire got squirrelly for a second, but you’re still upright.

Right turn has you off the pavement now. On the grass, and a side hill. This is weird…the bike keeps wanting to drift left down the hill. Keep it straight, and keep pedaling damn it. Another right turn coming…no need to slow down this time, the grass is sucking up all the speed you had.

Around the corner and another straight-away on grass…this is easy…

Another right turn and then everyone is flipping a u-turn around a tree in front of you. Man, they are hopping off the bikes fast…must be barriers coming up…remember what you read online about how to…

Oh shit, you damn near fell on your face clipping out of the pedals while getting around the corner. No big deal, only a few people right behind you…just move your butt and get over the barriers. Pick up the bike…yes, UP…on your shoulder and run doofus. These guys behind you are going to run you over if you don’t get moving…

Over the first barrier, and try to jump over the second one…damn, caught a toe, tripped, stumbled…heroic effort on your part kept you on your feet, but now you need to get back on the bike. A quick look back says that barrier just isn’t that tall… you should be able to jump that no problem, even with a bike on your shoulder. Don’t worry…you’ll make it look smooth on the next lap.

Forward…grass…everyone is still going fast, but man it is bumpy on the grass. Your heart rate must be about a million by now…it’s just a straight away…this shouldn’t be this hard…

Another right turn…easy one this time. Now a quick left and on to some pavement…wooo hooo…looks like you have about a ¼ mile of straight road ahead of you. Heart rate is still way up there, but that’s ok because now you are hauling down this stretch of road. Except…you just got passed like you were standing still…holy crap those guys were going fast.

Quick left turn and on to some dirt… big mud puddle ahead, you skip to the left of it and manage to stay upright. Little straight-away then another sharp left and…you are in the woods…single track trail.

This isn’t bad, the dirt is hard packed, it’s easy to steer, you can get some speed going…so, why are there four guys in front of you stopped?

Oh crap…coming out of the woods you slam in to 10 foot long section of beach sand…there are already ruts in the sand 6” deep. Wheels get goofy and the bike starts getting sideways. Keep pedaling, the only way through is to pedal to the other side…stay upright and pedal…heart rate is still climbing.

Across another section of grass and another 10 foot section of sand…this time you saw it coming and got ready for it…but, the bike still got sideways and you still just barely kept the tires facing the earth. You’re heart is about to burst, and now your legs are starting to feel it.

Another little section of grass…but, then a sudden turn right and up a short little hill…it’s not much, no need to shift…just stand up and power your way up…except, you stand up and all the weight comes off your back wheel…tire is spinning as you climb. Pedal! It’s the only way up.

Sharp turn left, back down the same little hill, almost no room at the crest to turn…watch for toe overlap at the crest…remember that for lap two…if you survive this one…

Long stretch of grass…looks like we are heading for a hill…a good sized one. Ok, up one little hill and then 90 degrees left across the slope of the hill. This isn’t bad, but the bike wants to drift left again, down the hill…right turn at the tree ahead.

Must be the hill goes up steep on the other side of the tree, going to have to carry the bike up the hill…except, you get around the tree and there are three big logs blocking the way up the hill. Bike on shoulder again…man, your arms shouldn’t be this tired already…

Climbing up…run! Heart rate is definitely maxed out. Ok, near the top of the hill and it is leveling out…throw the bike down and hop on…pedal up the hill. Now back down the other side…wait…WAIT…sharp turn left around this tree and then across the face of the steepest part of the hill. Crap…keep it upright…huge ruts in the dirt…sand is coming loose…even mountain goats wouldn’t walk on this slope and you are trying to keep your bike upright as you ride across it.

Ok, another quick left around a tree…watch the ruts in the dirt….turn back up the hill a bit…now a hard right and back down the hill….pedal, pedal….a quick look at the speedo says you hit 26 on the downill…NICE…keep that speed going to the finish line….almost done…

Ok, a set of three barriers… you can see them coming. This should be easy, clip out, jump over, and clip back in…except, your legs feel like lead…jumping isn’t quite as easy as it should be…no matter, you’re over the three, now on to some pavement and the finish line…whooo….there it is…you made it, you survived your first ever ‘cross…except…that was only lap 1.

Now just 2 more laps like that one and you can actually say you finished. You must be out of your mind. Who talked you in to this?