On Monday, EuroCrossCamp racer Justin Lindine talked a bit about the good, the bad, the ugly and the rediscovered fun of racing in Europe. Today, he finishes that story.
by Justin Lindine
Being one of the last people on course is a lonely experience. There is the satisfaction of crossing the line with one to go and hearing the bell, hearing the cheers, realizing that I get to finish the race and that regardless of what happens from here on out, I can check one goal box as complete. But then there is also the realization that maybe a minute, or minute and half into my last lap, the race is over. Someone won, and the rest of us lost. Some of us by a lot more than others. People start to leave and the feeling of riding in the dark, in the rain, under the cold glare of stadium lighting while the grounds are quickly deserted by a sea of spectators is to feel like a ghost – like when you’re a kid and you dream that your parents forgot you somewhere and you run through a crowd of people with no one paying attention. To be fair, there are some who stay and cheer, others who when the realize in their drunken stagger that there is still someone racing, stop and scream. Conveniently I don’t speak much Flemish, so it is easier for me to imagine their screams and gesticulations as cheering as opposed to say, mocking. But you never can be sure, can you? It gets harder to maintain focus when you feel like an afterthought, but I just try and channel it into some sort of angry reason to get to the finish faster. I have the odd sensation that I’m just on a training course since there is no one in sight in front of me and I’ve put some decent space into my chasers. For a moment, on the backside of the course there is silence, and all I can hear is my breathing and the bike. I feel alone.
But then there is the final stairs before the finish and the noise is immense. I cross the line into a wall of people, the excitement of the spectators traded for the crowd’s angst of wanting to leave faster than everyone else. I’m holding onto some fencing for support, catching a breath and realizing that this is “it.” This might just be as glamorous as it gets, and if that’s true, would it be enough?
What compels me to want to be here fighting tooth and nail just to finish more than six minutes down on winner Neils Albert? Maybe it was the jerseys I signed for two Belgian kids who race on a Redline-sponsored BMX team, their mom eagerly snapping some pictures of me with them. Maybe it’s the fact that in a foreign country, thousands of miles from my home, there are people who know my name and cheer for me. Maybe it’s for everyone that has helped me get here, since I first raced a bike at age 15, a long list of friends, family and amazing people who got me this far. I’m proving something to myself, although I think I might have to be some distance removed before I discover just what. In the meantime, I turn my bike in the crowd, and make my way back to the car, the hazy light and moisture in the air making me feel like some sort of apparition, vanishing into the dark.
Read more from the EuroCrossCamp crew, including a love letter to Belgium from Justin, in our Missives from the Motherland page.