The Girl With The Cowbell Tattoo

The Girl With The Cowbell Tattoo, created by Tim Shay.

by Molly Hurford

“We’re making bonds and relationships that will last a lifetime, not just 60 minutes.”

When it’s one in the morning, there’s a race the next day, you’re still three hours from the hotel, which is two hours from the venue, and your entire caravan decides to stop and get ice cream, you know you’re in the right place. It’s even better when getting ice cream means buying hand-packed pints of it and sharing them between five people.

My crew is awesome. This is key in cyclocross.

The quote up at the top of this article? That was Donny Green, who you might know from the column he’s been working on about jumping into the elite field this season. Cyclocross, especially on the East Coast, has created a tight-knit community.

Chris Mayhew talked this Monday about having a great pit crew, but I think more important than that is having a great crew of friends to travel and race with … and if someone’s willing to pit for you, even better.

Gabby Day and I post-race at Nittany.

Gabby Day and I post-race at Nittany.

Since picking up Gabby Day, one of the UK Invasion cyclocrossers, at the airport back in September, my traveling circus has gotten better by the day. She and I didn’t know each other at all (it’s a miracle we navigated the airport and found each other), but we quickly became friends, riding, cooking, shopping and hanging out together for a week before racing started. And then, the season began.

When Nittany rolled around, my parent’s house was stuffed to the gills with a good chunk of the elite field. At Vegas, when they were doing callups, I realized that out of the first 30 guys called, six of them had crashed on my couch at one point, or vice versa. And the past two weeks? Well, I’ve adapted a nomadic lifestyle (in cycling, we call this “living the dream,”) and have been doing my “Tour of New England,” which will continue until Granogue in Delaware two weeks from now. And none of this would be possible without some of the amazing people I’ve met since first getting into this sport.

I’m ashamed to admit this to the cyclocross public as a whole, but I started out as a triathlete. And you know what? Not once did I wake up to a hotel room full of fellow triathletes doubling or tripling up in the beds in order to cram all the bikes and bodies into the room. This, I’ve come to realize, is a cyclocross thing.

The sense of community in cyclocross cannot be underscored enough. That’s what makes cyclocross in the US so great – just ask any of the Euros, like Helen Wyman, Ian Field, Gabby Day or Tom van den Bosch, and they’ll tell you – racing cyclocross in America is unique and amazing because of how much fun we have, how much we’re like a family, and how we can take the sport so seriously without taking ourselves so seriously all of the time. And they’re all stoked to come back for more next year!

Since the season started, I’ve had friendships rekindled and made countless new friends and acquaintances at virtually every race. And being in Massachusetts, in one of the cyclocross hubs of the country, I’ve had people to ride with every day, including the awesome local elite woman, Frances, who took me out on mountain bike trails to mentally open up before Gloucester. I even managed to drag her to a two hour long hot yoga class last night. Now that is friendship!

Dinner party with the crew, featuring Mr. Jeremy Powers.

Dinner party with the crew, featuring Mr. Jeremy Powers.

Additionally, it has to be said: the pros in this sport are unlike the pros in any other sport I’ve ever found. In just the past 24 hours, I’ve hung out at a bar with Jeremy Powers, sang along to the radio with Gabby Day, and gone on a bike ride with Craig Richey, who is currently making burritos for our dinner as I write. And you know what? They’re all awesome, friendly people, and have given me some killer advice about racing and riding. I admit, I was a little star-struck when I first started talking to these guys (I might have used the phrase, “Jeremy Powers knows my name!” once), but in this sport, the pros are part of the same community, and it’s rad.

The best part about having a good group of people to travel with, many of whom have more race experience than me, is all of the advice and race help that I get. Lucky for me, I’ve also been traveling with my coach to a lot of the races, and have him around to make sure I’m eating post-race and recovering on Mondays. And, when I’m nervous pre-race, I have a whole host of counselors who are there to help make sure I don’t panic too much. The best advice I’ve gotten so far? “The worst thing that can happen in a race is that you finish and have a beer.”

Actually, I lied. The best part is having all of them around to cheer during the race, and getting to cheer during theirs.

Tell me: who is your crew and why are they awesome?

If you want to read more about my training, racing and editing exploits, you can find the painfully full version of events on my Twitter page.