The Girl With The Cowbell Tattoo

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

by Molly Hurford

For the past two years, I’ve gone where the big races were. That mainly left me in New England, with jaunts to Nationals when time and money afforded it. This weekend though, I was offered a rare opportunity and a tough choice: the behemoth that is the Gran Prix of Gloucester was right near home, but a small race series in Ohio asked me to come out, help with a women’s ride and team race, and then race the next day. I haven’t been to a small local race since my early days of cyclocross, and when they made me an offer I couldn’t refuse, namely, host housing with a family with a 13-year-old daughter who had read my book and wanted to meet me, I had my answer: I was going to go small, instead of going home. And it was a blast.

I said it over and over again all weekend: this race series is what cyclocross in the US is all about. I love our top pros. I love racing the big races. But watching the families and having a woman actually pat me on the back as I passed her in our race? This is where it’s at. Yesterday, my Cyclocross Magazine compatriot and I wrote a bit about the race, and I talked about how racing in the US differs from Europe. And you know what? I’m sure it’s great over there, but at the end of the day, give me American ’cross.

In Ohio, I got to race on a team with some awesome ladies, and then the next day, I got to race against them. I got high-fived when I passed a woman in the race, I had women in front and behind of me cheering for me. The level of support and community was amazing. The young woman I was staying with was an absolute blast to hang out with, and being able to offer advice to her was really special for me. Plus, her lovely parents had an espresso machine and they weren’t afraid to use it.

During the race, which was run in conjunction with the 3/4 men’s race, I got to rediscover the aggressive racer that had been hiding inside of me, nervous about coming out around the likes of Helen Wyman and Georgia Gould in the past month. But when I was stuck behind a new friend (a guy) and we came into the barriers, I found myself yelling that if he didn’t get out of my way, I was going to take him out later. He stopped on a dime, and I laughed and yelled thank you as I chased after second place. Afterwards, he told me it was the funniest moment he’s had in a race in a long time. And here I thought I was being intimidating.

My first podium of the season in Ohio. Courtesy of Stark Velo

My first podium of the season in Ohio. Courtesy of Stark Velo

Interviewing Lukas Fickinger at the USGP in Sun Prairie, a teensy bit startstruck. © Amy Dykema

Interviewing Lukas Fickinger at the USGP in Sun Prairie, a teensy bit startstruck. © Amy Dykema

That said, the pro side of things has a lot to offer. I had a blast covering the USGP even if I didn’t get a chance to race, since I decided staying healthy all season was more important than trying like crazy to not get lapped by Katie Compton. And I admit, I’m still a little star-struck when I saw Jeremy Powers’ new video for Cat’s Tongue Towels with me making a cameo as the ‘girl he’s trying to impress.’ I still get giddy when I get to interview the pro racers.

Me, way at the back, at Providence last weekend. Cyclocross Magazine

Me, way at the back, at Providence last weekend. © Cyclocross Magazine

And I get giddy when I get to race against them. From the local race in Ohio, I went straight to Providence, Rhode Island, for the tail end of Holy Week of Cyclocross. Sure, my racing was appallingly bad on day one and my legs were just utterly and completely not working, and on the second day, with the mud and some year old worn-in tires, I was slipping and sliding everywhere. Even though I wasn’t getting any kind of results either day, I was having fun. Like I said on TourChats, and as I’ve been told for years, cyclocross is like a mullet: business in the front and a party in the back. On the days I can’t be a good business-woman, I will content myself utterly and completely by having a “wicked awesome” party in the back.

I’ve been on the road this season for six weeks straight without going back to my apartment in Western Massachusetts. And I think what makes this sport unique is that the entire time that I’ve been gone, I’ve never once felt lonely, or like I was far from home. People have opened their houses, taken me to dinner, to cool places in each town I’ve been in, and yes, even in Las Vegas, I never felt like I was away from my family. Rather, Interbike felt like a family reunion, including, I admit, meeting those “weird cousins” that mom and dad wouldn’t talk about when you were a kid. But that’s part of the fun.

I’ve been back home, caught up with friends, done laundry, done some serious writing, and now, after this weekend, I’m back on the road, and I think I’m finally dialing in traveling: bring oatmeal, drink coffee in the morning but not at 10 PM, don’t treat every time you go out to eat as a chance to order the ‘fun’ food, try to get to train (on occasion) and find time to work quietly and relax. Also, probably don’t adopt more turtles (long story).

At the end of the day, I’m never going to be Katie. I’m never going to be the top pro. But I am damn well going to have a blast doing it.

If you want to read more about my training, racing, and editing exploits, check out mollyhurford.com.