While we know many of you like reading about the top Elites, we all know the masters racer represents a big percentage of the cyclocross community. Colorado’s Lee Waldman aims to bring more exposure to the masters racer and content for our masters readers through a regular column this season. His installment #1 is below.
by Lee Waldman
I turned 59 this year and after having decent results in Colorado, and inconsistent results at the last four Nationals, I decided to dedicate this season to one thing and one thing only. I want to podium at Nationals. I know what you’re thinking, everyone and their brother wants to podium at Nationals. You’re probably right.
But I have some bigger reasons that are important at least to me. If nothing else they keep me training, moving ever closer to that goal.
One is my son. I’ll talk about him more later. He’s 28 years old, a twin, and profoundly retarded. His twin sister is a perfectly happy, normal married 28-year-old woman. I race for Gabriel because he can’t. He’s in my mind at the start of many training sessions and in the hard part of the races because I know if he could, he’d be racing with me. It will never happen so I race for him.
I race for my father as well. He’s one of The Greatest Generation and my hero. He will turn 85 this year and I’d love to give him a photograph of me on the podium as a birthday gift. My dad, like most of his generation, gave up his youth in the service of Democracy. He landed on Omaha Beach four days after D-Day and walked through Europe fighting in every major battle in the European campaign, including the Battle of the Bulge. He used to be an awesome athlete. I never could beat him in racquetball. Before his arthritis and gout got too bad for him to ride, he was one of my training partners. So, I ride for him.
But, I race for myself as well. I race to overcome my early fears and challenges with the sport. We all know cyclocross is a tough sport to learn. I still feel the pain of the missed remounts, the scraped shins from riding into the barriers, the broken elbow, collar bone and ribs. I still remember the terror I felt looking into the “toilet bowl” of frozen ruts at my first Nationals years ago in Plymouth, MA. I never finished that race but my handlebars left their mark on my chest as an icy section threw me cruelly over them ending my race. It also took me years to get over the fear of those frozen ruts. It all came rushing back to me two years ago in Kansas City when the temperature dropped and the course turned solid. And so I race to erase those early years of fear, failure and frustration; to prove to myself that any challenge can be faced and overcome with enough perseverance, patience and pride.
Over the course of the past 29 years I dabbled in lots of different bike racing disciplines. I was a horrible track rider – I loved training on the fixed gear, but the racing part just wasn’t for me. Mountain bike racing has always been fun and I truly do love short track racing. So I’ve kept that up. It gets me out of the city and away from civilization. I love the solitude and the challenge that it offers. The racing is great but I’ve always loved to train and that’s what makes me smile every time I throw my leg over any sort of bike. I can’t ever remember a mountain bike ride when I wasn’t smiling.
And over the years, cycling has been a savior to me. It’s been my social life, my therapy, and when I needed it, my lifeline to help me navigate a lot of really difficult times. It’s gotten me through a divorce, a bankruptcy, graduate school, my first years as a middle school teacher and the realization that one of my children would be profoundly retarded for his entire life. The bike was the place I could go when I needed quiet time, reflection time, time to think and time to curse the forces in the Universe that simply aren’t fair.
But it wasn’t until I was 35 that I discovered cyclocross. And I knew right away that I’d found my niche. I think most of us gravitate towards ‘cross because something about it fits our mentality.It incorporates so many aspects of other types of bike racing. It’s not time trialing, although we suffer in the same way. It’s not crit racing, although the speed and adrenaline is always present. It’s not road racing even though it’s just as tactical if not more so. It’s just…’cross.
Since discovering ‘cross, thanks to a little training and some invaluable technique help from my friend Billy, I’ve been lucky enough to have some success in my home state of Colorado as a crosser: 55+ State Champion twice and Best All Around Cyclocross Rider once. But like many competitors, I’m not satisfied with my past humble results. And so I’ve set my sights higher and I’m inviting you to keep me company on my path to Nationals. I hope you’ll enjoy my column, especially you masters racers out there. Give me feedback along the way and thanks for reading. I’ll be back in a couple weeks.