One thing Lee carries while racing - his bike! ? Annette Hayden

Lee keeps what's important in perspective © Annette Hayden

Lee Waldman derives his inspiration from a myriad of sources. As a teacher, it may not surprise you that his most recent motivator was a children’s book – The Important Book. He saw a parallel there, and it wasn’t hard for Lee to pick out what he sees as the important facets of cyclocross. In case you missed Lee’s previous column about pushing “Borders,” go back and check it out.

by Lee Waldman

The important thing about cyclocross is that it’s muddy. From peanut butter mud to pea soup goop, it claws at your tires and sucks your energy, transforming your beautiful bike into something resembling free-form pudding. It clogs gears and sticks to teeth. If left too long, you’ll need a chisel to remove it. But the most important thing to know about cyclocross is that it’s muddy.

The most important thing about cyclocross racers is that they are demented! Why else would they spend so much time carrying a perfectly rideable $2,000.00 bike if they weren’t? They love the pain and suffering. Smiling through the dirt,  they laugh at the squeaky-clean roadies. They survive summer, wish for winter, anticipate autumn. But, the most important thing about cyclocrossers is that they are demented.

The most important thing to hear at a cyclocross race is the cowbells. They’re what we need to hear when we’re suffering like the proverbial dog, wishing for a flat tire or at least a slow leak. We hear the cowbells and know that we won’t quit. We’re immediately transformed into cyclocross supermen who soldier on no matter what the obstacles. If Sven can do it, we tell ourselves, then so can I. So the most important thing to hear at a cyclocross race is the cowbells.

The most important thing to notice when you watch cyclocross is that it’s like ballet on bikes. You watch athletes who demonstrate such grace and athleticism as they are shoulder their bikes, hurdle the planks and remount with fluidity. Their movements so seamless that it’s sometimes difficult to see the transitions from bike to earth and back to bike. So, the most important thing to notice when watching cyclocross is that it’s like ballet on bikes.

The most important thing to realize about cyclocross is that it’s so hard. From the start you’re at your limit, redlined with your heart beating in your ears. You know that’s where you’ll stay until you’ve crossed the finish line. You’ll drool, you’ll curse, you’ll hurt like you’ve never hurt before, and then when you’re done you’ll start counting the days till the next race. But the most important thing to realize about cyclocross is that it’s sooooo hard.

The most important thing about the cyclocross community  is that it’s like a family. Every rider is cheered whether they’re at the front or the back. Words of encouragement come from everyone and everywhere. It’s hard to think about quitting when each race radiates such positive energy. The support carries you from the start to the finish. You can ignore the pain because of the cheering in your ears. You carry on and, soon enough, you’ve reached the finish. So the most important thing about the cyclocross community is that it’s like a family.

The most important thing about cyclocross is that it’s unique. Out on the fringe of an already fringe sport is cyclocross. Tell someone that you race ’cross – they look at you differently, like you’re in need of a therapist. Unless they race ’cross as well.   And if they do, then they understand. Knowingly they nod. Lactate is their friend as well. Mud their muse. Floating across the barriers, smoothly shouldering their bikes is their holy grail as well. They understand what the uninitiated can only shake their heads at. It may be sick and wrong, but its beauty is not lost on its disciples. The most important thing about cyclocross is that it’s unique.

The most important thing about the ’cross season is that it happens in the winter. Snow, ice, rain, mud and freezing temperatures. Misery and suffering is the name of the game – without them it just wouldn’t be the same. We couldn’t go home with the same bragging rights if it weren’t so miserable most of the time. So the most important thing about the cyclocross season is that it happens in winter.

The most, the very most, the utmost important thing about cyclocross is that once you’ve done it and decided to love it, you’ll never, ever go back.

What’s the most important thing for you?  Drop a comment below. And then go ride!


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