Many of the riders that I respect and idolize have never won a UCI race. Going into my September/October calendar of US racing, I had high expectations and winning a UCI cyclocross race was a major goal. Until this weekend, I had been struggling to find good sensations on my bike and had been disappointed with my results.
Arriving in Bridgeton, New Jersey, this Saturday for Beacon Cyclocross, the conditions could be best described as apocalyptic. Sideways-driving rain with strong gusts of wind combined with temperatures a few degrees above freezing: this was not picnic weather. The course was a combination of sand and mud with huge puddles of standing water. Growing up in a small town in North Canada and then spending last winter in Belgium, I am no stranger to harsh conditions. With my legs starting to come around and beginning my taper for Canadian Nationals, I knew this would be my race to lose.
The starting whistle went and I was in the zone. Never once did I think about what I would be having for dinner or if I selected the right tire pressure, my only thought was how to ride the next 50 meters as fast as possible. Midway through the race, I attacked the lead group of three and established a solid gap to cruise into the finish in the lead by forty-five seconds. I had envisioned my first UCI win as a joyful and exciting occasion. At the finish, the only person there was a bundled-up official that gave me the thumbs up. There wasn’t even a finish line, even that had been washed away by the rain. There was no media scrum, podium girls, trophies, announcers, or champagne. There wasn’t even a podium. The conditions were so ugly that as soon as anyone was finished they went straight to their car and left with the heat cranked to max. The only media at the race was a shivering Molly Hurford from Cyclocross Magazine. As we left, my little sister took a picture of me on the podium by myself with her waterproof camera. [Editor's Note: I was shivering because even after Richey's race finished, I was still soaked from mine. Still, you can see his interview with me post-race below!]
With the European invasion that North America has experienced this season, UCI wins have been hard to come by. With my win at Beacon Cyclocross, I become the first Canadian to win a UCI race this season and join Powers, Lindine and Trebon as the only four North Americans to chalk up wins. This was the 11th edition Beacon Cyclocross and the race has been won by some high-profile racers. Even though this year’s edition was no joke with a strong field toeing the line, I will likely not jump to the top of anyone’s rankings or list of top riders.
This lack of publicity doesn’t bother me. My parents had never seen a cyclocross race before and they made the trip out to New Jersey from the West Coast to visit with family and watch me race. Sharing my first win with them is something truly special. I also got to share my win will my fellow racers who I greatly respect and can appreciate the difficulty and harshness of the race. The racers I was traveling with were all acting more excited that me. Shaun Adamson [Editor's Note: after the race, Shaun ran back to the car and yelled, "Craig Richey you're my hero!"], Jeremy Durrin and Anthony Clark were absolutely freakin’ out.
I am super happy to take the win and am happy I could do my friends, family, team and sponsors proud. I am sure it will sink in eventually maybe next week, next month, or next year it doesn’t really matter when because 2011 Beacon Cross UCI C2 — WINNER — Craig Richey is forever.