Mark (far left) and the rest of the Rutgers Cycling family on his goodbye ride in July.

Mark (far left) and a few members of the Rutgers Cycling family on his goodbye ride in July.

by Mark V.

I’ve been in Texas now for about two months, and I have a confession to make: I’m a little homesick.

Initially the thrill of being in a new place and meeting new people kept me from thinking too much about it, but as the dust has settled and I have fallen into my daily routine, I have to say: I miss my crew.

Cycling teams vary widely on how close they are. Some teams are like family. Some teams wear the same kit and do the same races but their members don’t seem to really talk to each other. Then, there’s everything in between.

My team in New Jersey was like family. We trained together, we raced together, we celebrated together, we grieved together, some of us lived together. We are a tight bunch.

With the MAC Series kicking off this weekend in Pennsylvania, it’s given me cause to reflect and, well, feel a little homesick. For the first time in eight years I won’t be piling into the team van or someone’s station wagon at the crack of dawn with my best friends.

Both the van and station wagon, incidentally, will stink of combination of embrocation, smelly bike racers, Taco Bell, and dirt by the end of the season that can only be described as “the scent of ’cross.”

Some of the best weekends in my recent memory have been spent driving to and from cyclocross races up and down the Northeast corridor (more or less DC to Boston).  I’ll miss the racing, the comradeship and mostly, the hijinks that come with traveling with a team of 18 to 23 year old cyclocross racers.

I remember one particularly epic weekend of racing that found us racing near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, on day one and Reston, Virginia, on day two. That was a lot of driving and, for those not familiar with driving on 95 between NJ and DC, a lot of tolls. By the time we reached Exit 9 (the exit for Rutgers) on the NJ Turnpike late that Sunday night, we’d spent nearly every penny on tolls. At the tollbooth, we were reduced to combing the floor of the van for spare change. Somehow, we scraped up enough to pay the toll.

I’ll miss that. I’ll miss rousing my “kids” out of bed so they can make a 8 AM start and presenting them with coffee and oatmeal (there’s a reason why my nickname on the team was MamaBear).

Even as a move and transition of the sort I have undertaken can be scary and difficult, it is also full of potential. Just because we move away from one family, it doesn’t mean we abandon them, nor does it mean they abandon us.

I’ve untaken a project of expanding my cycling family here in Texas.  One of the beauties of cycling in general, and cyclocross in particular, is that it instantly provides a common ground over which folks can connect. It cuts across all sorts of differences and brings people together. I know this sounds all a bit “We Are The World,” but I think it’s true. For the most part, my move to San Antonio has been made easier because I ride a bike. It made the process of developing a new social network and a new cycling family that much easier. I’m not sure how people who don’t race bikes make friends.

We’re about a month out from the start of the cyclocross season here in Texas. Clinics and practices are beginning to sprout up. I’ve even cobbled together a cyclocross bike and begun to think about gluing tires. I’m looking forward to climbing into new station wagons and nestling myself between piles of wheels with new friends, new cycling family members.

And Texas doesn’t have that many toll roads.

Read Mark’s first column, From Texas With Love.