This season, we’ll be following a few racers who have some interesting stories to share. From a freshly-minted elite racer to a newly declared master, we have a wide variety of racers we’ll be hearing from. We’ll catch up with them intermittently as the season wanes on, and hopefully we’ll be able to chart their progress towards their individual goals. Cyclocross Magazine is a community effort, and we’re inspired by the great stories from all of our amazing contributors and columnists. Our new racer is David Sterry, a racer who’s just started to take cyclocross seriously in his hometown of Portland, Oregon.

by David Sterry

Sterry takes to the barriers at David Douglas CX. Photo courtesy of David Sterry

Sterry takes to the barriers at David Douglas CX. Photo courtesy of David Sterry

I’m looking at my calendar at work when I suddenly realize it’s almost the end of September. “Now how did that sneak up on me?” I think.  That means that the first Cross Crusade races is just around the corner! Sitting at my desk at work, I got nervous all of a sudden: the pre-race jitters even though I was sitting down working on a project and my bike was locked up in a parking garage. I got up and walked around the office to calm my nerves.  But it didn’t’ work because when I sat down I had an email about signing up for the Blind Date at the Dairy Wednesday night series from a teammate.

I’ve been racing since the Labor Day weekend though so you’d think I would be feeling comfortably in the groove of the season. But the start of the month was hot in Portland and somehow suffering through races in 90+ degree heat just didn’t feel like cyclocross. It felt … well, awful, actually. I don’t do well racing in the heat at all.  Two weekends in a row I needed to race with water and have teammates dump water on my head each lap just so I didn’t pass out.  At the Pain on the Peak race I actually almost just got off my bike and fell over, until I heard “one lap to go.” Somehow I crossed that finish line in eleventh and then proceeded to drink as much as I could without throwing up.  I will credit my teammate Ken for winning that race by such a large margin that I even got pulled a lap early. Thanks Ken! You saved me.

But despite some awful races in the heat, in my mind, these early season races are for one thing: getting rid of the jitters and remembering what racing feels like. Having a few stupid crashes or bad dismounts and remounts, or in my case so far, a lot of them. No matter what training rides I’ve gone on or what I do to try and make one of these feel like a real race, they never do. There is no substitute for that 45 minutes of lung-burning, leg-destroying agony.  It’s a painful but welcome feeling.  Overall things have even gone well; I have a shot at getting a call-up for the first Crusade race, which would be a great way to start the season.  Heck, I even have a training schedule this year! This is a huge step for me, as last year I trained by sometimes riding home the longer way from work.  Ideally, this training can help me shake out the last bits of my early season jitters by the time the first big race at Alpenrose comes around.

Then there’s the other component of the season that’s coming together. The social part of cyclocross, which is arguably just as exciting as the racing aspect. It used to be that as the Sun started to set earlier I would, like most people in the Pacific Northwest start to prepare myself for months spent indoors and getting doused in rain every time I went outside. And I would resign myself to a lot of reading and indoor rock climbing. But now I have something to look forward to every weekend, even if it does mean I can’t sleep in on Sundays for a long time.

Last weekend, a good chunk of the team went out to Hood River for the Hood River Double Cross races. We stayed in a condo and had a great time racing. But more than that, we had a great time hanging out, talking a lot about bikes and helping each other with bike problems and heck, even things not related to bikes (like whatever happened to that cute girl from August, Dave?)

Plus we had the joy of watching our teammate Chris Nelson win the Masters C races two days in a row, leading from the start both times. And that to me is the real bonus of this sport: sure, you get in shape and get to challenge yourself weekly. But it’s the friends you make, the time you spend reveling in your teammates great race or sharing their annoyance at a mechanical, the stupid jokes you come up with and the motivation they provide you with during a race that make it great. This year it’s even going to be a family affair, my older sister has decided to race too!

So maybe I feel myself slowly disappearing into a world of “all cyclocross, all the time!” And I find myself reading an unhealthy amount about it, watching lots of videos too. But it feels like a good thing (sorry to my non-bike-racing friends, see you in December?) Sure, squeezing in rides after work is tough, especially riding home past a few bars after a workout and seeing people out enjoying a drink or two as I’m on my way to stretch and get some sleep. But now when the sun starts going down early, instead of getting melancholy I get excited, because it means the season is really here.