The Girl With The Cowbell Tattoo

The Girl With The Cowbell Tattoo, created by Tim Shay.

by Molly Hurford

I’ve been learning a whole lot in the last couple of weeks about the past, present, and future of American cyclocross. And I have to say … it’s pretty amazing. I’ve been researching for my book on cyclocross in the US that’s going to be out this September, which means I’ve been interviewing anyone and everyone connected with cyclocross since its inception in the US in the early 70s. For example: did you know that we’ve been having Nationals since the mid-70s? Granted, there was only one field racing at that point, but still, it’s impressive! What’s even more impressive is just how much the sport has grown in only 40 years. From local races with 10 people in total to sold out fields across the country: not bad growth! And it’s funny: back in the 70s, Nationals was held in Texas and no one batted an eyelash. Today, we’re re-experiencing a resurgence of cyclocross in Texas and the surrounding Southwestern states, and everyone is surprised because the terrain isn’t exactly cyclocross-friendly (there’s not a lot of mud in Arizona). It’s awesome to see something like that come full circle.

The only downside of having talked to so many awesome people in the past few weeks is the amount of transcribing that it’s generating. Hours and hours of interviews, all waiting to be typed up and inserted where needed into the book. It’s honestly exhausting, but it’s also insanely fun getting to know some of the characters that helped mold cyclocross in the US, and getting to put it all together in a way that makes sense.

In addition to the mountains of transcribing I have on my plate, I’ve also been mountain biking a lot, up actual mountains! It turns out having 29″ wheels is a whole new ballgame, and suddenly I’m capable of rolling over roots and “getting air” on jumps. I can’t wheelie yet, but I’m working on it. It reminds me a lot of when I first got into cyclocross: it’s hard to start a sport this technical while still training seriously, because so much energy is focused on just learning the technique. It’s still a struggle to get in a solid mountain bike workout, because I have to go slowly over obstacles more often than not. But I’m getting better, and less and less tired every time I head out on a ride. It’s also nice, because like when I got into cyclocross at first, gains come quickly in the early stages. When you first try something, it’s easy to see instant improvement, and for me, every time I head out into the woods, I find myself getting over more hurdles and feeling faster immediately. It’s gratifying, and definitely helps my mental focus even though it’s the off-season for me. Bonus: when it’s yucky weather out, I can convince myself that going outside and riding is still a good idea. Getting muddy again feels fun, as opposed to getting soaked riding on the road.

That said, it’s unfortunately also similar to cyclocross in that I’m constantly coming home with unexplained cuts and bruises. OK, unexplained is pushing it. I tend to get into fights with trees on a fairly regular basis, though I feel fairly confident that one of these days, I’ll emerge victorious. However, though my crashes are beating me up, my mountain bike has (so far) escaped any major damages. Still, it’s nice to know that after putting together the past two Mechanical Monday columns, I know what to do immediately after crashing, and what to look for once I get home and clean my bike up. I have a feeling I should print those columns out and carry them everywhere. There’s a reason my old Rutgers Cycling teammates nicknamed me “Crash,” after all.

I’m not the only one working on my technical skills though. I was at Kiddie Cross in Northampton again last night, and the kids were treated to some awesome guest appearances by Jeremy Powers and Justin Lindine, who even raced against the kids (I won’t say who won) for a couple of laps. It’s really great seeing these pro guys taking the time out of their days to help show the kids in Western Mass. the ropes, and it’s even cooler to see how starstruck the kids are when they talk to the racers. After practice, Powers and Lindine stuck around, signing jerseys and helmets and answering questions. You know our little sport is going places when a kid solemnly tells Powers that he has a poster of the team in his room. For the future of cyclocross, I know where I’m looking!

If you want to read more about my training, racing and editing exploits, check out