Tuesday, December 11.
I’m sitting in my room at the Holiday Inn after my pre-ride this morning. This Nationals course is, in my humble opinion, a true test of a rider’s power as well as technical prowess. In other words, a worthy Nationals course.
The winner in every category will definitely be deserving of a Stars-and-Stripes jersey. Every Nationals has its pros and its cons, and I’ve ridden enough of them to have my own perspective on what makes a good course. This is one of the best I’ve ridden since Bend back in 2009.
My goal for tomorrow is simple, the very same one that my wife reminds me of before I line up for any race: ride well, smile, have fun and come home in one piece.
I’ll add another goal to hers. Bring my “A” game, whatever that happens to be for a particular day and particular course. That’s all that I can expect from myself.
I’ve been around the cyclocross block enough times by now to understand that anything that can happen will. The beauty of this sport is that it challenges the rider in a way that no other aspect of cycling can.
The nature of ’cross, being dictated by changeable weather, continually shifting course conditions, the riders around, ahead of and behind you, is what makes ’cross so special and so addictive. It’s what motivates us to continue to punish our minds and our bodies in pursuit of cyclocross excellence.
This year, perhaps more than past years, presents a much deeper, stronger field in my category, Masters 65-69. Of the 33 riders lining up on Wednesday, there are a number of names that stand out as “wicked fast.” I wish that I could number myself among them, but the reality is that even a three or four year age difference is noticeable and I’m at the upper end of the age range this year.
A podium, although a nice pipe dream, is probably out of the realm of reality this year. I just look at tomorrow’s race as a nice bookend to a pretty successful season (consistent top 10 finishes in Colorado in a strong 60+ category) and the first step towards a good 70+ ride next year.
Funny that even at this age we keep looking into the future wanting to improve. I believe that’s what keeps us young though. Without the goals and the challenges, what would there be for us to really race for?
That may be a bit of an overstatement but I do know that the riders I line up with every week are some of the “youngest,” most vital individuals that I know. We/they are still living their lives, not just existing.
For me, I’ve added another goal to the list, hoping that training and racing will keep me moving towards that goal. I want to be able to ride my bike with my grandkids. Right now they range from two to five, but they get older and I refuse to be one of those grandpas who has to sit on the sidelines and watch while explaining why I’m not able to “play” with them.
I want to be able to play! That’s part of the joy of grandparenting. Staying fit will ensure that it will happen.
None of us knows when we’re going to “check out” of this world. It could happen tomorrow. It could happen 20 years from now.
All I can hope for, all any of us can hope for, is that when that happens, we can look back and say that we were all in, that we brought our “A” game every day. Tomorrow is another one of those opportunities. It’s not about the placing, it’s about the “being.”
Talk about Yin and Yang! As dry and rideable as the course was on Tuesday for my pre-ride, that’s how muddy, slick and in a lot of places, unrideable for my race yesterday.
The good news—I was able to overcome the shock I experienced during warm up and actually “race” rather than just riding to finish.
The not so good news—I didn’t quite get the results I was hoping for.
I did, however, accomplish a couple of things. First and foremost, I wasn’t intimidated by the conditions once the race actually started. Second, I did exactly what I was hoping to do, I left it all on the course which is all that I ask for and expect from myself any more. Third and perhaps the most important, I finished smiling and can honestly say that I had “fun” in the way that only a muddy, hard, cyclocross can be fun.
After a really sketchy and crash-laden first lap, I rode hard and well for the remainder of the race. Passing some riders who had gapped me and the start. Being passed by others. Such is life and bike racing.
As I reflect back on this past season, I can honestly say that I rode as well and more consistently than I can ever remember. I’ve identified some areas where I’m stronger than I’ve ever been and other aspect of ’cross that certainly need work.
As I move into the next age bracket next year, I hope to keep those strong areas intact and develop the ones that are still weak. It’s a long time ’til next September. Now it’s time to skate ski, learn to roller ski, and ride the bike for fun.
It’s also your turn. Go for a ride (for fun).