Jon Cariveau (Moots) leads Don Myrah (Ibis BuyCell) up the barriers. @ Cyclocross Magazine

Practicing barriers in March and dreaming about conditions like this? You’re a cyclocrosser. @ Cyclocross Magazine

by Lee Waldman

The season has long been over for me. I missed Masters’ Worlds. A long, frustrating, unfortunate story, with a sad ending – a season ending with a whimper and not a bang. But, trying to be positive, like most of you, I’ve switched my focus to riding my road bike and my mountain bike. I’m solidly into my base work and I’m looking forward to Nationals next year in Boulder, less than 30 miles from my front door.

So, like a lot of you, my training at this point in the year isn’t about getting ready for the road season. I gave that up a few years ago, never looking back. I made the shift to ’cross and nothing but ’cross. I’m sure that if you’re reading this, and if you’ve been reading my columns, you’re probably in a similar position – a dyed-in-wool cyclocrosser. But the question arises: How do you know if you’re a true ’crosser? It shouldn’t surprise you to know that I’ve put some considerable thought into this incredibly important question. So, here goes ….

You know you’re a convert to the “’cross clan” because every time you go out for a ride, you look for those places where you can slide over on to the dirt shoulder, ignoring that smooth stretch of asphalt. You know that there’s something inherently more interesting about varied terrain, even on the side of the road, than the predictability of tarmac.

You know that you’re a cyclocrosser when you tolerate summer heat and wait for fall. There’s nothing wrong with April through September. I personally love heading out on a really hot day and knowing I’m going to spend the next four hours soaked in sweat. But even while I’m sweating up some steep climb, I’m visualizing ’cross. I’m like a skier waiting for the first snow. My wife’s calendar has pictures of beaches that she’d like to visit. When I look through the calendar, I gravitate towards the pictures of falling leaves and piles of snow.

You know that you’re a cyclocrosser for life when instead of perusing brochures for Pacific cruises, you have a vacation fund squirreled away for that trip to Belgium. No one else but another ’cross rider would understand, not even your significant other. They just shake their heads and hope that someday you’ll come regain your sanity. It’s incomprehensible to them – winter in Belgium vs. the beach. We know better, we’re going to the heartland.

You’re a cyclocrosser if most of your riding clothes are permanently stained some interesting shade of brown. Muddy, snowy races will do that.

You’re a cyclocrosser when you can’t remember the last time you raced on the road. And you don’t miss it. The road seems boring, never changing, always consistent. Nice, but it doesn’t approach the complexity of a challenging ’cross course where every lap ridden has a slightly different persona. To be a true ’crosser, you need to understand and embrace that part of the sport. That’s what gives it its uniqueness.

You know that you are a true cyclocrosser when you skip the pictures of the new road bikes from NAHBS and focus on the ’cross bikes; when you’re on ebay looking for ’cross tires in March; when you scroll through YouTube in June searching for video streams of World Cup cyclocross races from any year, just to fuel your addiction.

If every training ride, even when it’s 95 degrees becomes an opportunity to visualize cyclocross, then you are indeed a true cyclocrosser.

You have scars that are still healing over, even in March? Well then, guess what? You are a cyclocrosser through and through.

You’re reading this column, right? Well, you must be a cyclocrosser.

I am a cyclocrosser. Have been for the last 25 years. For the last half-dozen, that’s all I’ve done. I’m proud to admit it and to include myself in the community which is really more of a family. We’ve found something special that’s sometimes hard to quantify. I’ve tried in this column, but I’m not sure that I’ve gotten it. If you have something to add, I’d love to hear it. Thanks for reading.

Time to go ride.