Tim Johnson is congratulated by fans along the finish line. ©Tim Westmore

Tim Johnson would not just smile, he'd high-five you mid-ride. ©Tim Westmore

Last time we heard from Lee, it was mid-February at the height of winter in Colorado. Now that it’s warming up and he’s outside more often than not, he’s got a few other issues he’d like to chat about.

by Lee Waldman

If you think racing cyclocross is tough, just try teaching middle school as Spring approaches. Pure and simple, it’s draining, more draining than riding 50 miles in the wind. And it’s left me brain-dead, incapable of writing anything that you’d want to read. After dealing with a constant barrage of arguments and attitudes, petty crimes and crisis, bullying and general bad behavior, I’ve struggled to maintain the energy to think, let alone train. The irony is that training is the one thing that keeps me sane this time of the year. I leave school every afternoon at a bit past four. I know now that the time has changed, that I can look forward to at least a couple of hours of training in the sun.

It usually takes 10 to 15 minutes to leave the day behind; to spin out the achiness in my legs that’s a direct result of moving through a classroom all day. But just as I’m entertaining the thought of going home and taking a nap, everything starts to come around. The lactic acid burns off, my breathing regulates itself and I’m ready to train.

Since it is Spring and my Summer will be focused, again, on mountain bike racing, my training regimen is a bit less structured right now. I am fitting in lifting, running and riding, but with the exception of two hard days during the week, a lot of my time turning the pedals is moderate enough to allow for daydreaming and for some interesting noticings. So, stick with me here.

I’m the kind of rider who makes an effort to greet other cyclists when we pass each other out on the road. If I overtake a slower rider, rather than ignoring them, I’ll make sure that I say something friendly, something to let them know that were brothers or sisters of the road.

Something interesting struck me the other day as I was being ignored for probably the 10th time in the course of a 90 minute ride. I realized that when I ride my mountain bike, or when I’m out training on the ’cross bike, I rarely, if ever, pass a rider without that person smiling and waving at me. I even had one guy a few years ago call me his hero as I sweated up a particularly gnarly, rocky climb on my ’cross bike.

On the other hand, when I’m training on the road, I’m surprise if I’m acknowledged by other riders. “What’s going on in their heads?” I wonder. Are they afraid that they won’t appear to be serious bike racers if they aren’t 100% focused on the road ahead? So focused, in fact, that they can’t be bothered to return a greeting? They are in “the zone,” or at least that’s how they want to appear, and no mere mortal can intrude into that sacred space.

I haven’t raced on the road in two years now, so I feel perfectly comfortable pointing this out. I wonder: was I the same way before I “crossed” over? Now I can see how dismissive this attitude is. So here’s an open question to all of you who are still racing on the road, who don’t look up to wave: Why? What’s up with the attitude? Here’s a news flash: it’s only a bike. It’s only bike racing. There are very few people who care, or worse yet, who are impressed.

I’ve also noticed that the higher up the food chain a rider is, the more friendly. After all, they have nothing to prove, so they can afford to smile and wave.

The longer I think about it, the more I’m beginning to believe that we “mudders” need to unite and oppose such blatant disrespect and discrimination. We need an organization! We need a union (well, maybe not a union). We need a name! We’ll call ourselves the CRAZIES (The Cyclocross Racers Alliance of Zenlike Intergenerationally Extreme Sadomasochists). We’re big on acronyms in education, so this one came easy to me. Covers all the bases, don’t you think? We are racers. We do race cyclocross. We’re in search of complete and utter oneness with the terrain and our equipment. Cyclocross spans generations. And just ask anyone who watches a ’cross race for the first time: they’ll agree that there’s more than a pinch of sadism and masochism involved. My wife’s comment after seeing her first race: “That’s just sick and wrong”.

Our mission will be to harass any and all cyclists who choose to take themselves too seriously. How will we identify them? They’ll be the ones who act too cool to say hello when they pass us. They won’t glance right or left. They’ll never acknowledge the fact that we are on the road. And it won’t matter if we’re riding a road bike, mountain bike or ’cross bike. We shouldn’t be there sharing their space because it’s obvious that we aren’t as serious as they are. If we were, we wouldn’t notice them either. We’d be staring straight ahead with the single-mindedness of the truly dedicated. Nary a smile would show itself. How can you smile and be a dedicated bike racer at the same time, anyway?

So, what do you think? The idea has some potential doesn’t it? Do you think that USA Cycling would want us under their wing? Nah. Next steps – we need a motto. How about this: “Veni, Vidi, Vomiti”?

Enough. Go ride and think about it. And make sure you say hello to everyone you see.