Here’s yet another entry to our “Spirit of ‘Cross” essay contest. This one, by Scott Van Bergen, is for any junior considering trying cyclocross, and any parent hoping to inspire their child to join the fun.(View the growing list of published Spirit of Cyclocross Essay Entries here.)

Surprising the Parents, Defying Human Instincts

We Still Get Up After the Crash - Photo by Larry Rosa

Umbrellas were starting to appear, as the rain that had been increasing all morning was now really coming down. However, it didn’t dull the roar of the cowbells around me as we stood there watching the racers charging up the hill one last time. One slipped down and had to do it again. I stood there, completely soaked, thinking to myself “Wow, how the heck could this be any fun at all?” I was 12, it was my first taste of ‘cross and it didn’t taste good.

My Dad came home talking a-mile-an-minute about how he was going to do it next season and I should join him, “We could be a team! It would be so much fun!” My mind drifted back to the guys running up the hill carrying their bikes and I thought about it. Long story short it didn’t happen, nor the next season, or even the one after that. Finally over the summer my Dad talked me into it and I got a friend and his dad in on it as well. It was going to be a great season.

October rolled around and the first race came along, and sadly, I was the only one who did it. My friend, my Dad, and everyone else disappeared like when you have to clean up after a party gone bad. They were making excuses “I’ve got too much homework,” “I have to work late” etc. etc. I have to forgive my Dad though, as he had doctor’s orders.

That first race went pretty badly but I walked away with a smile on my face. I was hooked. I can’t say what it is for sure but there is something that keeps me coming back for more. Hidden from my knowledge, my parents had a bet going that I wouldn’t get through the first race, let alone do a second. “Ha! Sorry!” is what I told them when I heard that.

As the season went on the weather got colder but we didn’t get any rain until the last race of the season. The mud was so deep in places that you couldn’t pedal without your foot ending up in the mud. Drainage ditches were full and of course we had to ride through them. There were parts of the course where you had to pedal down the hills because the mud was so deep. I walked away from that race feeling like the swamp monster from some bad sci-fi movie. But it was by far the best of the season.

I think back now and see that there is some sort of spirit to this sport that you won’t find anywhere else. If you are a ‘crosser you know what I’m talking about. I’m not very competitive and I usually finish towards the back of the pack but I still see people after the race that I know passed me at least once saying “Good job!” “Great race!” It makes it fun. There is something about this sport that catches your mind. It defies human instinct; when it’s raining torrents the last thing you typically want to do is get out there and ride around in it for 45 minutes. What makes this fun? Life has its unanswerable questions, and this one is out there for you to answer for yourself.