Cyclo-cross: Mud, Bikes and Beer

When you’ve been training all season and have completed your big ‘A race,’ you feel a bit listless.  You don’t want to lose your fitness, but going back to training full time is also unappealing. I personally need something post season to look forward to that isn’t 3+ km swims in the pool, 6+ hours on the bike or a 2 hour run.

Cyclocross is HUGE in the US and for years I wanted to try it.  Unfortunately for me, I’ve had surgeries over every winter and all plans to race cyclocross (CX) have fallen apart.  I had a fun race season in 2018, but had suffered fractured ribs and a torn hamstring, I needed something to change the pace of training.  I pulled the trigger and found a used CX bike online.

For those not familiar with CX, it’s the hardest 40 minutes you can experience on a bike.  You follow a short track of mud, hurdles and sometimes stairs. You complete as many laps as you can in that allotted time. The league that I have been racing in has a women’s only race, we get a lap or two to recce the layout and then we line up. 

I rocked up to my first race and my friends Paul and Kate told me what to do. I literally showed up to a park with my bike and just rode.  It is the best way to ride a bike, just ride. Paul was on the side just shouting out me ‘stay in the saddle, don’t stand up’ when I found a hill.  Or what gears to even start in.  To sum it up, I finished with a giant smile on my face and mud in my eyes.

In that first season I had raced a handful of races and never took any of them seriously. I went out and just rode…I still need to remember to smile for the camera :p

My highlight that season was racing in regional champs with Kate: Bikes, Mud and Beer at its best.

Fast forward to 2019 and I had finished Ironman in July and just didn’t have the ability to sit on a bike for 6 hours anymore. I bought myself a new cross bike, because you know, n+1 when it comes to bikes.  I decided this season I was going to take cross a bit more seriously…and by more seriously I mean show up to a few more races. 

The first race of the season for me was at Campbell Park in Milton Keynes.  This specific race was hosted by the @Velovants (Link) peeps and was the 2nd race in the Central CX League for the season.  The goal of this race was to get 100 women to the start line.  They were able to smash that with a record 165 women on the start line that day, including myself. The largest turnout for any women’s CX race in the UK. It was awesome to see so many women picking up the sport for the first time and loving it.  It was by far, my favorite race of the season.

Where GoPro’s are not usually allowed on course, the @VeloBants.cc team got special permission to record the ladies race:

This past season it was about having fun and participating in more races. I started to perfect my flying mount…

Cross is all about fun, and most importantly, not triathlon.  I got my step-daughter in on the fun with a couple races this season. It gave her so much courage, but also vastly improved her bike handling skills

All throughout the season I was able to race along some club friends and amazingly fast ladies as well All season long it was an amazing show of camaraderie!

I was excited to see my friend, and pro triathlete, Alice Hector, also join in on the fun.  Our first race together she showed up and asked all the questions.  She had her bike, and really I told her, ‘Just have fun.’  The quote of the day though, ‘it’s like Bambi on ice…’ …Oh sooo true.  I don’t want to brag, but I beat her.  In my books, I beat a pro triathlete…let’s just forget that it was her first time and of course, just for fun…but… I still won 😀

Alice loved it, and noted how chill it was. Triathlon is the perfect sport for high strung people and really it can be tense on the starting line.  Cross is just show up, ride your bike and have a beer. The perfect sport really. 

My glory of beating Alice came to an end in my last race of the season.  She got herself some proper cross wheels and was on my tail.  I *thought* I was on our last lap…then burnt my legs out in the deep mud

She caught me with about half a lap to go..we hit the major climb of the course and my legs just died. I couldn’t’ catch her through the foot of mud we had to run through… She absolutely deserved it though.  Most importantly, it was fun.

With any sport, if it isn’t fun, then don’t do it.  When triathlon isn’t fun, you have to stop.  After an intense season of racing and training, the offseason is the perfect time to pick up  a new sport and something fun and challenging.

I would like to thanks the peeps at VeloBants for letting me use their tent and providing a ‘power up’ at every race! A huge thank you to @Thatcameraman for the awesome shots!

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