"I went into it with just three objectives: have fun, learn from it, and do it again."
by David Newcomer / Customer Service Manager
Getting back to racing this year taught me some good lessons. It was a modest re-introduction, don't get me wrong. There have been some issues in the last couple years that certainly didn't help, but a lot of it was on me. I just needed to make the time and commit. That took more than I expected.
When I decided this fall to get back with a few cyclocross race, I went into it with just three objectives: have fun, learn from it, and do it again. I'm happy to report that in my first race, I achieved two out of three! And by the time I raced in the Colorado State Championship last weekend, I'd met the third objective a couple of times.
For those not familiar with racing formats, you don't need to qualify for State Championships, by the way.
My first race was in Louisville, Colorado. It was warm, dusty, and fast. The race venue has a reputation for bad weather and is often called the "Bowl of Death." That wasn't the case this year, and my wife and daughter both joined me to cheer me on. I had fun. I learned a lot.
A couple weeks later I raced the Cross of the North in Fort Collins. Introduced my wife's sister and her husband to cyclocross racing. Didn't hurt that it was at the New Belgium Brewery. This was a 2-day race and we had a blast cheering on the races Saturday. Sunday morning brought my start time with snow and cold. The course had changed routes and the conditions made it a whole new experience. Fun? Yes, again. Learning? Oh boy.
Racing States I was nervous. Really nervous. It was even colder than the race in Fort Collins and my rear brake had acquired moisture somehow in the cable housing. It was frozen. I had to stuff the bike in the back of the car and crank the heat to defrost it while I warmed up on the trainer with my road bike.
In cyclocross races you get called up to the start based on how many points you've accumulated in the season. To bring the point home about my participation in the state championships, I was the last name called. Fine. Made my objective this time a clear one. I'd decided to race. Race hard. The first couple races I was still getting my bearings and taking it easy. This race was going to be different. Or so I thought.
I got a flat in the first lap. I was doing pretty well prior to that. I had already passed a number of racers and was mid-pack. But the flat set me back. All the way back. I'm going to list my learning "opportunities" here in a minute, but this one will stick with me. I don't have a pit bike. I don't have spare wheels. But I should certainly have my CO2 and inflator in my pocket, not the seat bag (though, thankfully, I at least had that).
What else did I learn? Here's the short list.
- Riding isn't training – Commuting isn't training. Next year will be one that sees a specific training schedule. Likely with the help of a coach.
- Warm-Up – Find a pre-race routine and stick to it. You've got to put in some hard efforts and get ready for the start which is fast and furious.
- Look up – Particularly in CX, you've got to see the exit of the turn. The courses demand good handling and have a lot of tight spots, challenging short hills to climb, and barriers to dismount and run over or through. Staring at your front tire helps with none of these.
- Yes, practice your dismount and remount – But don't be too intimidated by it. You can do it.
- Be prepared with the right equipment – Tire choice is a big one. Toe spikes can be helpful for hills encased in ice! Clothing-wise I was fine!
- Share the love – I introduced a few new people to the scene (thanks for cheering me on!) and ran into a lot of old friends I've not seen for a while.
Racing is a great community and it was so much easier to come back to than I'd built up in my head. The exeprience was amazing. I'm looking forward to next year already!
Scratch that. I'm training for next year!
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About the Author
A lifelong commuter and amateur racer in road, CX and MTB, David Newcomer has experience with just about every aspect of our sport. A former race director of the Bob Cook Memorial Mt. Evans Hill Climb, and Executive Director of one of the largest cycling clubs in Colorado, he brings a wide range of experience to share with others. David is the Customer Service Manager at Pactimo and host of our podcast "On the Road with Pactimo." You can reach him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org