Cyclocross Fun in Kalamazoo – No Chain, Some Pain…

Today I expanded my cycling resume to officially include “cyclocross racing” to the list. While I’ve owned a cyclocross bike for several years, up until today most of what I’ve used it for has been riding the spring roads here in Michigan (which makes me much more confident with all the potholes).  Besides, what other sport can you do where prizes include six-packs of beer and everyone (who’s of age, of course) can grab a cold one after racing?!

Style points for the multi-colored handlebar tape.

I did the Kisscross Masters “B” race at Markin Glenn Park in Kalamazoo, which means I had 45 minutes of racing ahead of me. I initially thought about doing the “C” race for 30 minutes, but for the $25 entry fee, figured I’d at leasts get another 15 minutes of exercise. We took off at noon with a good group of other racers. I had done a couple of pre-race laps to get a handle on the course and true to cyclocross races, there were two sections on the course which required a dismount. The first section involved three foot-high barriers and with some tips from Andy at Team Active the week before, was able to negotiate them without any problems. It’s amazing how much easier it is to dismount and then run with your bike when you actually un-clip from your pedals!

The second area that required a dismount (and run) was just after a section that took riders along the water’s edge (yes, that means SAND!), and while riding parallel to the water was not much of a challenge, headed back up to the course involved 10-15 feet of wet and soft sand – impossible to ride. Even the “A” racers all walked up this section. More about the sand later.

Each of the laps was about 1.25 miles, but as is the case with cyclocross you race for a set amount of time, so the number of laps you end up doing really depend on how fast the leaders are riding. At 30 minutes (which is the time of the “C” race – and the race I was planning on doing, until I got there and signed up) I was glad that I had 15 minutes left (and not the full “A” race of 60 minutes).

Kinda hard to go very fast when you don’t have a chain!

Completing my final lap, I successfully managed to run over the three barriers, climb the big hill at the back of the loop, successfully navigated “the ditch” and had one more trip to the beach before crossing the line. I made the hairpin turn to the left and headed into the sand, and while each of my previous entrances were smooth, this time I caught a deep rut left by another bike and it got me off track. The sudden stop caused my chain to come off, get wrapped up in my rear cog and then I heard the SNAP!

Crap, I broke my chain but the good news was that I had made it to the home stretch. This (of course) was also the most populated spectator section, so when everyone realized why I was carrying my bike and running the rest of the couse, the cowbells and cheers seemed to continue to increase. I got passed by several other riders, but at this point it didn’t really matter. I just wanted to finish, and that mission was accomplished.

Toasting the beach that took my chain on the last lap.

As I enjoyed my “post-race” beer and watched the “A” group race, I couldn’t help but think about my first mountain bike race, which must have been 1989 or 1990. Similar to my finish today, I suffered a mechanical at the end of the race, but unlike today, figured that if my bike was broke I was done. But, luckily I had a buddy yell “RUN, you’re almost there” and ended up finishing my first mountain bike race carrying my bike.

Since then I’ve lost count of how many mountain bike races I’ve done, but that one finish always sticks in my mind. Today’s no exception and what a great way to kick off my cyclocross efforts.

~Eric Cook

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