Signing up for Community Cross, I guessed it would be a pretty technical course, but felt it was a good idea to work on my skills. I met Jason at the venue on Friday night to preview the course. We got a late start down, so it was dark and I couldn’t actually see the much of the course with the bike headlight. (This may actually be the best way for me to preview a technical course. If I’d seen it clearly, I may have shown up Saturday morning ready to spectate.)
We arrived Saturday morning with plenty of time to pre-ride before my 8:00 start. I was happy to meet up with Lori W found it incredibly helpful to have another equally terrified friend to practice and think through a survival strategy for each element. We let people pass us and just worked our way around slowly, with a lot of commentary. This was definitely the most technical course I’d ever been on – Lori too, I think. We survived one lap and decided we’d benefit from another, together.
Other racers were very helpful and offered advice for getting through the sand and down the steep off camber section. We got the sand but settled on running the other. Each time through the turns got a little better- or at least a little less horrifying.
The EMT got lost getting to the race (not particularly comforting). So our start got delayed and we were able to stay on the course longer. I think I finished 5 or 6 laps prior to the start. It was probably on the fine edge of being tired, but the practice on the course was amazingly helpful.
At the start, I didn’t feel as terrified as the group bunched up and crowded through the first turn. The first section was tight and difficult to ride because of the racers more than the terrain. The temperature was perfect. the other racers were incredibly awesome. And somewhere toward the end of the second lap. I started finding flow through the turns, was able to ride more of the small switchback climbs and the trees that lined the course seemed less menacing. By the 4th lap I was enjoying the course. It went from terrifying to awesome.
I don’t know why or how it happened but a switch got flipped that day. I felt like I crossed an imaginary line and became a cyclocrosser, for real. I had moments that felt fluid rather than white-knuckled feats of indomitable will. The course was one of my favorite courses. I’ll be back next year.
The organizers did an amazing job designing a challenging course and providing a great vibe. They handled the scheduling snafus with grace and humor. This is a great addition to the NECX line-up.
Beginner’s notes: It was nice to have a Women’s Cat 3/4 category. Riding with the pros and elites is great, but it was nice to be in a more even field. The course is very technical and would be very mountain bike friendly. For new racers with all road experience this is a challenging course, but do-able and lots of pre-riding is helpful.
Photo credit Jarvis Lee.