You can love cyclocross all you want. By no means should you expect it to love you back, not now, not ever.
It started pretty early today. Rolled out around 6:15, last thing I did was check my email on the 'Droid phone. Scott emailed the team late and said the course was bone dry, don't bother bringing rain tires. Naturally, by the time I hit Route 70 north of Columbia, it was raining hard enough that the windshield wipers didn't make much difference.
The rain kept up right until the races started at 9:00, then it mercifully cut off. The Lillypons well, lilly ponds, were dried out, as well as the paths. The course was bumpy as hell, though somebody recently ran a bulldozer over them in what appears to have been a humorous attempt to make fast moving bicycle tires make a motorcycle noise as they zip over the corrugation. There were some pretty epic holes in what used to be merely mud puddles. Maybe the drought conditions are causing sinkholes?
After I got registered at 8:00 I took off in my stylin' Hefty Bag Raincoat (Dior Fall Homeless Guy Collection) and motored around with Ken and a (hopefully) new teammate. Motoring up the gravel road toward the Back 9, my tubular flatted. Well... there goes $79. So I carried / walked the bike back to the pits. Somebody offered to go get my spare but I demurred, noting that the nature of 'cross is that it is the only racing discipline that is pretty much straight "F*** You!" from end to end, and not walking back to the pits when you flat at the most distant point on the course sort of defeats the purpose. It's not cross if it doesn't have the hardships.
From there I had a crummy warmup. Biggs had some Stan's and Slime that he generously agreed to let me use, but the goofy valve stem on the Fangos doesn't extend long enough to fasten the valves to install it, so unless you have the needle sort of attachment for the Stans you're out of luck. So I was down to the spare rear clincher wheel and did a sort of desultory warmup, enough to loosen up for tempo intervals but nothing like what is necessary for a cross race.
I was gridded about 75th. When the whistle blew, I hung in okay until we hit the grass, then started slipping back. The legs were just plain closed. I did okay through the ponds, out onto the gravel road, and then they started to open up a bit. I hammered past a few guys, slid around a turn or two, bounced through a few holes... and flatted at the exact same spot on the furthest spot from the pits.
That's what I thought anyhow. So I started walking back to the pits again. As I got down to the second turn on the gravel I noticed a BBC rider laying with his feet down toward the pond, a couple other riders with him. "What happened?" One guy then says, "He says he just broke his neck."
Hearing that took the starch out of my anger. Along with a couple other guys, we quickly started flagging riders into the left lane, to keep them away from the downed guy. He may have failed to scout the course well, and it appears he tried to clip the apex of the corner to make a pass. Unfortunately, there was a pumpkin-sized hole there, and if a rider got off the course and stuck his front wheel into it, he'd have a helmet crushing endo, exactly like this poor fellow. I figured I didn't have anything else to do at that point - no spare wheels, right - so I might as well stick around and help, so I did that to the end of the M 3/4 35+ race. After that I walked back with another guy who flatted. Tough luck all around.
And that's it for the 4 minutes of racing I did. Good things happened in the spectating though. NCVC had a great party laid on for us in the back 9. I hung out with a good chunk of the Morning Ride crew from Columbia / Ellicot City, had a couple beers, cheered and heckled like a lunatic. Svenstrom's wife decided after three or four beers that it would make perfect sense to hop into the women's Cat 4 race, which she did, and rode at least mid-pack in though I noticed JB putting some time into her. We got to cheer on an NCVC girl who was really nervous about the drop-in, and it was cool to see that our cheering appeared to have a positive effect as she gained confidence and got past it quicker each lap. We were rowdy and loud enough that I've been getting comments on Facebook and email that it was really appreciated, and that we gave off the appearance of having a great time. I would love to give shout outs to all the people who stopped to chat, who I cheered, who made me laugh and smile, but there were just too damn many of them to count. This is what "community" feels like, isn't it? I'd also love to give the rundown of Coppis who had great races like Peter and Jeff and Jon and everybody... but I can't, there's too many. It was that kind of day.
So there we are. I had a 4 minute race today, and stuck around to help out in a little bit of a grim situation. I burned half a tank of gas. I lost $23 in entry fees, destroyed a $79 tubular and a $3 tube, and spent about 7 hours of my life in an utterly futile endeavor.
Cyclocross, in short, kicked my ass today.
More than in a long time, however, I really loved it.
Because loving cyclocross is one a them weird kinds of relationship. You love it, but even though it doesn't love you back you don't worry about it because you're in it for some other reason. Maybe you're a masochist. Maybe you're co-dependent and it's abusive to you. Maybe you grew up in a sport that abused you and you don't know anything different.
I know. I know. There are therapists who specialize in this kind of thing. I'm aware of that. I'm aware that I can get some help for my problem for around $150 an hour. I happen to have about that amount laying around right now, looking for a good cause.
Fortunately, that also just happens to be what it's going to cost me for a new set of tubulars. Man, they'll be sweeeeet.
I love cyclocross.