About a month after I started my effort to lose weight, I was contacted on Facebook by Scott, an old friend from the Vox days (whose current personal blog I can’t find). He was acting as mechanic for a team at the Cincy3 Cyclocross Festival. Would I want to come out and say “hi?”
I did, as I also wanted to check out the festival. Cyclocross is an off-road cycling discipline that actually predates mountain biking. The bikes started as modified road bike, and are raced on a relatively short course (2-3 miles), typically grass and gravel–not as rocky and rough as what a mountain bike might take on. The courses twist and turn, and, at various points, there are barriers the riders must dismount and carry their bikes over. Over the last several years, it has become the fastest growing segment of cycling, with the Cincinnati area being one of the hotbeds.
As I watched the racers take this on, I leaned over to my wife. “When I hit my target weight, can I get a cyclocross bike?” She agreed, not knowing the madness that would ensue..
In August, I hit that weight, and got a Fuji Cyclocross 4.0. It was just in time for a series of cyclocross time trials put on by the Cincinnati Cyclocross group, to raise money for a junior development team. After a few sessions getting pointers from other riders, I took to the start line. Ultimately, I did five out of the six in the series (missing one to see the Piano Guys).
Sports Illustrated posted an article called “Grueling Yet Addictive, Cyclocross Pushes Boundaries of Physical Limits,” which is a great overview of the sport. “Grueling yet addictive” is an apt description. After every time trial, I was anxious for my next one. I got a license to race from USA Cycling, cycling’s governing body in the United States, and joined a cycling team, 7 Hills Racing. I’ve worn jerseys from pro teams before, but that was much like wearing a Cincinnati Reds’ jersey–just being a fan. Wearing the kit of my team is special.
In addition to the time trial series (which was more intermural practice), I’ve competed in three mass-start races for USA Cycling points. I’ve been finishing in the middle of the pack. For a middle-aged guy starting in the sport, I regard these results as “credible.” Each race I can tell I’m going a bit faster, executing smarter tactics, and my skills with the barriers are improving.
During my first ride in team kit, I realized that this was a dream come true. I used to want to race bicycles, starting in college. I realized, even then, the Tour de France was out of the question, but for a local club was a reasonable ambition. I was always too heavy or too slow to really be credible. However, between losing the weight and the time on the bike that helped achieve that (and was inspired by that), it became a reality. While the bicycle may have been the material prize, this was my true reward.