After a long Cyclocross season and traveling cross country to Arizona for the McDowell Meltdown Marathon race the week before, of course I came down with a sinus infection prior to the last weekend of the FLCX season. Not knowing exactly where I was in points with the other competitors I had to show up and do what I could. The East Orlando Cross Fest was at the same site as Spookier Cross earlier in the season which I won, so I was bummed I wouldn’t be at full strength to give it a go on race day.
Unfortunately the race organizers removed all of the singletrack mountain bike section of the course (BOO), so my advantage coming from the MTB world was eliminated. The course was flat, straight and fast, like a crit race on grass. There was no way I could do 2 races in a day on half a lung, so I watched the Masters race to see my friends battling it out there for one last race this season.
When it was time for our race I hammered it as hard as I could, which kept me with the lead group for maybe half a lap. I just didn’t have the legs and lungs to even come close, so I settled in and rode with some other guys I’d raced with all year.
In the end I finished 6th which was good enough to secure the overall FLCX season championship for Cat 4/5. My first year racing CX was definitely a success, and I learned so much by doing it wrong and getting a few things right.
Here’s a snippet of a few of the things I learned year 1:
- Cyclocross is about community. Get there early, hang out late, talk to the other racers & organizers. It’s a great spectator sport and (mostly) family friendly. Just keep the kids away from the hecklers or they might get covered in 4loco.
- Holeshots are important, but not as critical as XC racing. There will be plenty of places to pass throughout the lap so as long as you’re toward the front, you’ll probably be ok.
- The fast guys and girls are really fast. You’re going to get lapped, it’s ok. Just hang on their wheel and try to learn something for the next race.
- Cyclocross is not Endurance MTB racing. Going at a pace where you’re smiling and having conversations (aka, my usual MO) means you’re having a good time but not going nearly hard enough. You should be out of breath and legs burning for the entire race, and that’s how I felt in the races I did best in.
- Tires matter. Tubeless is good, I hear tubulars are too, gravel tires are good for grass and hardpack but don’t bring them in the mud or you’ll be sliding… or walking.
- Cyclocross is hard on bikes. Make sure you give your bike a thorough cleaning and inspection after each race. You’re going to go through chains, brakes, and other items throughout the season. This is why the pros have pit bikes.
- Have a pit bike. I used my singlespeed Mountain Bike as pit bike once in WAR #3 and it kept me close enough to tie in points for the overall WAR series. If I didn’t have one I would have been completely out of the running.
- It’s hard to maintain fitness in Cyclocross season. When you’re used to long weekend rides and instead you’re racing for 45 minutes spurts 4 times throughout a weekend, you have to find time in the week to get good rides in. I definitely didn’t, and I faded as the season went on.
- Cyclocross is more like a bike party than a race. If you like bikes and parties, you should try CX, especially if you have a smart mouth.
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