Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Do you remember the first time?

I like getting muddy.  I like bikes.  I want to share my passion for cycling with my family.  Attending a Rapha SuperCross last year with my family I was struck by the something-for-everyone nature  - this was an event, not just a race.  So I bit the bullet, invoked the N+1 rule and ordered a ‘Cross bike.  And now I am here. 

I line up amongst the Juniors and Seniors, a novice amongst professionals and amateurs.  In an hour, Rob Partridge will wipe the floor with the rest of the field – I won’t care then and I don’t care now.  This race is personal.  This is man and bike versus grass and mud.  I will slip on a corner and come off.  I will hit a muddy bit and slow to a crawl, forgetting I am allowed to get off and run.  I will remember to get off and run, and I will lose my footing.  My lungs will burn, my legs will burn.  Every muscle will beg me to stop.  And even though I think there’s no more, I will find just a little bit extra for those handful of seconds every lap when my kids run alongside me screaming encouragement. 

Every lap of the race the course changes and evolves– the off-camber corner that catches me out on lap one, I better on lap 2, is treacherous on lap 3 and has deteriorated to swamp by lap 4, destroyed by the procession of wheels and boots.

By the last lap the bike weighs double than at the start, everywhere clogged with grass and mud and shit.  There is a slug on my crank, completely unphased by it’s transition from bush to bike.  I am caked, covered in bruises from instantly forgotton knocks.  My throat is dry, my heart pounds and I am desperately searching for the line.

What do I learn in my first ‘Cross race?  Tyres are everything.  Tread and pressure, pressure and tread.  Water is everything.  Beer is everything.  Frites are everything.  A clean T-Shirt is everything.  Taking my children to play in the discarded foam wall is everything.  And I do it all again next weekend.


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