We did it! We made it through the first cyclocross race of the season. And it was an absolute blast!
At the end of the 2018 cyclocross season, I was so ready for a break. I only raced four times, but by the end of November, I was ready to hang up my bike for a full week of much-needed rest. The stress of racing got to me more than I anticipated. But at the same time, I couldn’t wait for the 2019 season. I had done so well for my first year, and I was so proud of myself for topping four podiums and gaining a ton of racing and technical experience thanks to tips and practice sessions with friends. I knew what I needed to work on, and I knew I had a ton of time to do it.
Then, suddenly, a month ago, I was two weeks out from the first race at Harlow Platts park in South Boulder…and I hadn’t practiced even one dismount. The upside? I was in great shape from riding around in the mountains all summer, doing big rides with friends, and trying to keep up with the fast guys. My engine was strong, my legs were used to taking a beating and recovering quickly, and I had a blast doing all of that. I toyed with the idea of following a true CX training plan, but there’s too much fun to be had in Boulder in the summertime. Too many spontaneous rides, too many long gravel races to enter, too many fun runs and hikes to take on the weekends when I’m just over bikes for a minute. Listening to what my body wanted to do was exactly what I needed to make it to cyclocross season ready and not already burnt out on bikes.
Last Friday evening, as I packed my bag full of extra kit, a light jacket, snacks, water bottles, and a flat kit, I got all the nervous jitters. But I was so ready. The course opened up at 7 a.m. for pre-riding, so I loaded everything into my car with coffee in hand and got there as soon as I could to check in, pin on my number, and test ride a few laps before it got congested with riders doing the same thing I was.
This year I also moved up a category. Last year I raced Cat 5 (beginner) the whole season because, well, I was a beginner. I emailed the head of BRAC a couple months ago and asked to be moved up to Category 4 since I had, essentially, won every race I entered last year. She had no problem with it and changed my license in time for the first race. I was nervous to move up but excited and ready, knowing my fitness was much further along than last year.
The first men’s race went off around 8 a.m., so I rolled around the course taking photos and studying their movements; I watched how they took turns, navigated the sand pit, and looked for when and where they unclipped before the barriers. The nerves were definitely settling in; that familiar tingly sensation rushed through my body just like it did during cross country in college. It’s a good fear—an excited fear.
About seven minutes before our race at 8:50 a.m., the official called each of us individually to take a place on the starting line. One by one, the women rolled up, packing in tight behind and next to each other.
“Lindsay Edwards!” he shouted.
I found a spot on the far left since I knew our first turn was a hard, uphill left about 100 meters from the line. I wiped my sweaty palms on my shorts and studied the ponytails poking out from underneath the helmets in front of me. I only recognized a handful of women…all of whom I crushed last year. Definitely ready.
“Ten seconds, ladies!” the official shouted again as he stepped to the side of the line.
Honestly, I can’t remember if he shot a gun, blew a whistle, or sounded a horn. But ten seconds later, we were off and out onto the grassy course in a group of around 25. The first lap was a smoker, and also kind of a mess. The group stretched out almost immediately and I cruised to the front. I learned I’m just more comfortable on the front because no one is in my way and I don’t feel like I’m constantly chasing someone. And I don’t know why, but I’m never scared of being passed. I look ahead and keep my mind on the next turn, the next barrier, the next sandpit.
I went through the first lap first, which means my pace determined how many laps the group would do in about 40 minutes. I rarely pay attention to how fast I’m going on each lap or how many I have to do until I’m really hurting a couple laps later. But this time I’m guessing I went through in about 8 minutes since we ended up doing five total laps.
Since this course was constructed in a park in South Boulder, there weren’t really any technical sections like off cambers or stairs. It was wind-y and sprint-y and really favored riders with horsepower. There were, however, two sandpits that really got to my quads, and on the fourth lap, I had an epic faceplant over one of the barriers, which really didn’t help me out. But other than that, I felt great the whole race, held the front the entire time, then really turned it on for the last lap to finish strong and pass as many women as I could in the category above me. (There are a couple categories that race together for the sake of time. Sometimes it can cause congestion on the course and other times it’s a blessing because it helps riders focus on passing one person at a time.)
One of my favorite parts of this race was hearing some friends cheer for me! The cyclocross community is so fun and supportive; everyone cheers for everyone, even the women on the course as you pass them! It’s pretty special.
When I finally crossed the line on my last lap, I knew I had won. And while I’m very aware that category 4 or 3 aren’t exactly professional, I was still very excited and proud. The first race was in the bag, I busted a little rust off the legs, I was confident and aggressive on the course, and I had such a blast being out there. I was also…exhausted. After I dismounted and hobbled through the chute, an official ran over to me and clipped my timing chip off my fork and strongly encouraged me to get out of the way since riders were slowly crossing the line behind me.
I stuck around to watch a few races after mine…and pet the puppies…
then headed out to the dirt roads north of Boulder for an extra 40 miles of riding. It was a gorgeous day and an excellent start to the season! I’m racing again in Longmont this Sunday. Should be fun!