Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Herman Cross wrap-up: From the bottom up.

Last Saturday afternoon, I popped my proverbial cherry in the wonderful world of cyclocross in the town of Hermann, MO.  Before I launch in on that epic tale of Cat 4 wonderment, I need to describe the fact-finding mission I went on the week before the race as I consulted with a number of friends on different strategies.  I considered this background research - data collection if you will, from those more experienced; each of whom gave me pearls of wisdom.

Friend #1:
"What are your expectations for Saturday?" he asked.
I answered, "1) To not severely injure myself.  2) To not severely injure anyone else. 3) To not severely injure my bike 4) To not finish last.
"You really know how to shoot for the stars, don't you?" he replied.  "If you don't really care about winning - then here's what you do.  Start at the back and let all the insanity unfold ahead of you and then start picking people off.  It's more fun to pass people than get passed which is what's going to happen if you start at the front.  Oh yeah - and have fun."

Friend #2:
"How do I ride through sand?" I asked.
"Pedal hard through it, and if you eat shit, keep your shifters out of it or else they're fucked," he answered.

Friend #3:
"Any advice?" I asked.
"Start at the front and if you need to puke during the race - go right aheadRemember - you are getting old and you kind of suck, so you've got that going for you," he replied.

So, as I lined up for my race, I positioned myself about midfield.  The reason?  I have no clue.  Friend #3 told me I should be on the front - but it didn't feel like I deserved to be on the front, and yet I really thought I was better than sitting on the very back like Friend #1 told me to do - so I compromised with them, like they were a little angel and little devil sitting on each of my shoulders. 
Just about that time, a race offical approached us, the assembled horde of Cat 4s .  In the front row were 2 or maybe 3 young kids who were clearly juniors.  The official smiled at each of them and told them how good it was to see them there and then proceeded to go over the rules, making special notation of where the first-aid station was located.  He repeated its location three times, which I took as indication that he has seen his fair share of Cat 4 cyclocross races.  I glanced apprehensively over to the guy on my left who was wearing a crash helmet with a sticker on it that said "Lick me", and then over to the guy on my right whose bike had porteur handlebars on it as I wondered what in the hell I was doing there.  After the official finished, another guy standing close to me dressed in full team kit and whom shall henceforth be referred to as the 'douche-packer,' yells to him.

"Are you going to do a call-up?"
"No," the official responds.
"Why not?!!" theDP answered, clearly irritated.
"We are only doing that for the 1/2/3 races," the offical replied, very politely.
"Well, why are the juniors in the front?" asks the DP.
"I guess because they got here sooner than you did," answered the official.
"You think that's a good idea?" the DP asks.
The official takes a deep breath and then releases it in exasperated fashion.  He looks right at the DP and then says in a very tired voice. "Listen everyone, there are juniors in the front.  Keep an eye out."
"This is bullshit," the DP mutters under his breath.

I was suddenly distracted away from the silent conversation that had been continuing to run in my head between me, and Friends #1 and #3 over my starting position long enough to turn to the DP and say, "Would you chill the fuck out, please?  We are a bunch of Cat 4 sacks of shit - and still will be even if your ass somehow manages to set the course record for the night!"  In a perfect world, I would have actually formed these words with my mouth and said them.  Instead they remained just a thought inside my brain.  But I still dreamt of saying them.  In the midst of this day dream, in which I'd become a chiseled, trash-talking, cyclocross-racing bad-ass, relaxed and sitting on my top tube at the pre-race start line, with legs so sculpted they looked like they had been carved from marble, telling tales of cyclocross racing adventures to the juniors huddled around me, I was suddently awakened by the voice of the official who was counting down from 5.  And then just as quickly, he had released us and we were off on what would prove to become the longest 40 minutes I had experienced since I tried to sit through the movie Blue Velvet.  Oddly enough, my experiences were not so dissimilar from those of Dennis Hopper's character in the film in that, I too, found myself craving an oxgen mask and screaming "Mommy" within about 3 minutes. 
But that's where all similarities ended, thankfully.   At some point after feeling my digested turkey sandwich start to creep back up my esophagus, I looked down at my watch to see how long I had been out on the torturous course, feeling certainly it had to be close to 35 minutes, only to find the number 15 staring back at me from the stopwatch function.  And it occured to me that somehow, someway, cyclocross actually proves Einstein to be correct.....that time is relative and when you are on that damned bike, it can slow to a virtual standstill.

I have no idea where or even how I finished, but eventually I accomplished all 4 of my goals.  My friends cheered me on as I dragged my fat ass up those wretched steps and over ridiculously positioned barriers.  I kept my shifters out of the sand - but did manage to go blasting right through the barrier adjacent to the pit.  I picked off my fair share of riders, and stayed out of the first-aid tent..... however I'm also pretty sure this guy may have kicked my ass.....and deservedly so.
photo courtesy.

All in all, a flipping fantastic time and I can't wait for the next one.  And once again, I need to thank all of my friends who coerced me into doing this and then tolerated (and continue to tolerate) my steady barrage of questions and worrying.   
Anyway, no one cares what a cyclocross race looks like from the bottom up, as this account describes, so let's see something far more entertaing: the great video made of the Men's 1/2/3 race by Brent Davidson.

Big congrats to COMO racer Jon Schottler of Team Michelob Ultra/Big Shark Racing who took first on Saturday and second on Sunday to win the overall competition.  An amazing performance.  And also a huge THANKS! and congrats to race organizer Jeff Yielding who not only won the 40+ master's division, but also put on an incredibly well-organized event, even if there was no call-up in the Cat 4 race.  Jeff - if you can just sort that one thing out, you might truly have yourself a quality event!


  1. Thanks for making the trip to Hermann and enjoying the event.

    Cat 4 race did not have any call up riders (no cx state champs or Hermann champs from last year, that was how it worked) all should have been stagged in order of bib number.

  2. JY: Please forgive me - I was attempting to be facetious with my last comment and only mock the guy flipping out in my field a bit. The Cat 4 race was perfect as is...and the officials did a great job - as did you! Thanks again for a great event.

  3. Pretty good video, especially while wearing my Nitrous Oxide mask.

  4. I guarantee you had 10 times the enjoyment of the DP during the race. Way to go Poobah :)