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(Photos © Jonathan Maus)
Just before I left Sunday’s Cross Crusade event out at Hillsboro Stadium, race director Brad Ross emerged from his RV and said, “Now this is a real ‘cross race!”.
All season long, cyclocross purists have grumbled at our unseasonably dry and warm race-day weather. Real ‘cross, they would say, happens in the cold and mud.
Yesterday, they got their race.
It was a slog of epic proportions. The mud came in every diabolical variety: soupy, sticky, grassy, slippery, deep, unpredictable. Oh, and there were puddles — some more like swimming pools, others smaller, but no less tricky to navigate.
And on top of all that, it was cold.
At the start line, racers jumped up-and-down to stay warm, peeling off their jackets at the last possible moment.
Even as a spectator, it was clear the mud took its toll on the racers. Just minutes into their first lap, they looked shell-shocked, crestfallen, and of course, covered in mud.
With those images in my head, I begrudgingly prepared for my race. It’s been a long time (over ten years?!) since Id’ competed in such adverse conditions. I kept expectations low and just focused on staying upright.
But to my surprise, I actually loved it (despite how I looked). The mud was a fantastic challenge, and each time I rode through a section of it my morale improved.
With extreme focus, I tried to ignore the bits of mud in my eyes, my slimy gloves, and my slowly numbing extremities. In the deep mud sections I tried to be as light in the saddle as possible — to float through the thick soup while maintaining as much speed and cadence as possible.
It was hard, but it was a good hard, and in the end I couldn’t stop smiling.
I can’t think of a more fitting end to the 2007 Cross Crusade.
See all my cyclocross coverage here.