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pre-season cyclocross worries
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beth h
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 Posted: Thu Aug 13th, 2009 03:51 pm

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So here I am at the end of short-track season, poised to begin my adventure in cyclocross, and I find myself full of doubts.

I've spent the summer getting used to Stompy (my singlespeed mountain bike) and learning how to handle it in the dirt. I've ridden it through alleys, unpaved streets filled with potholes and gravel, and on dirt trails in Forest Park -- all to get better at short track. It's been so fun that I KNOW I will race short-track again next year.

But cyclocross seems like a whole different thing. Running, mounts and dismounts, and keeping your bike upright in really thick mud. Although I've watched cross races over the last three seasons, I have yet to experience it from the inside. And there's no one here to really talk about with my concerns.

I feel worried -- about falling and getting hurt, about getting yelled at for being too slow in a field of hundreds (cyclocross fields in Portland are the size of small countries), about my humble flat pedals, about my middle-aged belly and starting the whole racing thing at such a late place in life, about nearly everything.
Lately, a few bike-savvy friends have told me NOT to race singlespeed; to get myself a more cross-specific bike; and to install clipless pedals. A couple of weeks of these messages and suddenly it feels like everything is wrong.

(Money and time dictate that the bike I have is the bike I'll ride for cross, so don't look for drastic change there. About all I'm doing is swapping in some narrower tires, but even that feels doubtful right now.)

I DO realize that I am already ahead of the game just for showing up as a newbie at my age, but this morning I am suddenly beset by an awful case of self-doubt. How do you deal with it when it shows up? Somebody please tell me what differences I should expect (between cross and short-track) so at least the unknown won't feel like such a void. Thanks.

girochatterbox
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 Posted: Thu Aug 13th, 2009 06:03 pm

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Hi Beth,

I've found the cyclocross scene, more than any other cycling discipline, to be incredibly supportive and focused on fun. Just being out there and racing hard - no matter where you are in the field - people will be cheering for you and encouraging you.

Oh, and I've only raced cx on a 12 year old, hard tail MTB with narrower tires. It was fun, and I wasn't there to win - just to enjoy myself and get the blood pumping. So, go for it! Use the equipment you've got. Bumble thorugh the mounts/dismounts the first time. It does not matter. You will get better.

Sarah

BethWellie
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 Posted: Fri Aug 14th, 2009 04:17 am

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Best advice: Go out and have fun!

Advice tidbit #2: Go to a clinic. They are awesome, laid back, and you can learn a ton in just a few hours, especially about dismounting and remounting.

Sarah is right...'cross is usually a super fun, super laid back, super supportive crowd. I can't speak specifically to the scene in Portland, but I've seen photos and it looks like one hell of a good time at those races.

My first cross races was two years ago. I hadn't ever done a bike race in my life (well, there was my really stupid mountain bike race in colorado 5 years before that, but we won't talk about that). I tried out the whole dismount and remount thing the Thursday before the first race. I rode my 30-lb hardtail mtb with big fat knobbies. I couldn't even shoulder it for run-ups. I showed up at the first race by myself without a clue. I got totally intimidated when I tried to warm-up with some other Bellas and got dropped on the first hill of the warm-up (later I found out that one of them raced Worlds and the others were all elite superstars...i later found the crew that was more my speed). I almost got in the car and went home. But I went out and did the race and it was AWESOME! Forcing myself to the line and seeing what this cx thing was all about was all I needed. I was hooked. Yeah, I looked like a retard at a bunch of races that year, slamming my bike into barriers, flipping over the bars in a sandpit, dropping my chain 27 times in one race, getting tangled in a raspberry bush on a wooded run-up...but its so much fun you don't even care.

There are tons of women your age and with your experience level who show up at races all the time. Its just such a fun atmosphere to be around that women want to be a part of it. It looks like there's a beginner women's category and a Master's Women's 35+ B category at Cross Crusade, for example, so you probably won't be that slow. And you might get heckled here and there if you slip in the mud or something like that, but its all in good fun. I've never raced short track, but I assume its about the same, just cx throws in some barriers. Go all out for 45-minutes from the whistle!

Stop worrying, you'll do great, just go out and have fun. That's what 'cross is all about.

beth h
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 Posted: Fri Aug 14th, 2009 12:39 pm

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Thanks -- I went to my first clinic last night and it's true, I feel MUCH better.
(Posted elsewhere on the Boards).
Beth

CarrieBee
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 Posted: Fri Aug 21st, 2009 03:57 am

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Beth! First off, there are people here to talk to!!! There are at least two other Bella's that race the cross crusades, me being one of them.  So, keep me posted on which races you're going to and be sure to find me (or the other bella Sara Johnson).  She's an A and I'll be a B. 

Second: No on is too old to start racing cross.  No one's bike is the wrong bike.  And when you're just starting out, you can't do it wrong. That's the great thing about cross. Just about anyone and any bike can race! There are plenty of other gals racing MTB's, 29ers, flat bar cross bikes. 

Third:  The weird cross skills will develop as you race.  And the majority of racers out there are very polite, encouraging, and don't yell.  If anyone is yelling they will catch hell for it because it's just not acceptable at cross crusades.  So don't worry about not being perfect at everything at first.  There is such a wide variety of people racing crusades, you will certainly fit in! Also, the women's field is used to racing together, all classes (including the 12 year old jr girls) in the same race.  Focus on were you're going and what you're doing and if some one needs to get around you they will figure it out.  Most women will call out if they need to sneak by.

Fourth: Stop worrying and have fun! And be sure and flag me down!

beth h
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 Posted: Fri Aug 21st, 2009 06:05 am

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Thanks so much! I WILL look for you at Crusade! I'm racing 10/4 and 10/25; and again 11/8 and 11/15. I'm also planning to go to USGP but doubt I will race there; I may just bring my Xtracycle and set up a little repair stand with some cheap tools for loan.

I'll be riding Stompy. See you at Alpenrose!

Beth


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