Reflections on a season of cyclocross


Last weekend was a season wrap for my first year racing cyclocross.

I limped across the finish line at Darden Towe Park in Charlottesville in 5th place, a finishing position congruent with how I feel about my season as a whole: pretty good, but with room for realistic improvement.

It’d rained the whole day before the Charlottesville race, making for pretty muddy conditions and soft corners.

I pinned on a number eight times this cyclocross season, an 800 percent increase from last year! The Virginia CX season continues for a few more weeks, but the only race I’ll be doing before 2019 draws to a close is The Rustbucket Races in Norfolk in a few weeks, but that’s not in the VACX series.

Here’s what’s on my mind in the aftermath of my rookie year:

  • Road fitness only carried me so far.

After a lovely summer full of weekend rides with teammates, Tuesday night crit racing at Bryan Park, and after-work training rides before sunset, I came into the early autumn feeling strong. I got my Category 3 road upgrade right at the end of the summer, which was both a proud achievement of mine and a piece of convenient timing since it allowed me to auto-upgrade to Cat 4 in CX from the get-go.

I decided to race the Cat 3/4 CX races this year for a few reasons. I believe all Cat 5 races should be as beginner-friendly as possible, since it wasn’t all that long ago that I was a frustrated Cat 5 wondering what the hell some clearly strong riders were doing in a field with beginners like myself.

But the salient reason I chose the Cat 3/4 races is they’re almost always held at 1:30 p.m., not 9 a.m. like the Cat 4/5s. This made for much easier morning-of travel arrangements, a.k.a., I got to sleep in.

Anyway, I had as successful of a cyclocross season as I could have reasonably asked for, considering I’d never really ridden off-road…ever. But it’s not a coincidence I got my best results on the courses that were less technical and more “power” courses.

The amount of dexterity needed in cyclocross was jarring to me. I knew I’d consistently lose time on off-camber corners and trail sections through woods, but I didn’t think it’d be where I’d literally lose races.

On a road bike I like to believe have a pretty smooth, metronomic cadence and pace, but during cyclocross races I haphazardly stomp on the pedals and surge like hell. Riding smooth is so goddamn challenging and something I need to practice. 

  • Being catlike going over barriers is the way to go. 

Speaking of fluidity, I looked no further than to my tuxedo cat for inspiration on how to get over barriers. Siggi just glides from the floor to the couch to the coffee table to the counters —  her movement is always lateral, never up-and-down.

I tried to emulate that in going over the barriers. Some might call pulling race tactics from a small mammal that sleeps all day dumb, but I call it “looking for value wherever it can be found.”

This is decidedly not-catlike.

– I don’t know a goddamn thing about cyclocross tactics. 

During pre-race recon rides I would try to scout out which sections to launch attacks and which ones I should just ride conservatively. But aside from that, I don’t know whether gains can actually be made from pure race strategy in cyclocross.

I’d often race with my teammates Neil Etheridge and Ben Rasich, but we never discussed how to best cooperate to get the best results possible. Instead we’d attack each other…because…it’s…fun to?

And I’m not even sure I know the best way to pace myself during races. Sure, a lot of the time you’re pretty firmly in the position you’ll finish in by mid-race, but take this for example:

In Charlottesville, someone was probably like 10 seconds behind me. Should I have tried to rope-a-dope them by slowing my pace, then put on the gas as soon as they were close? Am I a big dumb idiot for thinking counter-attacking yourself is a strategy worth trying? Is there anything more to cyclocross other than just handling your bike well and being really fast?!

  • Having the right gear, not the fanciest gear, mattered. 

I’m quick to besmirch the idea of buying all the common bike upgrades like power meters, carbon wheels and electronic groupsets, since I honestly believe such gear is never going to actually be the difference between winning and losing races.

But I do concede certain things matter in cross, namely the stuff that’ll keep you moving. I dropped my chain probably 10 times this season and had my old gravel tires slide out on me a handful more, costing me dozens of finishing positions. Putting a chain holder on my frame and getting proper off-road knobby tires made a drastic difference.

  • The weather is unreliable and absolutely will affect the race. 

I’ve got anecdotes about extreme weather from this season but they’re uninteresting. I’ll just continue packing every piece of clothing I could reasonably need going forward.

  • It turns out the back-end of a double-header is hard. 

I really goofed during the Hampton Roads Festival of Cross when I went way too hard on a course that I struggled with on Saturday, which led to me being spent for Sunday’s race, which, had I been fresh, would have been much better suited for me.

It feels antithetical to the entire idea of “bike racing” to show up to a race not planning to go full gas, but next year I’ll definitely pick my spots on those full race weekends.

  • I must not lose sight of the fact that I do this because it’s fun.

All of the excitement I feel the week before a race evaporates about 15 minutes before the whistle. At that point I’m usually trying to stay warm and trembling in fear of what the course is about to do to me.

“We pay all this money and drive hours round trip, to race for maybe an hour, during which we are in extreme pain,” I joked to Neil last weekend. “This is what we consider a fun way to spend a weekend.”

But ever since I decided to scale back my road racing, I’ve focused very much on having fun racing bikes. Sometimes the fun is riding a clean race and landing on the podium, other times it’s enjoying taking a mini-road trip with a friend to somewhere in the state I wouldn’t go otherwise, to do something that challenges us.

Above is Pocahontas State Park and the Ancarrow’s Landing Trail. Road riding can be repetitive and, if you’re training, downright discouraging. But getting out in the woods and ripping around dirt corners makes me remember how fun riding your bike really can be. I’ve tried to take that mentality with me to the start line of races.

Hiding in the washing machine: Adventures in cyclocross 2019


There has been a moment in every cyclocross race I’ve done where I go to a dark place. It usually happens around halfway through, when I do the simple math of how many laps I’ve done and how many more are left.

I find myself there because cyclocross is really, profoundly hard. First it brings your heart rate all the way up to your threshold, then it makes you use your fine motor skills to go around slippery corners, take off-camber turns, dismount and clear barriers and cook a Jacques Pépin-approved French omelette — all while being aware of the race situation.

In cyclocross, you have to focus on every inch of ground in front of you. You have to constantly be carefully picking what gear to be in. You have to make so many decisions on the fly while the rest of your body is trying to focus on a simple task: pedaling as hard as possible.

Cross and off-road riding in general has been a refreshing change of pace from road riding, which is where my roots are. There are few things in life more exhilarating than ripping through corners in a crit race. It makes me feel like I’m strapped to an ACME rocket headed to space,

But when I’m out there riding up grass hills and down dirt trails, I feel like I did when I was a little kid, getting lost in the woods on my BMX bike. I’ve loved it so much that I’ve found myself pinning on numbers this fall and hitting the Virginia Cyclocross series in earnest.

Scenes from one of the Sorry Honey I’ve Gotta Work Late training series, held at Forest Hill Park.



The 2019 Virginia State Cyclocross Championships just so happened to be held at Chimborazo Park here in Richmond. Earlier this year I woke up at an unspeakable hour to drive two hours to Harrisonburg for a 9:30 a.m. race, so being able to roll out of bed and ride to the race was a welcome change.

The course at Chimborazo is highlighted by a ~13 percent-grade pavement hill just before the finish. I’d guess that a lot of race-winning moves have been made on that hill over the years, and I decided I was going to try to use it as a launch pad.



That strategy worked, somewhat. I was able to use the hill to bridge up to a few guys in front of me, and if that wasn’t an option, I’d look over my shoulder and try to put a few seconds into whoever was nearest behind me.

Cyclocross isn’t as tactics-laden as road racing, I’ve learned, but one thing I do know is that you have to pick your spots on the course to try to gain time and position.

The race whittled down and I found myself in the dark place. I felt a few jolts of tightness in my quads on the second-to-last lap as I charged up the hill and my thinking went from “Maybe I’ll be able to catch the guy in second,” to “If I keep pushing like this I will cramp up and almost certainly lose my podium spot so let’s just ride tempo.”

Which is what happened!

National cyclocross champion and general destroyer of worlds Greg Wittwer told me a few weeks ago that racing cyclocross is like putting your body through a washing machine, which is accurate. Your wrists hurt from gripping the bars and brakes, your core hurts from trying to stabilize your body around corners, and your legs are, of course, smashed at the end. 

But cyclocross is fun, which I’ve realized is the dang point of it all. Bike racing in the US ain’t in great shape. Road races are dissolving at record pace, and the ones that are around don’t draw the crowds they used to. Yet cyclocross is thriving, and I now understand why.

Mike tries cyclocross


For the last year, my teammates were singing the praises of cyclocross to me. All I heard about was how fun it is, how it lacks the pretension that rears its head in road racing, and how it’s the perfect way to get through the chilly autumn.

I decided I ought to give it a go. When I told everyone I was signed on to race the Richmond Festival of Cross at Chimborazo Park in Church Hill, I heard the following:

“You’re going to be in the red the entire time.”

“It’s so much harder than road racing.”

And my personal favorite, “Last time I raced that course I vomited.”

I don’t own a cross/mountain/gravel bike, so I hit up Andrew Kenny who let me borrow his 2000 Colnago Dream, a bike that might have been raced by the old Dutch Rabobank team once upon a time. Sure, its drivetrain was a bit dated and it only had cantilever brakes, but it fit me and it did the job.

My teammates’ forewarnings about cross racing were correct. It is hard as hell. There is no coasting or recovering, you’re going full gas the entire time, and Chimbo’s course features a ~10 percent gradient climb that tears your legs to bits, right before you have to zig-zag through a false-flat on soft grass.

Neil warned me that the flow of the race could easily be decided in the first few turns since it’s so hard to move up, and he was right.

My chance to pass people was on the aforementioned hill, which was fortunately paved. I gave it all I had up that hill and was able to overtake a handful of people on each pass.

When I finally limped across the line, I was in 8th position which exceeded even my loftiest hopes for the race. Better yet, Neil rode away from the pack and took the win!

Neil on the top step.

In my limited experience, cyclocross is both extraordinarily hard and a total blast. Ripping through grass corners and bunny-hopping roots in the mud made me feel like I was 10 again, getting lost in the woods on my BMX bike.

It feels a bit unfair to compare a cross race to a road race because it’s so drastically different. Cross felt more like a rough HIIT workout with the technicality, running up stairs and general “smash-and-grab” effort required.

Part of me was hoping I’d hate it so that I wouldn’t feel compelled to buy another bike, yet here I am, bookmarking bikes that are fit for both cyclocross racing and randonneuring…

Thoughts from the breakaway


Last week was the season finale of the Bryan Park Training Series.

It was the last chance this year to get a good result.  It was also 90° with like, inside-of-an-old-dog’s-mouth levels of humidity. 

And because cycling is a sport full of juxtapositions, it’s safer to ride aggressively and attack off the front.

Since returning from injury, I’ve tried to get in breakaways in lieu of conserving energy for a group sprint, mostly because it’s safer: fewer riders around you means there’s fewer variables that could lead to a crash. But more than anything, attacking is just a lot more fun.

From the start whistle last Tuesday, I went full gas.

The breakaway was quickly whittled down to myself, Carlo Pierantoni and John Kruegler after a lap or two.

For non-cycling nerds who are inexplicably reading this, Cosmo Catalano explains why early breakaways are a thing and why teams want riders in them very well in this video.

In short, teams that have a rider up the road aren’t motivated to chase down the breakaway because well, they have someone who has a high chance of getting a good result.

And with Carlo, John and myself, the three most-represented teams in the race (Cutaway x Release the Hounds, Nissan RVA, and Sweet Spot Cycling, respectively) all had someone in the breakaway. It was up to everyone else to drive the pace of the peloton if they wanted to bring us back.

Clip in, smash the pedals, worry about everything else later.

The three of us worked together to build a pretty solid gap of…30 seconds or so. Which might not sound like a lot, but on a pancake flat crit course, it’s not nothing.

And it’s a unique brand of pain that you’re required to endure in order to build a time gap like that. Being in the break means you have very, very little time to rest and soft-pedal, and a lot of time on the front with your elbows tucked in and your head down, constantly digging deep to find that little bit more of strength in your legs.

About halfway through the race, I started to look behind us and see the peloton. I’ve ridden with Carlo and John a ton, mostly at group rides where they rip my legs off, so I knew we had the strength to stay away.

It was also nice knowing that I had Greg, Neil and other teammates in the peloton who were willing and able to follow anyone who might try to bridge across. Which is precisely what happened.

With about six or so laps left, a small group bridged across to us, Greg included, and he immediately pulled up next to me and told me to get on his wheel.

The laps dwindled down, and I didn’t have the presence of mind to slide all the way to the back of the breakaway to rest for the sprint.

John took first (a completely deserved win) and I slotted in fifth, with Greg and Carlo just behind me.

(Most of) The goon squad.

On paper, it was just fifth place in a local training crit. But after everything that happened this year, I was really fucking proud of myself to cross the line in fifth position, not just for what I was able to come back from this year, but for how far I’ve come since 2016. Two years ago I raced for the first time. Last week I got a top-5 against some of the strongest riders in the state.

When it comes to real life, off-the-bike lessons to be learned from this season, the following are called to mind:

  • You always have a little bit more to give.

That sounds like a bullshit platitude but I tried and failed to think of a more pragmatic way to say it.

There were times in the breakaway that I felt cooked and that my legs were totally empty. But I convinced myself to keep going back to the well, and I kept finding strength I didn’t know I had. The idea is that you can do more if you just will yourself past the point of extreme discomfort. I genuinely believe this.

  • Roll the goddamn dice.

Riding in a breakaway is often an ill-fated endeavor…except when it’s not. Generally speaking, I spend a bit too much time preoccupied about what might go wrong, and ought to spend more time thinking about the fun that can be found in trying.

This season didn’t go exactly to plan, and I would have been over the moon to have won a few more races, but I’m glad I got back out there racing, and racing with some gumption.

Anyway, documenting all this was a lot of fun, and cheers to anyone who’s read this far. Now, what’s all this I hear about cyclocross…

Let it fly


Returning to racing made me realize that it had been a while since I did something that properly terrified me.

The comforts of adulthood have allowed me to avoid doing things that make me anxious. I like to think I go out and challenge myself professionally, physically, personally, but there’s always a level of discomfort that you’ll shut down at. I mean, why subject yourself to pangs of anxiety?

Suddenly though, something that I love and adore was flip-turned upside down when I crashed.

It broke both my arm and the feeling of confidence I once had while riding in a group. It made me question if I ever wanted to race again because it wasn’t just the time off the bike that sucked. It was the complete lifestyle change that a brief case of boneitis brings (not to mention the hospital bills).

In cycling you’re at the mercy of the wheels around you. I went a very long time without slipping on a banana peel before it happened twice in three weeks this year. But to invoke one of the oldest cliches ever, I had to face my fear. 

I lined up last week at Bryan Park and was worried sick for the first 10 minutes or so, but after that the butterflies left my stomach and flew away. I stayed closer to the front and help control the pace of the peloton, which I was happy to do since Greg was up the road in a breakaway, from which he held on for third place after lapping the dang field.

Greg driving the break

There are other teams in town with more experienced riders, more tactically aware riders, stronger riders, and just straight up more riders than we have. But I like being the scrappy underdogs. I want to stretch my legs against the strongest racers in Richmond, or at least make them nervous.

My legs are feeling better, and my mind is getting there. It’ll take more time before I feel good hopping from wheel-to-wheel in a bunch sprint, but I’ll get there, one pedal stroke at a time.

Only mostly broken: learning to deal with it


So things have gotten a fair bit better since the crash. The road rash is healing up with haste, my orthopedist said a sling won’t be necessary, and instead of a dreadful ace bandage pseudo-cast, I’m in a light, removable splint. Little victories.

But perhaps most of all, I feel like I’ve gotten my head around it. Yeah, my day-to-day has obviously changed, but it isn’t to a devastating degree. I can still type, drive, cook and go about my day.

The crash came nearly four years exactly from one of the hardest days of my life: day 1 of NoTier 2014. I remember laying in my tent that night in Belfast, Maine, completely destitute of both energy and confidence. My legs were cramping, my head spinning and heart rate fluttering. It was a tough situation and I had a long road ahead of me.

I’m telling myself that what I’m dealing with now isn’t too different. Things are harder than I’d like, and it’ll take time to adapt to this new situation. Bicycle touring is like a billion times more fun than nursing a fracture, but hey, I’m looking for strength wherever I can find it.

Having dealt with that brutal start to my first tour gives me confidence. Cycling is a pretty glamorous sport, even at the amateur level. How quickly it can betray you.

When Richie Porte crashes on the Mont du Chat at 45 mph, breaking his collarbone, pelvis and other things, it’s not just that his Tour de France is over. He has to live with those ailments for the next however-many months. I’ve gained a new perspective through this, that races aren’t just about the results.

Every cyclist has to take the aftermath of their rides home with them, no matter how good or bad it may be.

Perhaps the only thing I can’t make my mind up on is what I’ll do once finally healthy. There is nothing quite like winning a sprint in a crit, and I’ve proven it to myself that I’m good at it.

But I might need a fair bit of time before I’m comfortable being in the peloton again. The idea of racing cyclocross sounds awfully tasty right about now: you race alone, on a more forgiving surface, and you’re going slower. Now that I’ve given myself permission to be confused about how I want to go about my future, I feel a lot better.

As I write this, it’s been a week since the crash, which means only about five more. Onward!



“Fight on, my men, Sir Andrew said,

A little I’m hurt but not yet slain.

I’ll just lie down and bleed awhile,

And I’ll rise and fight again.”

Another crash: Where to from here?


Well it happened again. Three days after getting my new bike, I wrecked on the Union Market group ride.

Unlike last time, I’m a bit worse off than my bike. I got three stitches on my wrist, a load of road rash and have a small fracture on my forearm. I’ll be in a sling for a month or so.

It would appear that aside from a scuffed saddle (that I was planning to replace anyway), my brand new beautiful Giant TCR is in good shape, so that’s a silver lining, I guess.

My helmet, once again saved me from considerably worse injury, and I guess all things considered, I made out alright. But yet again, there’s no doubting that this suuuuuuuuucks.

Like, I’m questioning even what I want my future in cycling to be. I don’t want to let two bad wrecks in 3 weeks deter me from racing or riding hard. But is it worth the risk? The consequences of riding are seeping into my day-to-day life, and that is worth considering.

I love riding too much to ever stop, but maybe I ought to scale back the big group rides and racing. I don’t know. I’m at odds. I don’t want to stop doing something I love out of fear but these are gonna be a  loooooong six weeks.

Cycling has given me so much and this is the first instance it’s taken something from me. It’s hard to grapple with.

But life goes on and I’m dedicated to making the best of this shitty situation. Having to be sedentary for a few weeks might be the hardest part. I’ll have to find ways to get out and get my blood flowing.

Requiem for a frame: wrecked at Ride Sally Ride


“At least we didn’t have to go to the hospital.”

That was what Neil and I kept telling each other Sunday afternoon driving home from Sterling, where we had raced Ride Sally Ride, a 3-corner crit with about 70 other riders.

Neil, Jason and I all woke up way too early to drive to NoVa for the race. Rain was forecasted that morning, which would have led us to skip it. But it didn’t, so we didn’t. I wish it did.

Coming into the final corner, Neil and I were in what we thought was a great position — fourth or fifth wheel off the front and feeling fresh. But someone dive-bombed the inside corner way too fast and wrecked, sending a line of us toppling like dominoes.

All I remember is seeing some kid on the ground in front of me as I was getting ready to open up my sprint. My front wheel hit him, sending me over the handlebars and flying DJ Jazzy Jeff-style.

I can’t quite remember how I hit the ground, but I have road rash on my wrist, knee and shoulder, and my helmet cracked. As I laid there, bike in tatters and others behind me, including Neil, I remembering only thinking “Fuck, I could have had that.”

Neil hit the ground behind me and completely taco’d his front wheel. Thankfully, he was mostly unscathed.

Given the circumstances, it’s for the best our bikes and gear took the brunt of the damage. Being forced into a rest week this week has me so fucking restless and without sorts but I’d rather be in this situation than nursing a broken bone or concussion. Wear ya helmets, y’all.

ANYWAY, my frame cracked and can’t be fixed. Neil’s also cracked, but it looks like his will live to see another day.

The obvious downside: This basically sucks. I have managed to not finish races this year in a dizzying array of methods. I’ll very likely miss the first week of Bryan Park. Having road rash hurts like hell. I’m sure the next few times I race I’ll be really nervous. My beloved bike is toast. Just lots of bad-bad-not-good stuff in the aftermath of this.

The important upside: We’re not hurt. Once I sifted past the frustration, I began to feel gratitude more than anything. I’m grateful we didn’t get hurt and have to spend our Sunday in a hospital in NoVa (that sentence is honestly some nightmare Mad Libs shit). I’m grateful I have insurance on my bike. I’m grateful I now know what types of races to avoid. I’m grateful Neil and I dealt with it together.

Oh, and I get a new bike! And helmet! In about seven business days, a new, hot red Giant TCR will be mine. I’ve also always wanted a Kask Protone and I was finally able to justify getting one.

This has also forced me to kind of audit how I want to approach racing. I don’t think racing as many races as possible is as fun or as good an idea as I initially thought. It’s not worth it to race in a field like that with so many folks whose abilities you’re not sure of. In the future, I’ll probably opt for staying home and training.

There’s a lot whining and pouting going on here but whatever, I’m just very ready for this to be over. I am terminally impatient and just want to be able to ride again, I want my insurance company to decide if they’re going to bone me or not, I want to not have to reapply bandaids thrice daily, I want to put this behind me and get back out there.

Jefferson Cup: A trip deep into the pain cave


Jeff Cup is a hard race. It’s hard not because of the 50+ mile distance, or because of its many serpentining descents, or because of the tight corners at the bottom of those descents.

Jeff Cup is hard because it’s unrelenting. The course is all up or down: there are effectively no flat segments, nowhere to recover and settle in. You’re either charging up a hill or catching your breath on a downhill.

It’s also really mentally fatiguing to be in the peloton at Jeff Cup. I was extra precarious on descents, careful of everyone else around me cruising at 45mph. I was looking around for Neil and Will, making sure I was near my teammates. I was trying to focus on my breathing. I was shifting through gears constantly.

Anyway, the winning move at Jeff Cup came with about 15 miles to go. A break went, and none of us on Sweet Spot were in position to follow it.

The break built a minute gap going into the last 10-mile lap, and given the layout of the course, I knew the break was going to be able to put in seconds on the peloton around corners and on the descents.

The peloton wasn’t really cranking up the pace, and I didn’t want the break to escape uncontested so I moved up to the front and started asking whoever would listen whether they wanted to help work to try to reel in the break.

There were a few guys who agreed and took some strong pulls, but (perhaps due to the relentless hills) we had a hard time settling in and really chipping away at their gap. There was also like 4 of us working, pulling a reduced group of like 25.

On the final lap, we summited the course’s longest climb and my legs were starting to cramp up, with haste. I knew I was in trouble and that Neil and Will were probably more fit than I, so I hit the front of the peloton and went full gas, digging as deep as I could to drive the pace. 

At the base of another hill with about four miles to the finish, the cramping overtook me and off the back of the chasing group I went. The break wasn’t caught, Neil and Will finished 21st and 26th, respectively, and I came in 35th out of a field of about 70.

I’m proud of the way we raced, though I wish I could have better delivered my teammates to the break. Neil and Will lead me out all last summer and I am still in their debt.

My chief takeaway from Jeff Cup is that road races call for some on the fly cost-benefit analysis.

The question to be asked is, is it better to:

A) Be near the front and ergo do more work, but be in a better position to follow a breakaway?


B) Sit in the middle of the group, out of the wind, and bank on the peloton bringing back a break that goes?

Option A would have been the correct choice at Jeff Cup. I’m confident Neil, Will and I would have had the legs to get in a break, but we weren’t there for it. Oh well. C’est la vie.

Another takeaway is holy shit, exercise-associated muscle cramping is a unique type of hurt. My legs have locked up countless times before and knew what to expect, but mamma mia, it is awful. It felt like there were screws on the back of my thighs and someone was just twisting them, tightening my hamstrings more and more until I submitted. 

The cramping continued on the ride home, much to Will’s amusement.

So that’s that. I’m just glad I got to finish without a mechanical, which is more than I could say about the Tidewater Classic. Road races are hard and I still don’t know what I’m doing in them, but it was a worthwhile experience to get outside my comfort zone.

I believe the next race on my agenda is the Wintergreen Ascent, a literal climb up a mountain. As a sprinter without a power meter, I am sure this will go well.

Shamrock Crit: Is this what the Classics feel like?


Last Saturday, Taylor Burks, Neil Etheridge, Jason Walters and I headed east to Virginia Beach to represent Sweet Spot at the Shamrock Criterium.

All week the forecast in Virginia Beach was for a partly sunny 50° day, but because the world bends toward entropic chaos, it was raining and 40° on race day. Hooray. 

Jason, Taylor and myself. Hard to feel loose when you’re wearing full arm and leg warmers, overshoes, a base layer, two jerseys and a neck gaiter. I was part man, part spandex.

Shamrock was the de facto end of the “race-yourself-into-shape” part of the season for me. If I’m driving four hours round-trip for an hour-long race, I’m of course hoping for a good result, but I think these winter races are better used as a barometer for my fitness going into the spring.

The race itself was pretty standard as far as flat, four-corner crits go.

  • The first few laps were fast.
  • The next few settled down.
  • Someone went solo off the front about halfway through.
  • Someone else bridged over.
  • The group reluctantly brought them back.
  • The pace gradually picked up as the Laps Remaining counter hit single digits.

One of my favorite things about bike racing is the constantly shifting plate tectonics of the peloton. Around each corner you can move up or move back, but rarely can you just stay where you are.

Catching a ride on others’ wheels as they move up in the group is a fun game to play, and keeps me alert throughout the race, but it is wild how quickly a good position can evaporate. This was basically the case at Shamrock.

With about three laps to go, our whole team was near the front. Hell, I think at one point the four of us were lined straight up, setting the pace.

Going into the last two corners before the finish, I was about 10th wheel from the front and just latched onto the guy in front of me, who launched his sprint pretty early.

I sprinted to 8th place, with Neil right behind me in 9th!

Immediately after the sprint. My face depicts how I felt about the day’s weather.

Credit goes to the V.B.-based Fat Frogs team, whose guy won it and I believe had another on the podium. They masterfully slotted right onto the front at the right time and held off everyone else.

Not to be all rah-rah, but I genuinely believe in our team. Learning to ride as a team, hold position, communicate, and successfully execute tactics is more challenging than just turning the pedals over harder and faster. We’re like an effervescent puppy whose growing body is outpacing its ability to learn how the world works, just clumsily jumping all over the place, knocking shit over.

Also, we don’t take ourselves too seriously which I think is probably our greatest asset.

After the race I grabbed lunch with Miles & Summer, which was a real treat, then trekked back down 64 West.

Now, it looks like spring proper is on its way. The clocks have changed, and this is 100% wishful thinking, but the days of riding after work will be back in short sleeves will be back in no time. I hope…