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UNH Cross

Team Bikeman - Race Reports

For me, finally being a legitimate member of Team Bikeman (and not just someone who lived in the area and purchased a Dalmatian jersey out of a love of lycra and spandex) has been a challenge, a pleasure and a thrill for me as a newbie cyclist. I love not only being a spectator at the larger races, such as the Crank Brother's Grand Prix, but even getting muddy myself and really tasting the fantastic challenge and madness that is New England 'cross. As I was browsing the race reports, I realized that the beginners were less represented and since being shy isn't exactly my style, I thought I would share a few thoughts from my season as a Women's B racer.

I didn't know what 'cross was until last fall when my friend was demonstrating his various dismounts to me in front of the student union. "Whole lotta good that'll do ya in a race" I thought, drawing upon my minimal grasp of what road racing was all about and not having the faintest clue of what was involved in a typical 'cross course. Over my first spring collegiate season and then through a hot summer of riding in Colorado, I realized that 'cross might just be the most ideal fusion of "sport" I had ever encountered. I have always been a reasonably fit individual with a penchant for going fast wherever I am bound, but never before had a realized there was an event that would throw all kinds of barriers and muck in your way when you were attempting simply to get from point A to point B. This aspect doesn't deter me but rather excites me. For example, when I first began mountain biking in high school, I loved puddles. I mean, getting dirty was the supreme goal of every ride, likely because it made it look as though I had really persevered through something. Well that hasn't changed.

This past weekend at UNH's Live Free or Ride on Saturday, I can attest to the fact that mud is just as delicious to me now as it was way-back-when. This race was particularly memorable for me firstly for the opportunity to be ranked both among collegiate women and among women in the USCF category. I am thrilled to be a part of Bikeman, but my roots are still in Colby College's club team, and I have great hopes for the coming season as the highlight of my senior spring. On Saturday I looked around me at the start line to realize I was privileged to be racing against not only one of the women from Harborside Cycle who had taken 2nd on Sunday in Gloucester (I was a lucky 13 places and 2min48sec huffing and puffing behind her) and another Elite racer from Dansko Love, but also alongside familiar faces from the collegiate circuit: 2 women from MIT's team, a friend of friend from Tufts as well as the talented Amy Wallace of Verizon Wireless, formerly a competitor for Dartmouth and 2005 ECCC series leader. Although I sensed an immanent trouncing, I was thrilled to be racing elbow to elbow (well, for at least the first minute or so) with such a gifted and competent group of racers. When we were called off the course at the end of our 45 minutes, I was beaming, mud in my teeth and all realizing that I had once again risen above a DFL this time to finish 7th among the USCF riders and 2nd among the collegiate women in my fifth ever 'cross race.

Although I didn't dramatically step it up and whup on anyone Saturday afternoon, I realized as I was riding through fields and along the wooded course that on a New England autumn weekend, there was not a single place I would rather be than dancing on my pedals and getting dirty head to toe. I don't have a prestigious list of sponsors to thank (Yet! I'd like to think), but I am indeed indebted to everyone else's participation and exertion for teaching me to dig a little deeper and push a littler harder. I may not be sitting pretty on the podium every weekend, but it's only the beginning, and I feel damn lucky to be starting my ride through 'cross in Bikeman's red stripes and black spots.

Callie McDowell
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