Written by C. McDowell Saturday, 05 November 2005 00:00
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.
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