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I said no to Cyclocross

Saskia Hoppe | Published on 1/2/2022

Trish Albert
For years there have been friends (Trish - pictured navigating a not so fun looking off camber thing Photo Credit - Travis Neumuller) whispering in my ear to try cyclocross. That whispering turned nagging and finally into excited yelling and whooping. Everything went nuts when I actually got a gravel bike in the summer of 2020 (I got in just ahead of the shortage!). Apparently this new stead was just the thing to push them over the edge with excitement.

Cyclocross – what is it? Basically taking a road bike, slapping slightly wider knobbier tires on and racing in circles in a muddy field. You can see how a gravel bike works well, but in fun categories you can also go with a mountain bike. And there’s running involved too. I ride a bike so I don’t have to run. If you see me running, you probably should be running too because I’m being chased by something. As you can read, not something that sounds all that fun, unless your name is Darcy Grimes or Trish Albert in which case the level of enthusiasm is off the chart and mind blowing. “More mud = more fun” Darcy says. I’ll leave the mud at the spa thank you very much!

Right, so now we’ve established what cyclocross is, you understand why I kept saying no. I should have taped myself saying no so I could just hit play on that instead of wasting my breath. However… others eventually chimed in. Like Katie (not Saskia) Pothier - pictured here. Apparently she's my twin or something. Separated at birth a couple of years removed. Who knows? Anyway, she also kicks butt and does this 'cross' thing but everyone thinks her name is Saskia. At the race team getaway back in August she kept yakking about it all (along with always peppy Darcy Grimes plus of course, Trish) and new Sorella Tracey Delbridge spoke excitedly about cross at one of the crits I was at. I was squatting at her tent, so one must be polite and listen right? Anyway, with all this pressure and enthusiasm I decided the easiest way to get it all to stop was to at least give it a go. I could do a race, maybe 2, then tell them to go away because it sucked. I tried it, now leave me alone. Sounds like a great plan, right? It’s hard to refute something you’ve never tried before, so once I’ve tried it, they’ll go away.

Karen Richardson
First cross race of the 2021 season was Grant Park. Friends were going to be there, including Karen Richardson, who, if you know her, has the best "I'm going to kill you" face when she races. However, oddly enough, despite numerous photos from the race, she's all smiling in them like you see here. 

So, Grant Park, nice location, close to home, plenty of spectators and I somehow managed to convince my brother to give it a go as it was ‘only 30 minutes, how hard can it be?’. Ha. He’s not raced before. He knows nothing. I’ve raced 30 minute crits and was expecting similar type effort. Embrace the pain. What made this even more entertaining was that the men’s 5 and the women’s 4/5 race at the same time, with the men starting with a 30-60 second head start. At least I’d have a rabbit to chase (the sibling rivalry is strong in our household!).

The race starts off nicely enough, dodging some folks, chasing others and before I knew it, overtook my brother (ha! SEE YA!). Got in a nice rhythm, I can deal with punchy climbs, slide through a corner or two but then there’s the barriers… and running... YUCK. Normally this would also be where you get hand-ups, but Covid sucks so no goodies. Round and round we go until we hit 30 minutes at which point I’m ready to collapse (it’s a race, so nothing new here) and apparently I’ve gotten 3rd. Really? Ugh. That means I will definitely have to do another race now.

Doesn't the Sorella tent look awesome in this picture? And I'm even smiling (oh boy) Photo Credit Trish Albert. So now I’m doing another race. Boundary Waters. Turned out to be a really nice course, some woods, little punchy climbs and only one running section (the barriers – I really wish I had the skills to hop those). It was flowy, scenic and I somehow accidentally ended up first. Shoot. Now I’m screwed. *Sigh* I’m going to have to do some more races aren’t I?

You betcha… So now have I not only done a season of cyclocross, I’ve ended up with a cyclocross bike. I love my gravel bike, but it turns like a boat and I’m competitive… so.. Darcy to the rescue her old frame and I had the fun of building up the second hand frame with a mixture of old and new parts – special shout out to my pals at Peachtree Bikes, part of our sponsor Atlanta Cycling, for helping out with the messy parts that I don’t have the skills to take on!).

This crazy chick in the photo kicking butt up the hill (as well as doing crazy shiznits below)? That would be Darcy. Yes. The Darcy. So there you have it. I said no to cyclocross. But eventually I got sucked in. I realized that in Georgia, it’s really not that muddy and messy. It is only 30 minutes (or 35, or for the hardcore folks 45 or 60 minutes). It’s a good workout, get to work on bike handling skills, you’re never far from people (yay for loops!) and with multiple categories racing at the same time, there’s almost always a rabbit to chase. So even if you don’t want to like cyclocross (which is definitely ok, I promise not to whisper in your ear to try it), come and spectate. Hang out at the Sorella tent, laugh at the silly folks riding hard in loops whilst you’re chilling with a beer!

Darcy Grimes
Darcy Grimes
Darcy Grimes