Cross My Heart CX Part III: Absolute Beginners

Hello and welcome back to our final installment from Proteus Bikes’ Cross My Heart and Superbowl of Singlespeed cyclocross events. This has worked out great. One race and I was able to kill about a third of the offseason. A happy coincidence, I assure you. In Part I we looked at the singlespeed race. In Part II we concentrated on the open race. And here in Part III we are looking at folks trying out cyclocross for the first time. Not necessarily first time bike racers, although that is true for two of our three interviewees but first-timers on a CX circuit. There has been a lot of talk, maybe too much talk, on the internets about trying a cyclocross race. I’ve read things like, “Oh, as soon as I get my pit bike dialed in and glue up some tubies, I’m going to try a race …” or “I need a couple more weeks to practice my dismount and remount technique before I’m ready to race.” Nonsense. All of it. Go and race. As you will see that’s what these folks did and they loved it. Plenty of time to work on technique and shop for your own set of Dugast Rhinos. In the meantime, if you get the chance, go race. Then read about it here.

Please state your name and team for the record.

BOSON AU, Velocipede Bike Project (Baltimore’s Collectively Run Community Bike Project).

REBECCA BAFFORD, Single Speed Outlaws Factory Team/The Bicycle Escape.

BRYAN FLOWERS. [Kareem]* entered my team name as Tiny Bombs, but that’s the name of my band. I don’t have a team or club. I was the super slow guy in the D.R.I. shirt.

*[Ed. note: Kareem (not his real name) was integral to this race becoming a reality and he comes up a lot in my coverage, but he didn’t want to be singled out. In these first-timer interviews it was difficult not to, so for the purpose of keeping my promise and ensuring anonymity I pulled Laura Wattenberg’s “The Baby Name Wizard” off of the shelf, randomly turned to page 176, closed my eyes and pointed at the page. According to the book, this unknown person will from here on out be referred to as “Kareem.”]

What made you decide to try a cross race?

BOSON AU: Kareem asked me when I was drunk.

Bosun at the barrier.
Boson at the barrier.

REBECCA BAFFORD: Curiosity…I tried the Iron Cross this past fall, loved riding skinny tires on the trails, and wanted to give an official race a try.

BRYAN FLOWERS: I bought a Jamis Nova a few years ago for my commute along the Capital Crescent Trail. Kareem has been hounding me to try a race ever since. I think the combination of actually watching a race earlier in the season, having the confidence from riding the C&O over the summer, and having a friend doing the organizing finally pushed me over the edge and got me to sign up.

How did you prepare for the day?

BRYAN FLOWERS: I put new tires on my bike and removed the commuting gear (lights, rack, etc.). My “training” was basically just going to the gym and riding the bike or the elliptical, starting just a few weeks before the race. I should’ve done more.

REBECCA BAFFORD: No expectations. I figured if I showed up and just did it that I’d figure it out along the way, and that was good enough.

BOSON AU: Listened to a lot of punk rock.

What was your biggest concern going in to the race? Was it a self-fulfilling prophecy?

REBECCA BAFFORD: I’m not a fast rider, so if there were lots of flat, fast areas I figured I’d be in everyone’s dust from the get-go. It turned out to be very technical, without many areas for all out sprints, so I was fine.

First CX Race and lone women in the SS race. Nicely played!
First CX Race and lone women in the SS race. Nicely played!

BOSON AU: That I’d break limbs.  Luckily I didn’t.

BRYAN FLOWERS: My overall fitness level. Oh, absolutely. I struggled with both cardio fitness and the stamina and strength of my legs.

What was the best part of the course? What was the worst?

BOSON AU: Best: That one straight part with all mulch… I actually managed to pass one or two people! Worst: that one straight downhill ice slide that leads to the wooden bridge.

REBECCA BAFFORD: Best-Cornering in the mud on skinny tires…just an absolute blast. Worst-Trying to dismount and remount before and after obstacles. I have no idea how to do that effectively.

BRYAN FLOWERS: The best part was that mud pit right after the paved straightaway at the beginning. On the first lap it created a bit of a bottleneck with some wrecks, and then immediately switching to single track into the woods. But on subsequent laps, it was super fun to hit at speed, though my chain did pop off there on the third lap. The worst were those sharp turns right before the mulch piles. They were still icy and slushy and super slippery.

Mud and Thrash. That works. Photo by xflowersx.
Mud and Thrash. That works. Photo by xflowersx.

Was there a key or decisive moment in your race?

REBECCA BAFFORD: At the end of the first lap, I couldn’t believe I was doing this. It was just so cool to be there.

BOSON AU: When about 1/2 the race lapped me.

BRYAN FLOWERS: Hah, when I got lapped I realized I’d only have to do 3 laps!

What was the hardest part of the race?

BRYAN FLOWERS: Besides those icy turns I mentioned above, just chugging through the wet mulch for long stretches in the woods seemed to suck any and all energy out of my legs.

REBECCA BAFFORD: The red-lining pace for 45 minutes. And the energy expenditure of biking/dismount/run/remount. I usually do endurance mtb races where the key is to pace yourself. This was a whole other adventure…I felt like I was going to get sick for most of the race from pushing it.

BOSON AU: that ice part.

What was the most fun?

BOSON AU: that ice part.

REBECCA BAFFORD: The mud…the games you play with yourself trying to keep your balance, decide whether to plow through a mud pit, or be safe and walk it. I was constantly laughing at myself and what I must have looked like full of mud and tripping over my own feet trying to carry the bike over obstacles.

BRYAN FLOWERS: The most fun was how supportive everyone was. I had friends spectating and cheering me on, Kareem saying my name and offering encouragement as I passed the PA tent (even as I was so far behind everyone), non-friend spectators being loud, and even the guys that lapped me were offering support telling me to ‘Keep It Up!’

What’s the best piece of advice you got before or after the race?

BOSON AU: Before: “Hey your number is on the wrong way.” After: “Hey lets go into the sauna.”

REBECCA BAFFORD: Have fun. It’s like no other type of race. And if you can’t have fun and laugh at yourself just don’t do it.

BRYAN FLOWERS: Kareem and I talked about pedals and tires some beforehand, so that helped. And a couple friends told me not to be afraid to crash. Oh, and over the PA, Hot Water Music told me to always remember there’s no point to surrender. The best thing I heard after was a friend with prior race experience telling me he thought the course was pretty intense and tricky, so it was *a little* reassuring that I didn’t just think that because I was a n00b.

Will we see you at the races next season?

BRYAN FLOWERS: Definitely as a spectator, and hopefully as a racer. I think I might try to do some more training this summer and see how I feel when the season rolls around. As much fun as I had during the race, I did pretty poorly, and I am not sure my pride could take that on a weekly basis!


BOSON AU: Yes.  This was my first one and I had a blast!

Thanks for reading. Stay tuned for  special off-season feature interviews.


One thought on “Cross My Heart CX Part III: Absolute Beginners

  1. Thanks for the article. I’ve got a few friends who’ve been seriously considering signing up for their first CX race, so I forwarded this post on to them. Hopefully this will help push them over the edge. By the way, are you planning on following up with any of these racers to see where they are this season? I’d be curious to know.

    Seattle, WA
    Mountains Plus Outdoor Gear

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