Being friends with a lot of triathletes, I find myself constantly under pressure to expand my road cycling into cross and mountain biking. Living in Oregon doesn’t make resisting buying another bike or two any easier, either - cyclocross and mountain biking go hand in hand with the flannel and beard culture. I’ve managed to hold out through another fall season, but my interest was piqued enough to go watch friends compete in the local Corvallis Cross Classic race series.
The course was laid out innocuously through a local farm’s fields and greenhouses (it actually runs through the greenhouses - how cool is that!), but the previous night’s rain storm combined with a few small hills made it anything but relaxing. What I thought were already massive puddles when the day started turned to bike-sucking swamps by the time the elite racers lined up to race in the afternoon, and finding traction on the small hills even in my hiking boots was proving difficult.
Although I had come just for fun and to watch friends race through the muck, I couldn’t help but bring my camera along. My favorite spot, not surprisingly, turned out to be the deepest and longest mud puddle of them all. Racers would hit the water at full speed before grinding almost instantly to a halt, their tires lost under inches of viscous mud, and jumping off their bikes to push forward on foot. By the end of the first lap, almost everyone was covered with mud from head to toe and several riders had to stop and remove muck from their forks before they could begin moving again. Of course, I didn’t come out unscathed myself after setting up inside the splash zone.
Meanwhile, the remainder of the course was lined with spectators and the whole event felt like a party. Almost everyone had a beer in hand as they screamed encouragement at passing cyclists, and several had extra beers to pass out to any riders in need of mid-race “aid.”
I don’t think the race inspired me to take up cyclocross myself - although I wouldn’t rule it out - but I am certainly sold on following friends to more of these events in the future!