My First Cross Race

My team Maxpower Cycling hosted the First Annual Power Cross Race Sunday. It was the last race of the cross season here in Central New York. It was also my very first cross race ever.

On Saturday I picked up a Stevens Prestige Cross bike from Syracuse Bicycle. Syracuse Bicycle has a big sale making the bike a real bargain that I could not pass up. The bike is an aluminum frame with SRAM Rival and all sorts of nice features. I only had a chance to dial in the bike riding around my house from the front to the back yard in preparation for the race. I took a pic of my new bike in front of my compost pile to make it seem cooler.

The next day I woke up early to head out to the Power Cross venue at Van Buren Park in Baldwinsville, NY. Setup was fun and easy as I helped tape up the course with the already installed stakes in every direction. Next step was to signup, which was free since I am on the team and helped to setup the course.

I changed into my gear which included tights and jacket under my racing kit. This made me feel a bit like a stuffed sausage, but kept me warm in the chilly low 40s temp. I watched the Masters 40+, Women and Juniors race that went off before my race, the Open Men.

The big challenge of the course was the brutal Faso Hill. The guys who thought up the course found the steepest approach to the top of the hill. The climb looked brutal, especially as I saw the slow march at which most racers approached the hill. There was definitely no riding up this climb. There was also a totally superfluous barrier setup at the bottom just in case someone even had the remote chance of trying to ride up.

The Faso Hill climb was not the biggest challenge as the other side of the course features some very wet grass that later turned into a major mud bog. The muddy section was more of a challenge for my 215lb frame than the hill.

Once the first race was done it was time to get ready for the Open Men race at high noon. I went up to the start line in a pretty relaxed mood. I’ve never been so chilled at the start of a race mentally. It was my first ever cross race and I was simply testing things out. No worry if I placed last. In fact I was joking and thinking of simply pulling out after two laps. That would be enough of a taste for me was my thought.

Once the race started, there was a flat paved section which cause dirt stuck in mud tires to fly up in the sky. It was the cross equivalent of confetti being thrown to celebrate the start of the race. I was grinning and feeling good thinking , wow I finally entered a cross race.

I’ve always been kicking around the idea of racing cross, but never got around to it. Each year I would help out at the Syracuse Cyclocross race, but never made a move to get a bike. Things finally came together and I was pretty happy to finally try it out.

As the race entered the muddy grass I decided to keep my pace and stay back. The mud was a challenge as I sunk in more than some of the lighter racers around me. After the muddy section I was feeling good and tried to pass a few people. I was able to get in front of a group of four just as we approached the hill. This was the first dismount section. This is where my lack of technique was a hnderance. I had no idea how to dismount. Technically I know what you should do, but I never practiced doing this sort of move. Pulling off the bike must have looked clumsy since that is how I felt.

So I bumbled and stumbled up the hill.

The Faso Hill climb was fun with all the fans cheering me on that I could not help but smile. But the pain up climbing up the hill in a race made my heart rate max out simply by walking up the hill. Next up was the fun part of the course with a loop at the top of the hill followed by a big descent and some more loops back to the start finish.

Two laps were going to be my limit, but I could not give up early, after all the race is only an hour. So I powered through, fighting with myself to not stop until the finish. Each lap was progressively tougher as the muddy conditions started to build up mud and grass in my drivetrain and brakes. The bike felt more sluggish. I saw one or two other folks using a two bike setup where they swapped out a fresh bike every few laps. I’m not anywhere near that level yet. I am just trying this stuff out. Plus the race winner Wayne Bray lapped my at least three times. during the whole race.

When I finally crossed the finish line I was really spent. I gave it my all, felt the pain of the race but had fun. I finished my race which was made a bit shorter by being lapped a few times. Now I can’t wait to try it all again.

3 thoughts on “My First Cross Race

  1. Excellent Job Marcello…..Welcome to the bitter/sweet pain of cross. ….it will go away and be replaced with that feeling of needing your next “cross fix.”

    The first battle in cross is “riding and finishing” when your doing that it’s time to “race and finish!!!!!!”

  2. Great Blog Marcello;

    Next year, we’ll have garden hoses staged for people to do a quick rinse in the pit area and include a series of switchbacks instead of tackling the steepest part of the hill so there won’t be a much walking.

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