I was first hooked by cyclocross when my former team mate Carla took it up. She spoke so enthusiastically about this discipline of cycling. My first memory of spectating was a national round in Adelaide. Tasmanian mountain biking superstars Sid Taberlay and Rowena Fry were racing. I was absolutely mesmerised and immediately hooked. However it took an unfortunate theft of my road bike for me to be able to begin this fun looking sport.Thankfully I pay old for new bicycle insurance and soon enough I had a brand new cyclocross bike. This was just about the best silver lining possible! From the devastation of losing a bike to being in a situation to purchase a new bike. This was an opportunity to form new memories and a world I had not yet touched, the world of cyclocross.
My first season
The moment I picked up my new bike, I was absolutely thrilled. My first ride was two days later with my boyfriend and his work-mate Charlie. Charlie’s ‘bucking bronco’ that ride will probably go down in my life history of the most I’ve laughed, ever, which is a massive call. I wish we had this ride on film. Pure comedy.
Finally, I could race with the PACC ‘cx bros’. First I had to learn how to mount and dismount though! Thankfully Gemma met me one morning before work and showed me the ropes. Now I was ready (ish) to race! From the very first race I felt like this was a discipline that I could never get sick of. It was scary for me, tackling features of courses that terrified me. However it was the sense of accomplishment when I finally rode up a steep hill such as Mulch Hill or managed small sand pits that was just awesome. The way it turned out, I only had one Winter and half of a summer season of cyclocross before we moved to Victoria, where I thought the fun could continue!
My Victorian Chapter
My first Victorian race was Fields of Joy, a notoriously difficult course. I did not love it but I was very proud of my efforts here and thought it couldn’t get much harder, so that was ok. Next up was the Mt Beauty and Bright rounds of the Vic CX Series. Whilst the Saturday was extremely muddy and I mostly giggled whilst walking my bike at the park for 35 minutes, I begun to think that maybe cyclocross wasn’t for me, I hadn’t found either of the last two races overly enjoyable. Thankfully the next day, in Bright, was the best course I’ve ever ridden and I had an absolute ball and decided that maybe I did still love cyclocross! The next race was Dirty Deeds at Darebin Parklands and I moved up to 6th in B Grade Women and thought ‘yep I’m coming back!’.
Unfortunately following this I had a training accident before work one day. I remember riding along by myself, merry as merry can be, and then BOOM, I slid out very hard on a bridge. Sadly I snapped one shifter clean off, ripped up my handlebar and myself. The haematoma on my hip was enormous, as was the one on the inside of my knee and my elbow. By no means was this a ‘terrible’ accident but my confidence didn’t need that hit. However I paid to get my bike all fixed up and I got back on. I begun to prepare for the final National Round at FOJ, purely because lots of my PACC Cx bros were going to be there and I couldn’t wait to see them all again!
From university, I remember learning that the more scared you are of falling, the more likely you are to fall. This was in relation to the elderly population and the awful falls rates and mortality associated, but it’s so easily applicable to riding too! At FOJ, I was mentally prepared to ride the same direction as earlier in the year and felt ok-ish about that. When we arrived I discovered we were going in reverse, which included going down part of the steep hill and into a cornered off camber section. I immediately struggled with confidence and I hadn’t even started riding.
Taking it on
Watching other people take on this downhill cambered corner, I knew I had to give it a go. Beginning down the hill, I realised I was so stiff I wasn’t going to turn. Panic took hold. Note to self, never panic. Pulling the brakes, I tried to bail out before being shot straight over the bars. Quite embarrassing but I was ok. When I remounted I realised I had buckled my wheel and I had no spare. Continuing along only to panic, again, at the smallest of bumps and funnily enough crashed again…this time my wheel kept coming loose and I was on my mental limit. I found my boyfriend and just burst into tears. Peeling my numbers off, I decided not to race.
Fast forward a year
My break from cyclocross went for a lot longer than planned. Practicing lots on my mountain bike, I found a real love and passion for off road on a bike that I trusted a bit more. Whilst I had planned to have another go at Bright this year, I was still overcoming an injury. It was spectating there that I decided I’d have another go at cyclocross. I successfully completed two cyclocross rides locally without binning it and in doing so, I found some single track circuit very close to home, that I didn’t even know existed! It was really cool. I felt good and I felt myself relaxing with every pedal stroke.
A few weeks ago I put my entry in for the Dirty Deeds Cx race! This was held over the weekend and whilst I woke up nervous, as soon as I begun racing I had so much fun! I think I forgot how hard and intense those short cyclocross races are and at the half way point I felt my energy disappearing, however my lap times were coming down considerably. My cornering felt smooth and my remounts fairly swift. This was a surprise to me as this was an element I had not made time to practice prior. By the end I was sufficiently roasted but absolutely stoked.
The moral of the story?
Sometimes taking a break is a really good thing, it allows you to re-assess where you’re at, what you want and how to achieve it. I didn’t run away from dealing with my issues, I just dealt with them through a different path. I was able to apply what I learned through mountain bike riding to my cyclocross bike on the weekend and it worked a treat. Whilst I still have a long way to go mentally, to not shy away from difficult features, I felt on top of the world on Sunday by simply being there and actually enjoying myself. It felt like I was winning despite being minutes behind the actual B grade women’s winner.
There are many ways to deal with a problem, so long as you choose to actually deal with it, you can get there too!
If you’re looking for a new challenge or something to aim for, how about reading our new initiative, La Ride! http://www.laridley.com/la-ride/la-ride
A post to our first week of training for La Ride is here: http://www.laridley.com/la-ride/go-training-schedule-week-one/
All the best!