It Looks a Bit Different From Here | CX 2021-2022 #2
It was evident the year off of racing had had an impact on all of us racers in one manner or another. The turnover was fairly aggressive, many familiar faces decided they had had enough, heavy hitters decided that it was time to get more serious, fearless up and coming juniors were suddenly adult size, and those with local successes debuted a national campaign.
The time off gave me a new perspective. I felt a lot of trepidation to jump back in but once I dipped in that figurative toe I was happy to go full emersion and excited to see I was still afloat. It did drive me to contemplate the Why, namely in a sport that was by design purposed to fill the gaps in off season training and to take advantage of rather than shy away from the hardships the winter season brought.
The state of cyclocross in the US is largely driven by personal passion and local interest. Our climates and ecosystems are as varied and far reaching as the distance our athletes have to travel to participate at an elite level. Pockets of the country feature robust cross scenes but those are not necessarily aligned with the beliefs that the top end of the sport brings value, especially for the cost.
For the promoters dedicated to the cause of bringing elite cyclocross to our country, the compromise is now to feature many of those events early in the season as to not interfere with the motherland and its far robust calendar. This has left us with a front end heavy schedule full of hot, dry, non-technical, power intensive courses that seem to have fully forgotten the essence of what makes cyclocross crossy.
So I, not seeing the point in traipsing across thousands of miles in series of non-cohesive routes to line up on a course that for sure would not suit my strengths anyhow sat the early season out. After all, how many times could I begin my social media posts with “lots learned, improvements expected!” just to mask the reality that I wasn’t doing well because I wasn’t actually having fun.
With the original concept of non-road cycling as a team sport fading into a distant memory cross - like much of competitive cycling - has become almost exclusively an endeavor of the privateer. This allows us racers considerably more room to pursue our individual goals, to build on our fundamentals as human performers, to maintain our values, strengthen our relationships with the companies that support our journeys, and balance our life and emotional needs.
Cross in the US isn’t driven by the economical monster that Europe is and in turn lets us racers pursue it as a passion. Few of us have the pure talent combined with resources and a team of staff behind us allowing us to trade elbows with the very best, marginal gains or otherwise. This might show up in our results but we bring something else, notably the value in experience, racing for the love of it, the bewilderment at the well-oiled machine that is the true international stage, the excitement that begets being a part of it all.
The answer to Why is derived from the opportunity to do life differently from the masses, to find our own truths, to write our own story, something few of us capitalize on in a society where conforming expectations are rampant and individual ideals are not easy to act upon. Taking the stand to control of your path requires a gusto that in itself stands out. Leading us to the let's be real answer to “Why…?” Which is “Why not?”