Race Report – Masters National Cyclocross – Chris Spurrier
Toeing the Line at Master’s Nationals
Cyclocross started in the early 1900s in Europe by roadies training during winter. Riders would race from town to town, cutting through fields and fording streams. France hosted the first CX national championship race in 1902. Several decades later, CX leaped across the ocean with the first United States national championships in the 1960s.
More than 50 years later, CX Master’s Nationals found its way to Hartford, CT and KyleCoaching athlete, Chris Spurrier, toed the line in conditions that brought out everyone’s tough inner Belgium. Here is his race report….
Cyclocross is speed, agility, confidence, practice, and sometimes luck. With all of these factors, anxiety easily builds, leading to lots of questions. Do I have the right tires? How much tire pressure? What about my gearing? Do I need knee warmers? Did I wash my hands after applying embro? Did I follow my training plan? Have I ridden in these conditions? Can I commit to that line? When you are at the line, you have to have confidence in your training and your abilities. Once the whistle blows and these thoughts fade, you must embrace the culture that is CX and savor the experience of racing in winter with rain, mud, ice, snow, beer, heckling fans, and, if you are lucky, a guy riding a fat bike in a T-Rex suit.
This year I hired a coach and the changes to my fitness and confidence have been dramatic. I decided to try my hand at my first national championship race. Two things to take out of this statement, hiring a coach makes a huge difference in how you approach every aspect of your sport, and going to a national event puts all of the aforementioned into a different perspective. More importantly, you realize that you have the ability to go anywhere and do about anything.
Cyclocross nationals were held in Hartford Connecticut, and for the past three months, I was expecting to race in the snow. My coach and I went through every aspect of my training plan to maximize both fitness and race experience. To race Masters, you have to be a Cat 3, so this quickly adjusted my goals during the regular season. Not seeing a clear path racing in a very competitive field, I focused on singlespeed (SS), which is open to Cat 4s, and pushed my pre-season goal to upgrade from 4 to 3 until next season. I entered more local SS events and really started enjoying it. The simplicity of the race and being connected to the course was ideal for someone who overthinks things. The fields were different as well, racing against an open category of experienced and non-experienced riders. In short, I was very pleased with this decision and am pretty well hooked on the SS racing.
As Masters Nats approached, I focused on analyzing the Nats course, and what I needed to do. My goals changed from wanting a top 50 position to just having fun and finishing laps. Once at the venue, I learned one could pre-ride the course only during specific time periods. Given the weather, the course changed every few hours, so knowledge gained during the morning pre-ride may not translate to the afternoon. The race wasn’t going to be about gear choice, more about finding a line where you could put down some power.
I had a ton of support at the event, and eventually, I was settled in, pinned up, and heading to the line. Even lining up in the 106th spot, they called me to the line and all of the sudden I realized I was at Nationals. I thought about the start, the first turn, the pits, the hills, the turns, everything. Oh, and the snow. Connecticut didn’t let me down… it was snowing hard. Two minutes, toss my jacket off and then GO! We all took off and all I could imagine as having to hit my brakes and sliding into 100 other people as we hit the first turn.
140 plus riders heading past the pits and taking the next left, several found the ruts and I took it wide with a few others, but somehow everyone stayed upright, and we stared right at Bonkbreaker hill. I made it up the hill and was running the top line with half of the field as we started the twisty turny downhill, and that is when the slipping and sliding really started. Once you began to slide, there was nowhere to go but down, and getting back up was nearly impossible. We headed into the woods finding ruts and bouncing back and forth, but everyone was getting comfortable as we made it through the remainder of the course. Several sections were iced over and just hard to find traction or footing as needed. I recall going past a friend and yelling that I just wanted to stay off the F@@@@@@@ ground.
I wanted to put my training to use and in the end, just absorb the race and the experience. Looking back it was really about the confidence the leaders had in riding the course and the elements. I accomplished my goals. I experienced racing at the national level and mentally prepared myself for the next chapter in my racing life.
I really cannot express how much I appreciate the support network around me. Hiring a coach was the first step to working on my goals. Having a family that has allowed me to chase these goals is what makes this happen. It boils down to having the right people in your life. Turning 40 this week on top of all of this, I have realized I have the right people in my life and life is good. Thank you all.