KWCX – My first (and last?) cyclocross race

When I was re-introduced into cycling as an adult in the early 1990s, I bought a mountain bike and began to explore trails.  In these early days, there weren’t a lot of trails that were built exclusively for mountain bike, so my brothers and I would explore hiking trails around Dundas Valley, Oakville and anywhere else we could find.  I didn’t start “racing” until the early 2000s when we discovered events like Paris to Ancaster (P2A) and 8- and 24-hour mountain bike relays.  For over a decade, I entered all kinds of mountain bike events, gravel grinder races, fat bike races (in winter) and even the occasional road race (although I treated those road races more like timed road tours).  In recent years, however, my motivation in cycling has shifted away from racing.  These days, I prefer more relaxed rides through the countryside, either alone or with friends who share a similar cycling mentality (and speed!). I still enter the occasional race.  As I’ve mentioned, I entered P2A for the 17th straight year this past April.  And a couple of weeks ago, I entered a new race – the Howling Coyote, which is destined to be a fall gravel classic here in Ontario.  But I haven’t been in a mountain bike race for several years now (I can’t even remember my last one.).  The spark for racing has diminished with my increasing age; my love for cycling, however, has increased. One type of bike race that, until this past weekend, I’d never entered, was a cyclocross, or CX, race.  This type of racing never held any appeal to me: riding around on a short circuit, dismounting to hop over obstacles just didn’t seem like a lot of fun. When the Waterloo Cycling Club announced a local cyclocross (CX) event about 6 km from my home, I initially thought it would be a good event to go watch and support my cycling club mates.  Then on Facebook, I jokingly asked “is there a fat bike category?”.  And what do you know… the organizers added one.  So for weeks, I hemmed and hawed about signing up. I had another excuse: I’d have to get a citizen’s racing license, which would be an additional expense. The organizers, however, said WCC members who need a citizen’s license will have the cost covered by the club!  How could I say ‘no’, now? So I did the right thing and signed up. On race day, it was cold.  And rainy.  For some reason, fat bikers would be starting alongside the Elite (1/2) men and single-speeders (there’s probably a CX rule book that states it must be this way).  While this didn’t make sense to me, it made sense to the organizers because it meant that Masters and Elite 3/4 men could sign up for two races (their age group AND fat bike or single speed). Anyhow… I rode from my house along the Grand River Trail to Bingeman’s for my 3:10 pm start time.  It’s only about 6 km, but the trail ride was a nice warm up, plus the leaves are still so colourful.
The warmup. The Grand River Trail in the fall can be so beautiful.
I arrived at Bingeman’s around 1 pm to see some of my cycling friends racing in the Master’s 2 division.  My good buddy Joe M finished third in that category! The Elite and Masters women started just after 2 pm.  My niece Kaitlyn lined up against many of my cycling club mates, including Carolyn, Alison, Sylvia, Susan, Michal, Kelly, Joanne.
Kaitlyn (red helmet) taking on my club mates.
It rained for the entire women’s race.  It made for an entertaining spectator event, but it also meant the grass got muddier and slicker for my race.
Kaitlyn racing to third overall in the women’s category.
By the time the women’s race ended, I had enough time to ride a bit of the course and warm up (again!).  Standing around in the cold (2C, rain, wind) for two hours prior to a bike race isn’t the ideal way to prepare for a race, so my warmup was short and painful. At the last minute, the organizers threw a curve ball at those of us in the fat-bike and single-speed categories.  They thought it would be fun to have a Le Mans start, which means: run about 50 metres along wet, muddy grass to your bike, hop on and start riding.  Riding around on wet, muddy grass up and down slippery off-camber hills wasn’t enough entertainment, apparently!
The Le Mans start of the fat bike and single speed categories. (Photo: screen capture from KWCX Facebook video)
I’m not a runner by any stretch of the imagination, so I lightly jogged to my bike behind every rider except Shelly, who casually walked to her bike, while the others took off.  The fast fat bikers took off at lightning speed.  Many of them lapped me in this four-lap event. I had the misconception that fat tires would be the perfect choice on the muddy grass.  I was wrong.  It was so slippery, I had no traction.  I slipped off my bike once on the first lap and after that point, I made the decision to walk everything that was slippery and sloped (about 1/3 of the course!).  The elite riders lapped me on my second lap (their third), and soon thereafter, the fast fat bikers lapped me.  Our fat bike race was four laps, but I only got three in, which was more than enough.  Shelly and I finished at the back of the pack (she outsprinted me at the finish line).
More mud on the course, on my bike and on me! (Photo: Kaitlyn Shikaze)
Those knobby fat tires? They were the ideal choice for attracting huge volumes of mud! (Photo: Mike Orsan)
Thanks to the organizers and sponsors and the many volunteers.  And thanks to everyone who rode in difficult conditions (die-hard CX racers told me that these were ideal CX conditions…  if they were trying to convince me to enter a CX event again, they were unsuccessful!).  And thanks (I think?) to the organizers for having a fat-bike category! As I mentioned at the start of this article, my motivation to race is diminishing.  I’m glad I entered this race.  I only wish there were more Dairy Queen (DQ) coupons around for my race (previous races that day had opportunities for racers to pick up coupons in the sand!).  And I wish I came home with some SWAG.  Nevertheless, it was a well-run event (almost) in my own backyard! How often can I say that?  

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