Have been riding bikes since I was seven, in college after my $100 K-Mart steel bike was smashed by a car for the second time (another story, long story short I flipped off the bike and was fine, bike was destroyed) I dug deep and spent around $270 on my Bianchi Mainstreet. Have had that bike for almost a quarter century now, went from being my main means of getting around campus through sun, rain, sleet and snow to years later being relegated to towing bike trailers and a tandem attachment. The bike flew with me to Saudi Arabia where I was the only person in the entire region riding a bicycle while wearing a helmet, never mind I was also only one of about three Americans in all of Qasim. Back state side eventually I got my first carbon road bike, and the Bianchi was relegated to rides with the kids. Fast forward to two days ago, Sunday, October 16, 2016. I put some WTB Cross Boss tires on my rims, took off my bar extensions and the bracket for the U-Lock that had been attached to my frame since it rolled out of the Bianchi shop, along with the original pedals and my bar extensions. I had to take it to a bike shop to get help unfreezing the bolts holding the saddle on and stuck the same type of Specialized saddle I have on my current road bike on.
Morning of the race, getting up at six in the morning, I kept asking myself, what are you doing?!? You’re too old for this! I forced myself to get ready and go out anyway. My Bianchi was still in the car from pre-riding the course the day before. My front tire was…flat. Rushed to the race, pumped some air in my tire and rode carrying a spare tube I luckily just happened to pick up the night before, my bike pump and some tire levers, to the tents where the BBC Team guys were kind enough to help me change the flat. Rushed to registration building to pick up my number and had only ten minutes left to warm up. No time to pre-ride the course this morning, had been riding it with my kids for about a year leading up to this (my kids raced last year and this year) so I figured not too much could have changed.
Lined up. Whistle blew…and the initial sprint was off. There was one massive horse jump in the course, and two small standard barriers in series elsewhere. The horse jump was my favorite part of the race – I was able to leap over it every time. Grass was wet this morning though, after dropping my chain once, I manage to also wipe out maybe three times during the course of the race on sharp turns over wet grass. Still, nobody ran over me when I went down. In fact, the entire race nobody so much as nudged me once. I had been staying away from road racing – the idea of getting elbowed and pushed, potentially crashing at speed at shattering frames and bones was not terribly appealing, especially after seeing it happen to multiple buddies. This was nothing like that. Yes, in the first lap I though I was gonna die, and my legs, lungs, and my brain kept telling me to bail. Same in the second, third, and fourth lap. How many laps were there? I lost count. A little over thirty minutes and we were done. It was great fun. I might actually do this again.
I had been sure that folks would laugh me out of the race. Showing up on a steel bike, a hybrid bike from another era, not one meant for racing much less for cross. Nothing of the kind happened at all. In fact a few folks said they really liked my bike (sincerely, not sarcastically, I swear. I have enough gray hair by now to know the difference). I’m glad I finished the race. I felt great afterward. I look forward to improving my bike handling skills and racing again some day.
Race photos (and some pics of my Bianchi) are here.