Field of Riches
Riding in the cold, snow and mud at the Field of Riches Cross in Richfield, Wisconsin. Photo by Jason McDowell

You never know where life will take you. Since February 2020, I’ve been on this long and somewhat strange journey of dropping weight and getting stronger on the bike. Add in the world’s mass formation, I pretty much had nothing better to do for most of 2020 and 2021 but to focus on training and trying to kick bad eating habits. I was generally successful with that. Lost 60+ pounds, consistently could ride 60+ mile rides and rode significantly faster on them.

I did a few cyclocross races in years past, but it wasn’t really enjoyable. I’d much rather be at the races than race. I didn’t know if any of the work I did on the trainer and on the road would translate to cyclocross. To be fair, I had low expectations. I wanted to finish races. I’m not anything remotely skinny or powerful which either is needed on lumpy CX courses. Given the inclination of race directors to put steep inclines in courses and long power sections, I would need to get on and off my bike on a regular basis and drop wattage bombs. And as someone with short legs, general clumsiness and good, but not great power, this would be a challenge in the races.

But I signed up for all of the races in the Wisconsin CX Series. What’s the worst thing that can happen, right? With some adjustments to my Crux, 38T 1x chainring, 11-34 cassette and Di2 fined tuned by the wonderful guys at Ben’s Cycle (thanks Vince and crew for taking good care of me throughout the season and all these years), the bike wasn’t going to be a detriment to my results.

I debated doing a blow by blow of the season. But the reality is, it doesn’t really matter. I finished 8 races, 1 DNF, 1 DNS due to mechanical, 1 DNS due to injury and 1 DNS due to anxiety from the course. (There was another race that I didn’t attend, but I was at funeral so that really doesn’t count as a DNS.) I’ll put the results below. As the season progressed, I became stronger on the bike. I was able to ride the more technical parts of the courses. I was able to ride corners without using the brakes. And more importantly, I was able to finish closer to not being DFL.

What was more important was all of the really interesting people I met this year. When you see the same faces in your own race, you start to build relationships with those people on and off the course. You start to exchange text messages, follow them and interact with them on social media. You start to feel like a part of something. As someone who has basically been detached from a lot of things for a long time, it felt great. In addition, it was great to reconnect with a lot of people I haven’t seen in while including teammates and former teammates.

There were a couple of other things that stood out this year. There is a really cool group of ladies out of Madison that filled out the majority of the Women’s 4/5 field at the majority of the races this year. Their team is called Femme 40 Racing. They want to make bike racing accessible to newcomers. Seeing the smiles on their faces at the races, I’d say it is working. Can’t wait to see how they evolve into 2022. If you’re in the Madison area, check them out.

The other thing that stood out is all of the smiles on everyone’s faces at the races. In a world that’s completely out of tune (and mostly out of its mind), for a few hours on a Saturday or Sunday, everything else that was going on was forgotten. While other races and race series cancelled, kudos to the WCA and all of the races teams that put on their races to provide us a much needed distraction and allow us to have fun. In a related thought, the World Cups were back in America and all of the Europeans came over this year. They all had smiles on their faces too.

Finally, after having burping issues with my wheels and tires, I think tubeless is still a work in progress for us heavier riders. Probably switching to tubulars next year. Or different rims.

With the season over, I’m in the middle of a two-week break. I will be training with The Sufferfest for my on-bike workouts and will be doing strength training with Paul at Simple Endurance Coaching. I hope to have the same offseason gains like I had this year and hopefully move to the middle of the pack or at least not get lapped. I also want to work on going up steep inclines. I think it is a skill that I need to learn so that I don’t lose as much time. We will see.

Cheers to a great season!

2021 Results:

Cross-Shooshko – 54/55

Lion Cross – 50/57

Flyover Silver Creek – DNS (Burped tire during pre-ride.)

Sun Prairie Cup – 62/63

Battle of Waterloo CX – 44/50

Badger Prairie Cross – 48/48

Hill Bill – DNS (Off-the-charts anxiety. Decided to sit it out.)

Cross Fire – 64/64

Kringle Kross – DNF (Crashed on first lap, resulted in concussion)

Diablo Cross – DNS (Concussion)

Field of Riches Cross – 42/45

WI Cyclocross State Championships – 75/77 (Note, burped tire on second lap. Finished walking/running course.)