Bike racing moments worth remembering

As I plodded along the cyclcocross track today a heckler shouted: “Hey Mandrola….blog about this.”

By ‘this,’ I can only assume he meant how cool our sport is. He surely wasn’t heckling a doctor about a lackluster performance.

Alright then. Mr. Heckler said blog on.

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A few weeks ago I received a tweet asking me to write more about bike racing. Truth be told, I liked the message. More than 700 posts ago, this blog was born from writing race reports. I used to drone on about the minutia of bike racing. But that was then. I still love racing; but what’s more interesting to write about: racing a bike or…that miracle in your chest?

But tonight, let’s talk about our crazy sport.

This weekend, my family (sans one) and I went CX racing in Ohio–the state made famous for picking the next US president. (Another topic, for another type of blogger.)

The best moment of the weekend was clear.

First though, let’s begin with one of the less-than-best. (A sidebar: electrical heart doctors spend a great deal of time setting out where an arrhythmia is not coming from.) The best moment was surely not a highly trained electrophysiologist racing a bike on grass and dirt in a bone-chilling 39-degree rainstorm. As I turned the first corner, alongside 50 sprinting aerobic androids, my eyes clouded with freezing spray, and in the moment just before turning onto a slippery sidewalk, I asked myself a tough question: what am I doing this for? Alas, this is a severe problem. Just asking yourself such a question at that moment portends a dubious outcome.

To the second best moment…

My son is 15. As his dad, I have watched him grow from minute 1, when he was covered in biologic goo. Remember, I’m a trained observer. Maybe this happens to all who are lucky enough to live into middle-age, but reflection about seemingly regular stuff gets to be normal. Things like observing your teenagers, for example.

Watching your 15 year-old race a bike on a course populated with grown men strikes me as…well…pretty remarkable. Picture it: Your little boy in a 70-man melee of beginner bike racers, most of whom deeply care about results. As a CX-parent, you’ve been watching this for years.

Then something changes. Now your little guy is in the front group of men.

The cool thing about spectating at cyclocross races is that fans stand within feet of the action. So when your little person goes by, intense visual and audible stimuli stream into your brain. The visuals are obvious. He is going really fast. He’s tall. He’s not scared. He seems bigger than he does at home. The audible input is one that bike racers know well. It’s the sound the drivetrain (the gears) makes when one shifts down to a bigger gear–to go faster. It’s a thud of acceleration, of strength. Really, it’s a beautiful sound, made more beautiful on a carbon-bike.

Your little man’s strength is not the best moment–though it’s a close second.

Here’s the best image capture. I watch him cross the line. A few yards after the finish, he joins a rapidly growing group of other juniors, who have all whipped the adult field. They acknowledge each other for the obvious: the bond of bike racing.

To me, watching him high-five another competitor after a hard-fought race was the best moment of the weekend. To see your guy feel the camaraderie of an effort well given is an image that sticks. These are not pro-bike racers to be. These are kids who excel at an individual sport learning about the greatest aspect of team sports–each other.

It’s true. To be part of the team, bike racers have to train, and dig deep, and take risks. They have to take tests in which all will see the results. Heck yes, these traits ought to form a bond.

That’s bike racing. And it’s something special.

JMM

3 comments

  1. Someone once made the observation that by about the age of 14, your son will beat you (at whatever sport) for the first time. By the time he is 15, he will be beating you regularly. By the time he is 17, he will be taking it easy on the old man to keep the score close. 🙂

    I went through a compressed version of this when my son took up squash for the first time while he was at university. At first, my experience and guile allowed me to dominate the games; every now and then I’d allow the score to get close, just to keep it interesting. Within a year he’d turned the tables on me, allowing me to win a point once in a while by deliberately missing shots while I was huddled in the corner, gasping for air. 🙂

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