Sunday, December 13, 2009

Dunkin' on Jordan, Driving with Jack

Guest Blogger Corey Green of Cincinnati reports from the 2009 Cyclocross Nationals in Bend, OR:

I felt like I was on the starting line of the NYC marathon. At Cyclocross Nationals, I was call up 140 in a field of 192. In NASCAR terms that's like having a starting grid of 88 cars, a Kentucky Derby with double the horses. When the gun went off there was a 10 second delay before I could move.

With riders shouting, twenty seconds later I heard the sound of carbon and aluminum colliding with asphalt and the scent of burning brake pads on carbon rims filled my nose. With 139 guys in front of me, I couldn't see the pile up. So like a NASCAR driver without a spotter I tried to keep going. Two seconds later I was filling the air with my own rubber burning against aluminum rim. The pile up was massive - Tour de France massive - with bodies and bikes everywhere. A few riders never crossed the start/finish line even once. There's no yellow flags in cross. I hoofed around it.

I got into a group and rode the treacherous and technical course as best I could. However, after the crash and with all the traffic, I was of the opinion that a fat K. Fed had more finesse that I did.

On the second lap I started having fun. I rode the best I had ridden this week and tried to grab a dollar from Sasquatch. Turns out Sasquatch was messin' with the racers. He'd dangle a dollar in front of the riders, but then wouldn't let go. I rode the runup and got big cheers from the crowd. Then I descended like a doof with all the grace of a toddler on a big wheel. If my tailbone isn't permanently bruised my ego may be.

Then they came on lap 4. The real cyclocross racers, guys from Oregon and Colorado and California. I was trying to ride well, but the leaders were absolutely flying. I was lapped last week in OVCX at Louisville while riding in the Masters Elite race, so I know what these guys look like when they lap me. McShane and Webb are no slouches when it comes to racing cyclocross, but these guys were humming. I knew I was in over my head when I started the race, but I had no idea how far underwater.

I started letting guys go by without being in their way. Discretion being the better part of valor, it would be unfair for me to impede them on this technical course. Then the announcer said words that lightened my day. I hadn't heard any of the announcer for a while, but he called a name that helped me understand where I was. "There's Don Myrah!" I just got lapped by an Olympian... "Bart Bowen...and Roger Ashpholm!" ...and two more champions.

No other sport would let someone like me participate in an event at the same time as these guys. Imagine your local high school team playing for the world basketball title against a team with Michael Jordan or playing golf with the Shark - ain't gonna happen.

Humility is the only reaction that makes sense.

All this left me with an enormous sense of excitement. Sure, I got trounced, was never really "in the race", and could have spent the $35 entry fee on bar tape or a full growler from Deschutes. But for $35 I now have a memory and story that I will never forget.

Now if somebody only snapped a photo of me while I was in front of them!

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