Bill Schieken posted this excellent video clip from Jingle Cross that just bowled me over. In case you missed it, have a look:
The moment depicted here is a perfect encapsulation of every last molecule of what I love about this crazy sport. I urge you to watch this and soak in the intensity of these precious seconds several times in a row. Watching this makes my heart race.
We’ve all heard the old saw – “in cyclocross, the sprint is at the beginning of the race”. It’s hammered home to all of us from the first clinics we go to. When you hear the best in the world in post race interviews talk about how their race went, many will start with those opening moments.
“I had a great start, slotted in right where I wanted to be at the first turn.”
“Well, I missed my pedal at the start, and from there I never really recovered.”
You certainly can’t win the race at the start, but you can definitely do a lot to lose it there. I can only imagine what’s going through the heads of the men and women at the highest levels. Weeks, months, years of training and sacrifice are built up for these events, then add to that the anticipation of the start and the meaning it has on the outcome of the race. All those things combine to make the most glorious, concentrated ristretto shot of cyclocross mojo you can taste. At the first race of each season, locked into the starting grid, in those last few seconds after the referee calls out, “..anytime in the next 30 seconds” – that’s the good stuff, right there.
Having raced a bunch over the years with a focus on cyclocross, I’ve gotten to the point where my heart is trained to get revved up at the thought of a race start. The few times I’ve taken my heartrate in a race, in those very last seconds, it hits my tempo/zone 3 rate before the first pedal stroke is made. It must be because my brain is warning my body about what’s going to need to happen quite soon. Complete focus. Perfect clip in. A brutal exertion of force applied to the pedals. Full torque! Shift. Fill the gap. Move up. Sprint! Then there’s the hour of pain to follow…