I've contemplated posting this to a public forum here on CX mag for a couple of days, but after reading Mark Legg-Compton's column in the latest issue of CX Mag I was inspired to turn off CNN for two minutes and share some feelings from this past weekend at the Boulder Cup. I've been racing bikes for many years, started racing cross five years ago at age 46 and now can not wait for CX season every year, it just makes me feel much more alive than your typical 50+ year old in this world. I truly do not care where I finish in a race, I've had some good races over the years and some crappy ones, just does not matter. I love the scene and so many of the characters, I love the challenge of the effort and knowing everyone out there is suffering as much as I do, some may just finish a little sooner, some a little later. I love the poetry of a smooth dismount and remount and the debacle of looking like a bumbling idiot when it goes bad. It's just the purest form of hell and fun all wrapped into one.
I used to race the 45+ category for three years and became disgusted with alot of the racers in that group as they never really seemed to acknowledge my presence at the front range races. This despite driving two and a half hours from Eagle, Colorado, one way, to race for 45 minutes, watch a few more races and then drive back home another two and a half hours, sometimes in blizzard conditions. To me the race is about the people and the place I get to race, it's about the experience, it's about cyclocross. Two years ago I finally made the decision to race 35+ cat 4's as it was just a more mellow and friendly scene and much more cormfortable, I did not have to line up against a bunch of ex-pro road riders and get crushed every weekend, it was just more fun. I became familiar with the riders in that group and really enjoyed racing with them despite being the oldest guy in the group. I still felt a bit intimidated to carry a conversation or even say hi to most of the 45+ riders, which I thought was rediculous being a grown man, I mean...WTF? To add to this frustration the weekend before at the Boulder Resevoir while warming up for my race on course, the 45+ race was on while I pre-rode the course. I immediately flatted out in the goat head field and as I rode back in on the course a racer came up behind me and screamed at me to "get the F*^% off the course", which was understandable, he was chasing the leader. I swung wide with my flat and as he rode by I apologized for being on course to which he replied "F$&% you!" I was pretty pissed at the response and almost wrote a scathing column to CX MAG to tell people to chill, it's a race yeah, but it's not the end of the world if I do indeed get out of your way and apologize for being stuck on course riding a flat as I let you by...it was pretty discouraging, ruined my day actually.
I decided to let it go. Which brings me to the Boulder Cup last weekend. I'm not sure what was up, but guys I had never really had conversation with were talking to me, about all kinds of stuff. Guys like Karl Kiester, Gary Thacker, Brook Watts, John Bliss and others, it was a really pleasant experience. I mean, I'll never ride at these guys level as far as results are concerned, but I give it everything I have at every event just like they do, and to be quite honest with you, I admire and look up to how good they are, it's just amazing what these guys are doing in their 50's. The point of this entire rave is only this....the fact that those guys who I consider amazing athletes took the time to just say hey, talk cross and some other stuff, well, it's kind of silly to say for a 51 year old man, but it made my day, it made my CX season.
I had a conversation with Jay Henry last year after our good friend Mike Janelle passed away unexpected the morning after Thanksgiving. Mike was the kind of person who talked to anyone and everyone at every race he participated in, he touched everyone, he was an ambassador to the cycling world, everyone loved him for it. Jay Henry, who is one of the most talented cyclists in the country period, gives alot back to the sport, he's a kind sole and the fact that he talks to anyone who wishes to bend his ear about cycling or anything else for that matter is just awesome, he's an icon and a mentor and gives back. We had been tipping a few pints at a fundraising event for Mike's widow and child when I told Jay how important it was to everyone that he took time to give back and simply talk to people, because they all look up to him....
So, back to the Mark Legg-Compton story...there are alot of really talented riders who race on the front range of Colorado during CX season, there are also alot of regular folks out there who come to race every week as well. The elite athlete can make a huge difference, even if he or she just says hey to people when they walk by someone they do not know. EVERYONE looks up to you guys and gals, no one is begging anyone to be friendly to everyone, but you can make a huge difference in someone's day by simply acknowledging them, hell, it could be thier first CX race ever and they may not know a sole there....be ambassadors, you never know, it may be your last chance to leave an impression.
Anyway, if you were there this weekend, you know how special it was, it was CX at it's finest, it was life at it's finest. Thanks again to all of you who helped make it that good for so many people...
Elgee (Larry Grossman)
Addicted to Bicycles/
Cult Cross Promoter
P.S. I am recovering from my epic wreck on Saturday....see you at Chatfield this weekend.