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End Of Cyclocross Season Recap – Brevard NC

 

Last updated 2/6/2017 at 6:51pm

Cowie on top of the podium at a recent NCCX race. ( Photo courtesy of Emily Cowie)

After traveling thousands of miles, the cyclocross season is done and dusted. The bikes are washed, tuned, and put away and my sights are set on plans for 2017. This year's goal was to qualify for the World Championships in Luxembourg. The United States only takes six riders so racking up points and good results would be crucial to make the team.

Cyclocross started as an off-season sport for the European road professionals. It is a combination of road riding, mountain Biking, and cross country running in one sport. A modified road bike is used to ride on pavement, gravel, trails, grass, and sand. There are "dismounts" where the riders must jump off their bike and run with it. There are steep embankments, flights of stairs, and sets of wooden barriers to force the dismounting and running.

The season started in August. There were no races, but there were sponsors to meet with, hands to be shook and logistics to be planned. Asheville Cyclocross hosts clinics at Bent Creek Park every Wednesday in August. As a way to give back to the community I always try and volunteer at those clinics. It's a great time and a good way to help people learn and practice skills.

September was the start of the traditional cross season. However, since the majority of the early season races require long travel and high expenses I decided to skip most of those races. I set my sights on the closer UCI events kicking off in October. September for me was jumping into local races and enjoying the time at home, while I had it. October was the start of my season and it was busy, with four straight weekends of racing and traveling to North Carolina, Baltimore, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Louisville and back. In that time, I was able to score my first ever top ten in a Category 1 race, stand on the podium in third at Cleveland, and make up for flat tires and small crashes to gain valuable points.

After a quick break around the Thanksgiving holiday it was off to the final races, Indianapolis and then my "home" race in Hendersonville. Indianapolis was a disappointing weekend with a near miss of the podium and freezing in icy rain. I was very motivated to put on a good race for the hometown crowd the following weekend. The cyclocross course at Jackson Park is a place where I've done hundreds, if not thousands, of laps. I knew every root, rock and blade of grass on that course. The race is always very tactical and the winner is usually the leader in the last few corners. After shuffling for position on singletrack climb in the woods, I was able to get into the lead. I put my head down and pushed as hard as I could the last quarter of the lap. While the riders behind me made an error on the penultimate corner I got the breathing room I needed. I held on for first and rolled into the finish with five seconds on second place. It was beyond words to win my first ever UCI race at a place I know so well while being surrounded by my friends and family.

After a break for Christmas and New Years it was off to Hartford, Conn. for the National Championships. For those who were wondering, Connecticut is quite cold in January. The morning after we arrived the temperature was in the single digits and fresh snow covered the course. The amateur races early in the week had transformed the course from a smooth grassy park into a frozen mess. The frozen ruts and icy corners were waiting to trip up the unsuspecting rider. Nervous about racing in those conditions, I remembered what it is like to ride the mountain bike trails in Pisgah National Forest. The Hartford course was no match for the conditions of slippery roots and rocks back home.

Cyclocross races happen rain or shine, and sometimes in the snow. (Photo courtesy of Emily Cowie)

However, a flat tire halfway through the first lap would drop me far back into the field of riders. As soon as I felt the air leave my rear wheel, I knew that the World Championship team was gone, but I was determined to get the best result I could. I put my head down and tried to pick off as many riders as I could before the finish. Seventeenth was my result, but did not tell the story of the race.

Although Nationals was a tough pill to swallow it was a great season. I went from never scoring points in a Category 1 race to nabbing points in all but one of the Category 1s I raced in. I won my first ever UCI race at Hendersonville and I slipped into the top 100 World Rankings.

For now, I'll be taking a quick break and recharging the batteries before jumping into some local road, gravel, and mountain bike events throughout the summer. July starts the preparation for another season of cyclocross.

Tristan Cowie is a local cycling coach, racer and Brevard College graduate.

 
 

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