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The Calm Before The Cyclocross Storm
December 3, 2021 – The Forty-Third Official Friday Night BeerBlog
We head out to the 2021 Cyclocross National Championships in Chicago next week. I have spent nearly every year since 2007 traveling to this competition. Our first year was held in Kansas City and Ian was able to race as a 10 year old. Mike and I had just started the junior development team, Red Zone Cycling. It was the first test of what our kids were able to do.
We went into that first year of nationals not knowing what to expect. So when Ian hit the podium in the 10-12 year olds, we were like, Okay, yeah, we got this. Then he followed up the next year with a win and a National Championship jersey, again in Kansas City. I can definitely tell you, there was nothing like seeing that happen for him.
This competition has taken us to many places. The craziest was me flying with 15 kids under 15, while Mike and a few other dads drove all of the equipment across the country. Literally. From Kentucky to Bend, Oregon. The weather made the trip a difficult one and the bikes arrived just a mere 12 hours before the first race.
Because of the thrill of this event we’ve traveled to the aforementioned Kansas City twice, Bend, Oregon twice, Madison, Wisconsin twice, Hartford, Connecticut, Asheville, North Carolina, Austin, Texas, Denver, Colorado and have held it here in our backyard of Louisville, Kentucky once.
Not only did Ian race in each of these years with his trade teams, but also as a collegiate athlete at Marian University. But not only did Ian race, but so did Mike. When Mike and I started dating he was a semi-pro mountain biker as well as a road racer; so when Cyclocross started getting big, it fit the bill for all of Mike’s strengths.
We spent many years chasing the United States Gran Prix of Cyclocross title across New Jersey, Kentucky, Oregon, Colorado and Wisconsin. But with Ian finishing college in 2019, the McShanes needed a mental and financial break from travel. So we didn’t go to the 2019 Championship in Washington State and then Covid cancelled 2020.
What is Cyclocross you ask? This is how I always describe it to people. Cyclocross is a steeplechase on a bicycle. The riders use a type of bike that is part road, part mountain bike. It’s a road-ish frame with wider tires with specific tread to handle the course conditions that day/hour/minute. Riders start on asphalt and race for the “hole-shot” – the place where the asphalt turns to grass or dirt.
The course is approximately 1.5 miles long and has obstacles such as sand, flyovers, barriers, hills, off-camber sections – you name it and they ride it. At certain points the riders must dismount their bike and hop over barriers. Two pits are available – and if you flat or have a mechanical you can ride into the pit and get what’s called your “B” bike. The race is based on time – so if the race is 45 minutes long and the first lap was ridden in 8 minutes, the race will be 5 laps long. The first person across the line after 5 laps is the winner.
After two years of not traveling to this race, next week we will again be hitting the road for Mike to compete in his age group of 55-59 year olds. He has spent most of the year ranked number #1 in his age group, which is fun, but bears no meaning for the outcome of the race. Bike races are like other sports; come tournament time, anything can happen. Mike is a technical rider, which means he excels on technical turns and terrain. But if the course has a lot of long drags through grass or sand, he will suffer.
The week for before a big competition is understated. The equipment preparation for cyclocross is extensive and must be precise. And remember, you have TWO bikes to prep so it takes even longer (and more money). But the question of what workouts to do to stay fresh, but keep you on top of your form is tricky. You don’t want to do too much and you don’t want to do too little. It has to be just right Bo Peep.
But Mike is old hat at this and I know he has it dialed in for himself. I’m just glad we don’t have to take 15 kids to race anymore. While that was extremely rewarding, it was hard. Wish us luck – Mike with the racing, me with the cheering because I excel at that as well. And if you feel the desire to scream “GO PICKLE” next Thursday at 1:10 CT, then go for it!
I’ll be giving updates in Instagram and Facebook stories if you want to follow along.
See you on the other side!
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