When my grandchildren ask me where I was when the first Cross Clash happened, I can tell them, “I was there. I saw it all go down, and then Jeremy Powers almost took me out with his bike when he came a bit too close to the top of the Circulus.”
Then, I’ll shoo them outside to go play on their ‘cross bikes and complain that my knees aren’t what they used to be and remounting hurts my back.
I was lucky enough to be at the clash of the cyclocross titans at Interbike pre-CrossVegas, reporting for Cyclocross Magazine. Check out the footage from the third of the best-two-out-of-three match between the two racers on the mini-velodrome:
The first Cross Clash was between Rapha/FOCUS’s Jeremy Powers and Cannondale/CyclocrossWorld.com’s Tim Johnson, two of America’s top ‘cross-ers. The battle wasn’t on cyclocross bikes, but rather, on BMX bikes on a mini-velodrome and it was, in a word, epic.
Those Rapha-FOCUS guys know how to draw a crowd. From Powers coming out with his “trainer” massaging his shoulders and giving him a pep talk, rocking a silk boxing jacket with the hood up and pulled over his eyes, to the intensity of the pre-race press conference, to the weigh in, it was … well, a spectacle. And Embrocation Cycling Journal’s own Jeremy Dunn was the front man/emcee for the whole performance.
But Cross Clash didn’t end with Interbike and the Powers versus Johnson battle on BMX bikes. Rather, that was just the beginning.
Cyclocross is a race of degrees. That’s probably why so many people, from the top pro’s, to the mid-packers, to the five year olds, to the eighty five year olds, love it. Unlike road racing, in a cyclocross race, you don’t have to worry about getting dropped from the pack or being in a crash with thirty other riders (OK, you don’t have to worry as much.) And unlike mountain biking, you don’t have to worry about wolverines, bears or losing your way on the trails. Instead, you get to ride around a well-marked course at your own pace, and people will still be cheering.
Within these degrees, there’s always someone at roughly your level, no matter where in the field you fall. Sometimes, it’s easy to get frustrated when you’re not racing at the front of the race. However, that said, that doesn’t mean you can’t be racing at the front of your race.
You know who your major competitors are, and even if you’re duking it out for a mid-twenties position, dammit, you’re willing to sprint for your placing. Last season, it was me versus a woman from Philly who I both love and respect. We clashed weekend after weekend, racing in the B women for (typically) 25th and 26th or so spots. We trash talked each other constantly, hugged just as frequently, and fought wildly to preserve our solidly mid-pack placings. And now thanks to the Internet, I am taking that competition to the next level. And yes, there is a next level.
If you race cyclocross in The Northeast, you probably know your victims and your nemeses. You probably even call them your victims and nemeses. This is thanks to crossresults.com, a website for the truly obsessive, set up to serve as a way for racers to keep track of their scoring and see who they are/have been/will be up against. If you look at that site, the odds are good that you’ve been doing some hard staring at the start line of races at the girl or guy next to you that you haven’t managed to beat this season.
Want a frenemy? Now you have an easy way to get one, thanks to the CrossClash with Rapha/FOCUS and crossresults.com that started back in September. You can now pick the rider you want to challenge, hit a button, and boom: it’s on. And yeah, there are prizes at the end of the season for the winner of your clash.
For someone like me, who’s sitting midfield in the elite races, this is a pretty cool feature. It basically creates a race-within-the-race (how Shakespearean!) so that even if I’m not beating, say, Laura Van Gilder, I can still challenge someone else in the field and have my own private race. And of course, trash talk is encouraged. It might even be mandatory.
With all of that in mind, the most epic battle of the season has already come and gone between Johnson and Powers. But this coming weekend should be another battle royale for you. Every weekend should be, no matter where you are in the field. Enjoy the friendly competition/camaraderie that comes with the satisfaction of knowing that you are now in your own race. Also, consider setting up your own prize list – loser buys the winner a six pack post-race!