Why I'm doing this

p hoto by eloy anzola

photo by eloy anzola

by Shane Ferro

There's nothing more exhilarating that sprinting as hard as you can up a dirt hill against sixty other women, fighting for every place, knowing that your effort over the next five seconds can't win you the race, but it certainly can lose it.

After that first corner, the cyclocross race settles into a rhythm. That rhythm turns out to be pretty close to an all-out effort for 40 minutes, one corner at a time. While you're doing it, it's the worst pain you've ever felt. And then it's over and suddenly you can't wait to do it again and tell everyone you know they should be doing it as well.

And then it's over. You spend the rest of the day at a park or in the woods cheering on friends, drinking beer, or just laying in the grass. There are dogs and snacks. You go to bed, sleep for ten hours, then wake up and do it again. It's the ideal weekend setup for a person who spends her days snarking on the internet in America's most dense city. Cyclocross is my balance.

So that's why I do cyclocross. Why, exactly, am I doing this? 

Every year I see a dozen or two or three women show up for Wednesday night cyclocross practice on Randall's Island. They're so excited to race bikes. They cycle in an out, but by the end of the season there are usually a handful who have become regulars. Those are the one who fall in love with the sport and start racing every weekend. They don't just want to do cyclocross, they want to race cyclocross.

The next year, they show up in September eager to keep moving up. They do for a while -- then many of them hit a wall. Mid-season it becomes impossible to find a ride, but financially infeasible to rent a car. Your bike breaks on Sunday and there's no time or will to fix it before Friday. It becomes tempting to sleep through early training alarms. Everyone else has packed it in and is inviting you on off-season donut rides every weekend. One day you look up, feel alone, and realize racing isn't fun anymore. 

At some point in the last three years each one of us have hit that wall. We realized independently that racing elite cyclocross takes a mix of dedication and support that is almost impossible for an amatuer -- particularly a car-free, workaholic New Yorker -- to achieve on their own. Yet, we aren't ready to give up. So this year we're coming together to scale the wall. We're going to push each other to new limits and, hopefully, find and mentor other women who would like to do the same. 

It's going to be awesome.