Norge Ski Jump CX Race

I wasn’t planning to do a cyclocross race last weekend. There was no WCA race on the schedule, so I figured I’d have the weekend off. But then my friend Claire invited me to come along with her to do the Norge Ski Jump Cyclocross Race in the north suburbs of Chicago. She explained to me that she wanted to “keep the engines hot.”  That made me laugh. But I was also intrigued. And the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to race.

Shortly before 6 a.m. on Saturday, I met Claire and we made the drive across the border. As soon as we arrived, we hopped on our bikes and did a practice loop. It was probably the most technical course I’ve ever ridden—lots of off camber turns, gravel, climbing, and barriers that were most certainly higher than regulation. Instead of giving me confidence, the practice loop made me downright scared. It was also the coldest I’ve been at a CX race. Trying to keep my feet warm was a no-win situation. I could feel the doubts creeping in—this course is crazy, it’s so cold, why am I here? But Claire made me feel better when she talked about how it would be great experience—to overcome the fear of riding such a technical course, to race against a new field of women—and if nothing else, it would be a good race-effort workout.

As soon as we lined up for the race, I realized had forgotten to put on my sunglasses. When we took off, the cold air hit my eyes and suddenly I had tears in my eyes and could hardly see. This was not good, especially since the first stretch was particularly treacherous with loose gravel and scattered larger rocks. Somehow I made it through and fell into fifth place. I was riding well with the leaders through a flat, technical part. Eventually, we came to a large, gravel hill, and while the others attacked, I couldn’t get traction. My wheels spun out and I was literally left in the dust. For the rest of the race, I was in no-man’s land—a few minutes back from the leaders and few minutes ahead of the next group. I tried to stay motivated, but without much of a race, I’ll admit it was difficult.

Claire was right, though. Regardless of how things went, it was a good experience. I encountered new obstacles that will make me stronger in the future. And everyone I met at the race was incredibly friendly. Somehow I also managed to take home $50 for 5th place, my very first race payout. Granted, between the race registration, gas money, post-race beers, and lunch, I was in the red instead of ahead, but it still felt pretty sweet to be handed an envelope of cash.

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