I’ve grown accustomed to being the center of attention, a function of my overbearing personality, outlandish sunglasses and high-visibility style of criterium racing.
Admittedly, I’m more of a spandex-wearing Dennis Rodman than an equivalently tightly-fitted Michael Jordan; regardless, the bottom line is that I’m used to entering reasonably high-level races with a reasonable probability of placing well and an even higher probability of making myself noticed regardless of my finishing speed. It’s a role I have cherished.
You’ll likely be stoked to hear that my foray into the world of cyclocross racing has forced me to reassess my ego.
Thanks to the overwhelming generosity of the famous Yukie Nakamura and her husband Mark — who lent me a ‘cross bike — I’ve had the joy of racing the past two Bay Area Superprestige ‘cross races, the first at Sierra Point just south of San Francisco and the second in the heart of Golden Gate Park, approximately four miles from my house.
I had intended to slip quietly into the ‘cross scene by racing in the B category event at Sierra Point; however, top NCNCA ‘crosser Krishna Dole commented on my “please come heckle me” post, successfully goading me into racing the A category event. When summoned by Krishna himself, you don’t back down. I’m pretty sure he could kick my ass with his red beard alone.
In my first-ever ‘cross race, I finished 41st; in my second, I finished 37th. In both, I’ve been utterly unremarkable…pack fodder, at best.
I’m a nobody. As if my finishing places weren’t clear proof enough, allow me to clarify further.
After the Sierra Point race, as I was valiantly holding back a barrage of projectile vomit, Krishna introduced himself to me by saying, “Hey, you’re Rand right? I’m Krishna. I’m a mid-pack Cat 4 on the road.” It was an outwardly kind and deferential statement, but I believe what he meant was the ‘cross equivalent of the timeless trash-television line “Welcome to the O.C., bitch!”
This past weekend, Josh Snead — one of the hippest pseudo-roadies I know, and easily one of my favorite crit punching bags — was far less veiled with his taunts.
“Rand,” he said, looking directly into my eyes after he finished fourth in Golden Gate Park, “you’re never gonna beat me at ‘cross. I just got off a plane three hours ago and I haven’t ridden all week.”
He’s probably right.
In spite of how badly I suck at ‘cross racing, there are two reasons why I’ve been searching for cheap ‘cross frames on Craigslist:
1. The heckling by fans at ‘cross races has been spectacularly awesome.
2. I beat roadies Tyler “Fatty” Dibble, Nate “Finesse” English, and Phil “Hey Everyone Look At Me I Got a Pro Contract With a Team No One Has Heard About” Mooney in Golden Gate Park. Success is all relative.
Let’s discuss point number one a bit further. As many of you know, I’m a heckling connoisseur and advocate, to the point of being inappropriate at road cycling events. For example, I’ve received scornful looks from the easily-scorned Jess Raphael for screaming “EAT THEIR BABIES!” and “KICK THEM IN THE OVARIES” at my favorite female bike racers during criteriums. Apparently that kind of wailing is inappropriate in the road cycling context.
However, ‘cross races are gold mines for uncensored heckling. People love yelling cruel comments in the faces of ‘cross competitors. I have it on good authority that semi-mild-mannered, almost-famous James Mattis (Cal Giant) spent the entire evening at Sierra Point thinking of biting, scathing, hurtful things to scream at me…and that he became noticeably depressed when he ran out before the race ended.
This photograph succinctly summarizes my experience in ‘cross.
Notice how badly I appear to be suffering, and how violently the heckler in the background is lambasting me. The best part is that I’m pretty sure I don’t even know that person.
Here’s another one, this time of my (former) teammate Matt Beebe smiling like a giddy schoolgirl following his spirited but uncreative yell, “You Suck, Rand!”
God, I love ‘cross. I love it.
I’m hoping to be racing this weekend’s BASP finale at Coyote Point in San Mateo at 1pm; you should come tell me how badly I suck so that Josh Snead doesn’t have to.