To Be Determined Journal

To Be Determined is a journal of cycling, adventure and photography, curated by a NYC-based cycling team known as TBD Racing or Team TBD. From criteriums to cyclocross to product reviews and travel diaries, it is all part of the TBD Journal.

Supercross Cup 2016

Supercross Cup, New York City’s hometown cyclocross race, was two flavors of hard. To Be Determined's Steve Rousseau recounts the weekend of racing with images from Daghan Perker:

Day 1 of Supercross Cup

Saturday was a flavor of hard I’m pretty familiar with. The weather was good. The sun was out. The course was very hilly and hard and after our first pre-ride lap Roger called it a “lung buster.”

It was the most surreal sufferfest I’ve ever put myself through. There were many climbs on that course but one in particular — this long, gradual rise on the backside of the course — was particularly tough because you’d be grinding up it full gas, and the 15 guys in front of you were grinding up it full gas and you just had to sit there suffering unable to even pass the person in front of you.

I finished the first day and it was very clear what I needed to do to improve — fitness, bike handling, pre-race rep, all fixable things — which is a sort of clarity you wish you had for things in your life besides bike racing. But I digress.

Day 2 of Supercross Cup was not like Day 1

Instead of sun there was snow. Instead of big verdant hills to rip up and down there were muddy slopes to slog up and ride your brakes down.

But racing in the mud! It sounds like fun!

I’m going to be honest: It was not fun.

I realize this makes me sound like a grump. A fun sponge. A real stick in the mud. Some might even say I’m “not a real cyclocross racer.” Which: fine, okay. But hear me out.

Look, I know that cyclocross is hard. The whistle blows and then you go hard for the next 45 minutes or whatever. And I feel confident in saying that I try real hard in cross. A race costs, like, $45. I try and get my money’s worth. I haven’t been keeping track, but I’m sure just shortly after every cross race I’ve finished I’ve said “Jeez, that was hard,” in some form or another. So yes, I get it. Cyclocross = hard.

Heck, even when I got to the course on that cold, snowy Sunday I was a little excited by the mud. It was going to be interesting, I kept thinking. But when I finished, my first thoughts weren’t, “Gee that was hard.” All I could think was, “God, that was stupid.” And not in a jump-through-a-window stupid, but in a just-poured-coffee-into-my-oatmeal stupid. 

You see, I spent the majority of my 45-minute race running with by bike slung over my shoulder. And while, yes, this is the Iconic Cyclocross Thing. But as someone who enjoys riding a bike, running for minutes at a time is not fun for me. 

When I wasn’t shouldering my bike, I was struggling trying to churn through thick, peanut butter-like mud. And when I wasn’t struggling to run or pedal I was struggling with navigating slick off-cambers. At no point did I ever feel like I was doing this right. And, to be honest, it kinda sucks to feel like you are just very bad at something despite your best efforts.

I was spending so much time fighting myself, the bike and the course that it was impossible to pay attention to the other racers. You could see them, even talk to them, but you both were just struggling with the course rather than each other. It felt like doing a Tough Mudder with bicycles. And, to be honest, it did not feel like racing to me.

The worst part about all of this is that at the end of my race, all I felt was broken and dirty. I didn’t feel like I was a better racer. There was no catharsis. I felt like I was punished. 

But that’s the reality of cyclocross - some days it all comes together and you’re on the podium, some days you fall short with clear areas to ‘do better next time’ and sometimes... sometimes it just beats you up. 

Words: Steve Rousseau, Images: Daghan Perker (@dperker)