TBD rider Steve Rousseau had a perfectly OK weekend racing the Gran Prix of Gloucester this past weekend (see our Top 10 from #GPGcx here). Naturally, he tried to pull some sort of Greater Meaning out of it all.
Finding Clarity in the Dust of Gloucester
I did the math in my head in the car on the way home. Eight hours of driving, give or take. 90 minutes of racing, give or take. Bicycle racing can seem like such a dumb hobby. And yet Gloucester was a great time.
Here is where I might offer up some flowery prose to bring, you, the reader to Stage Fort Park. The dust, the small settlement of EZ-Up tents, the throngs of people, and so on. But you can look at the excellent photos Matt and Daghan shot and get better sense of that. They can bring you there. What I want to try and do is bring you somewhere the images cannot, inside the mind of the people who do this.
It’s easy to caught up in our own mini-narratives on a race weekend. Or, at least, I catch myself getting caught up. You spend so much time training, thinking about training, thinking about what you put in your body in response to the training, sitting in a car thinking about the training and how that’s going to mix with the racing, and so on. There’s so much time invested that it’s nigh-impossible to not ascribe some greater meaning to the 45 minutes to an hour you spend racing. Amateur bike racing requires, to some degree, that we lie to ourselves.
Personally, racing Gloucester made me finally confront the lies I’ve been telling myself. Like I said, it was a great time. Leading up to the weekend, I spent hours stressing about trying to replace a perfectly working bike that didn’t quite fit me with a not-perfectly-working bike that perfectly fit me. I spent close to $1,000 to make that happen. This, of course, was already on top of the hundreds of dollars I had already spent on securing registration and lodging for a weekend of racing hundreds of miles away from home. This, of course, was all on top of the dozens or so hours I spend every week riding my bike — sometimes easy, sometimes hard — to justify spending all this money and time.
In the end, I ended up finishing 29th on Saturday and 23rd on Sunday. According to the algorithms, these are my best finishes in a cyclocross race ever. Initially, soaked in sweat and caked in dirt, I felt vindicated. All this time and money, worth it. On Monday morning, tired and slightly hungover from a few celebratory beers, a new interpretation popped into my head: All that time and money to be… a perfectly average cyclocross racer.
But I enjoyed myself so much! I had so much fun racing, meeting new people, forging bonds amongst my teammates, cheering friends on, watching the pros remind you why they’re pros. Look, if you’ve been to a cyclocross race, you don’t need me to remind you or explain the spectacle of it all.
There are mornings, however, when you’re putzing along in the park at the ass crack of dawn with a friend, and one asks “Do you remember when you used to exercise for your health?” And you both let out a hearty guffaw, buying back into the lie. Because why else would you be on your bike before the sun has blessed your timezone with its delicious rays?
Maybe not everything in life needs to be a cost-benefit analysis. Maybe bicycle racing is a net-drain on my time, money and life. I had such a great time at Gloucester. I enjoyed everything: From racing the incredible courses, to sitting in the porta-potties beforehand. I had such a great time it made me, briefly, take stock of the tolls this great time is definitely taking on my life. And you know what? I chose to believe that spending all this time and money and stress is worth those 45 minutes. I chose to believe the lie.
Grand Prix of Gloucester Photo Gallery by Daghan Perker
Follow Daghan: @dperker