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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.

Nothing and Everything: Nittany Lion Cross 2018

“It means nothing and everything”

Running through ankle deep mud on Sunday at Nittany Lion Cross I found myself pondering this quote that I encountered somewhere in the cycling twitter-sphere. I had just been caught and passed and now as I watched the last (wide-angle) podium spot gain time up the road this quote was stuck in my mind.

“It means nothing and everything”

The Nittany Lion Cyclocross venue was enshrouded in fog for much of the morning on Sunday.

Nittany Lion Cyclocross 2018 - The Weekend Recap

While the East Coast cyclocross season may technically start Labor Day Weekend at Granogue, followed shortly thereafter by Whirlybird, for a variety of reasons Nittany Lion Cross is typically the first big weekend of racing for the team. This year was no different as the team had eight racers in action at various points during the weekend.

It was an interesting weekend for me in particular thanks to order of registration staging for the M4/5 fields, this was the first time I had ever staged near the front of of cross race - historically my Cross Results score hasn’t been great due to focusing my cross calendar on the big NECX and being generally mediocre at cross slotting me many, many rows back.

Nittany was the first weekend with a number of the team’s new Garneau Steeple cyclocross bikes in action though we still haven’t gotten all six colorways together in a single place.

Nittany was different. Thanks to an aggressive quantity of calendar reminders and some fast mouse clicking I was - get this - the very first call-up. This gave me hope that I might snag results sufficient to move me up in staging for the remainder of the season where Cross Results call ups are more prevalent. Of course with hope comes pressure, which is more or less the antithesis of how I have approached cross in the past. My mentality has been more about the great team weekends on the road and a bit of beer consumption than results. Races like Gloucester, Charm and Noho are often on my calendar despite the fact that I have never raced more than six days in a single season, most of them against tough NECX competition. And I have been perfectly content.

But here I was on the front row on Saturday morning thinking about the possibility of cracking my first cyclocross result. And guess what, things started out pretty OK. Thanks to my roadie sprint capabilities I got off the line well and felt controlled in the early phases of the race while sitting somewhere I had never been before: the front of a cross race. Unfortunately this experience was short lived as early in the race two teammates attempted to execute a friendly pass only to have one of them swerve into me and sweep my front wheel. I lost several spots before remounting - only to discover my handlebars were askew at an unnatural angle. A second stop to fix my bars cost me additional spots and from there I faded further to finish unlucky number thirteen.

Which brings us back to mid-race thoughts of “it means nothing and everything.” Sunday’s race started similar to Day One: I staged first and was well positioned in the opening lap. I wasn’t quite comfortable holding the pace of the leaders so I bid them farewell (Cullen went on to finish 2nd!) and paced more conservatively. Eventually I found myself getting passed in the battle for fifth place and the final podium spot. A cyclocross (wide-angle) podium spot! Ultimately this is the entry level of a niche sport where we dress up like superheroes on weekends and pedal around in the dirt. But the idea of a cyclocross podium, after the frustration of Saturday and a history of finishing 20th-30th in NECX races, meant absolutely everything at that moment in time.

Clay’s pink Steeple went into action for the first time and the Dugast 38 tubulars served him well.

I kicked it into another gear and set about trying to pull back fifth place as we finished lap three and should have (according to the lap counter) received the bell. Unfortunately the officials had other ideas after ‘recalculating’ the laps: we were shown two to go for a second time. I tried to keep the pace up but on that unexpected fifth lap I reached my limits and not only did the podium that seemed momentarily within grasp ride into the distance but I was also passed by another rider and finished seventh.

With the race over, missing that podium that just moments earlier meant absolutely everything quickly returned to meaning (close to) nothing. Seventh was still good enough for my best ever cyclocross finish and there were plenty of stories to be told and laughs to be shared with teammates and friends from throughout the NYC cyclocross scene. Which at the end of the day is what actually means something. That’s what will keep me coming back, with brief interludes for chasing results that mean nothing and everything at the same time.

Nittany Lion Cyclocross - The Weekend Photo Gallery