USA Cyclocross Nationals 2015
Words and Photography by Tayler Rae Dubé
You’ll probably read a lot of stories about Cyclocross Nationals over the next couple weeks. It was a memorable event blanketed by an unfortunate decision by the Austin Parks and Recreation. In case your Facebook and Twitter feeds didn’t blow up with news of the event, here is what happened. Lots of rain made for muddy conditions. Turf and roots of old trees were getting damaged and, as a result, the parks committee decided to postpone Sunday’s races to Monday. On the surface, this seems harmless, but when you take into account all of the teams, races, and spectators that had to change flight plans last minute, rent another day in a hotel, or had to miss the race all together, it adds up to a lot of disappointment. Unfortunately, I was in the last category, and so I can’t bring you a story about the epic Elite races that occurred, but what I can offer you, is a story about the great things that happened in spite of it all.
Saturday’s events can be summarized by one name, Lizzy Gunsalus. I will preface by saying that I may be a little partial to this girl. Her father raced against my dad and so I got to watch her grow up and her race career start. I say race career, because I have no doubt that this 12-year-old girl has a long and successful future in cycling. At 10:30 am I watched seventeen girls aged 11 to 12 line up in the freezing rain. The course was already extremely muddy and I had heard more than one junior boy in the race before theirs crying. At age 12, the last thing I would have wanted to do was race my bike in the freezing rain, lifting a frame that weighs as much as me up limestone stairs, and slide through mud, but here these girls were. Laughing, making jokes, wishing each other luck.
The whistle blew and they were off. Because of the slippery conditions, most girls had to run technical part of the course, but then there was Lizzy riding everything with the grace and ease of a racer with a decade of experience. In the end, she beat her field with a large gap, doing some of the fastest laps of the day.
Sunday was a bit harder to navigate. The news that the races would be postponed broke that morning. I met up with Richard Sachs’ rider BrittLee Bowman at a taco shop to get her opinion of it all.
“We are lucky. [The Richard Sachs Team] is probably the least affected besides the racers who live here.” Having driven down with the JAM Fund team and no need to worry about flight changes, their schedules were more flexible than others. The postponing still came with disappointment though. Both coming from the North East, we were confused why the races were postponed to begin with. Mud is a staple to cyclocross racing and at races like Cycle Smart, there are a ton of roots on course which never seems to affect the growth of the park trees. Some of her family had flown down from Rhode Island who would now have to miss her race and there was the possibility that many of her competitors would no longer be able to line up aside her.
Still in high spirits and happy that the race was happening at all, BrittLee rode out to do her second day of openers, making jokes about my hair as I photographed her out of the back window of my rental car.
It is this type of positive attitude that held the weekend together. It’s true, people were definitely bummed, but people were also there to race and have fun. Enter in Crash Nationals Part 2.
Originally, Crash Nationals happened on Thursday night, but with the races on Sunday being postponed, it was decided that there should be another. The brainchild of The Radavist’s John Watson, Crash Nationals is more of a party than an actual race. Riders dressed in everything from kits to bunny costumes lined up at the bottom of a steep dirt hill for a le mans start.
The whistle blew and they were off. Cowbells rang, spectators cheered. As racers rode past, people handed off beer, pizza slices, and fried chicken. It felt every bit as exciting as a real cross race with the additional fun of breaking just about every USA Cycling rule in the book. Best of all, people left happy and still got to watch some cyclocross racing despite their travel plans.
In the end, I am declaring the 2015 Cyclocross Nationals a success. It wasn’t ideal, a lot of terrible decisions were made in regard to Sunday's race schedule, but people still got to race. Unexpected results happened, riders that were under the radar were discovered, parties raged.
Congrats to all of our new National Champions.