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Barry Wicks’ Journal: Meanwhile, at ’cross nats

  • By Barry Wicks
  • Published Dec. 21, 2009
  • Updated Dec. 16, 2010 at 11:52 AM EDT

So this steam begins emanating from my knees, seeping through my secondary layer of tights as I pull into the Team Kona-FSA tent and park myself in this lounge chair as close as is tolerable to the 1,000-kilowatt flamethrower Dusty just installed to keep his water barrels in a semi-thawed state, and I begin think about my tire pressures.

I have just wrapped up two hot/cold laps around the USA Cycling Cyclocross National Championships course in Bend, Oregon, and along with the approximately 1 million other riders sharing the course with me I am unsure of how many air molecules I need in my tires to keep them firmly attached to the wet, frozen, muddy, dusty, grassy, off-camber, rutted mystery-soil conditions I have just encountered.

I also begin to consider deciding what type of clothing I should swaddle myself in to stay warm, but not too warm, and still be able to form movement in a functional manner so as to not be like that kid wearing five snowsuits in “A Christmas Story,” a movie about shooting your eye out with a Red Ryder carbine-action 200-shot Range Model air rifle, among other things.

At some point I realize that there are a whole lot of decisions to be made in this whole bike-racing game, but luckily, just like our former commander in chief, I am a Decider, and pretty much the best Decider that I know of.

Some racers, like Ryan, aren’t so good at making decisions, and of course this is why they lose all of the time. Well, actually, if that were true, then I would win all of the time, and Ryan wouldn’t, but I don’t and he does, so maybe there is more to winning bike races than decisiveness. Actually, I don’t really know if Ryan is bad at making decisions or not. He could probably even be the second or third best Decider out there behind me and maybe George Bush (the junior one), which makes him a pretty OK Decider, so maybe decisiveness does make a good racer (or president).

But I digress.

So, I am chilling/warming up in the Kona tent and in walk a couple of fish. They are deep in conversation about something or another so I just break in and ask, “How’s the water?” They don’t even glance at me and instead walk up to Ryan, asking him for his autograph. I reply to my own inquiry, “What’s water?” but that is a story for another day. I wonder why a couple of fish would want Ryan’s autograph, then realize that they are not in fact fish, but a couple of kids who had raced earlier in the day and wanted to interface with Ryan. Thanks to the intimacy of cyclocross, they accomplished their objective.

Turning away from this touching scene I ask Dusty what he has been up to. “Practicing karate and getting females pregnant,” he replies. I decide this is probably about 50 percent true, but I need more information to decide so I ask him what he has been doing in the last 10 minutes and he says, “Practicing karate and adjusting your shifting,” which I decide is a bit more likely, so I grab my second bike and head out for another lap and try to decide which tires I want to ride tomorrow in the big bike race.

Some time later that same day (or that evening) I find myself at the Tower Theatre in downtown Bend handing out popcorn in bags to theatergoers and wearing green women’s sunglasses in a failed attempt to blend into the hipsterish crowd. Unfortunately nobody wants any free popcorn from me, so I go sit down and the show begins. Talk Demonic takes the stage and begins their sonic assault while visions of cyclocross dance across the screen behind them. I start thinking about practicing karate and getting females pregnant, and racing tomorrow, and before I know it the set is over and I sprint for the bathroom to relieve the pressure in my bladder before the next part of the show gets under way But everyone else was making the exact same decision as me so I get caught in a massive line and have to abort the mission before completion as to not miss the start of the movie.

Steve Johnson and Sean Petty of USA Cycling are sitting directly behind me in the theater, and the movie is basically an ode to cyclocross bike racing, and featured prominently in the movie is me. The entire show I am being heckled by Steve, Sean and 200 of my other cycling brethren, but the show goes off with out a hitch otherwise. Filmmaker and cultural revolutionist Brian Vernor has “broughten it,” “it” being pretty much the most awesome show ever about cycling and music and bike racing and Japan that the world has ever seen.

On the way home I make a quick stop at the grocery store to pick up some Belgian waffle mix and some Brussels sprouts to prepare for breakfast since the best racers/decision makers in the world are from Belgium and I hope to channel their skills (decision-making or otherwise) tomorrow in the big bicycle race and figure eating them for breakfast is a good idea.

The race comes and I go after it with the deliberation and determination of 100 UN Climate Change Conference delegates, and as such my race is a stoic yet not altogether uninteresting affair consisting of me riding around in rapid convoluted circles and finishing in the exact same place as I started, which in my case was ninth. Where the delegates finished is unclear.

After the race I find that the decisions I made on my clothing selections were for the most part of great benefit, but for some reason my toes are still really cold, so I sit again by the heater/flamethrower, thinking about karate mostly, and then come to the sudden realization that the cyclocross season is over for me and that there is nothing that I can do about it. It was just a typical case of American cyclocross racing coming to an end and all I can do is go home, do what I think about and try to make even better decisions the next time it comes around on the guitar, because if you want to win bike races and stuff, you have to sing loud!

FILED UNDER: Cyclocross / News / Rider Diaries TAGS: / /

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