What do you do when you’re asked to join a CX Team, and your first ever CX race was less than 6 months ago, and there’s talk of your age group being combined with the Women’s Elite?...


…You say YES! And promptly get yourself a copy of “The Brave Athlete Calm The F*ck Down and Rise to the Occasion.”

I bought myself a CX bike, just a year ago. Raced my first cyclocross race after less than a month of riding and was absolutely hooked. I loved how every course was completely different (even the same location the following day in a different direction can make such a difference). I love that every race, could be anybody's race (although for the most part I sat dead centre in C!) Throughout the season my confidence and technical skills increased, my dismounts/mounts declined, and my handups and heckles have remained consistent since day one. 

And there I was 6mths later being asked to join a team! Gulp! I immediately started carb loading. 

My experience with CX has been nothing but incredible- the community is amazing, it's completely inclusive & supportive, and heaps of fun. And yes, it's hard. 

Team Why is the exact embodiment of everything cyclocross should be. Yes, they ride hard, but they're more about community than they are podiums. They're all about having a laugh with great people and if you're lucky, looking after your dog while you race! They appreciate a good heckle and their handup skills are on point. But if you happen to miss one, you can always swing by the tent for a celebration beer after the race. So yeah, it was a no brainer, of course I wanted to ride for Team Why! 

Now, just to be sure, I felt the need to remind them that as my age category is getting combined with the Elites this year, I really would not be getting up on the podium. 

“Not a problem.” 

I hear that in Elite they're not big fans of handups. I can't turn them down, they're my strongest skill. I could get disqualified. 

“Who are we to get in the way of anyone's handup?” 

Okay, I'm in. 

Better start training. 

Riding with the pros is not ideal. The performance gap is substantial. I'm not sure who thought this would be a good idea. I hear is due to the small entries in Masters 1. But from my experience, this is sure to reduce them further. In addition to getting crushed every race, it will result in even shorter races for me (80% rule). 

But the way I look at it, riding with the pros will surely make me to be a better rider. I'll start my races with them and try to hold on at the start with dear life forcing me to focus on what I consider to be one of my greatest weaknesses (mass starts). And within a few 100m I will have a wide open course where I can chose any line I want! As someone who's not very confident around heaps of other riders, this gives me the space to attempt things I wouldn't normally out of fear of getting in someone's way (also huge weakness).    

              

I'm well aware of how much influence my head has over my ability. So training the brain is a must. For anyone who does any type of competition I highly recommend getting yourself a copy of "The Brave Athlete, Calm the F*ck Down". The book is split in 3 parts: 

  • "Heart: the passion and motivation that identify you as an athlete. It's why you do what you do."
  • "Wings: the ability to rise up over obstacles, setbacks and conflict."
  • "Fight: the ability to always give your best when it counts."

I'm a science nut, so even though it's a simplified I still love it; it explains the why behind everything in a way that is accessible to anyone. It's got heaps of activities that help you identify and shift what is getting in your way of better performance. And it's had me take the time to explore things I never would have before. 

Since reading the book I have significantly shifted my mindset around "getting in people's way" to knowing that I deserve that space on the course just as much as anyone out there. And with all the obstacles out on the courses for riders to maneuver around, if they can't get around me, they have bigger issues. 

I've learnt to listen out for the voice in my head (if not out loud lol) when I'm struggling with something technical. If it's saying "Nope. Nope. Nope." I can take a second to shift that before trying again. Doesn't always work but I'd say it has a positive impact on my ride 100% of the time. 

And I've also learnt that always riding with better people isn't actually what I need now. I've always liked riding with stronger riders because it forces me to keep up, or try things I might not normally. But as a result, I don't notice how much I've improved because I'm always focused on the huge gap ahead of me. Just the other week I went on a new group ride and realized just how accurate this was- I walked away with a huge boost in self confidence and new awareness. 

And I now have a pre-race song, which completely puts me in the zone (even when it spontaneously comes on during a PainCave session)! 

If you've given this a read, drop me a line to tell me what you think. Or if you see me out on course, please make sure you yell "WHY are you in the way?" or any other quality heckle, and swing by the tent for a beer afterwards!