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Sept. 28, 2007

After two years of spectating I finally did my first cyclocross races Sunday. My goals were modest: Don't hurt anyone, finish in the top half.

Everything I knew about cross I'd learned from watching a few online tutorials. While Ellen studied contracts and torts in the living room, I would be studying barriers and "suitcasing" in the dining room.

Amazingly, I had no problems with the obstacles. My mounts and dismounts were clean and quick, and I'm quite proud of my shouldering skills, thank you very much. I fell only once.

What killed me was the bike handling. There were several tight U-turns and chicanes that gave me fits every time, especially as the ground deteriorated and turned to dust.

In the 4's race I got a good position at the beginning of the race and hit the first barriers in the top 10. Each time through the chicanes, however, I would lose a position or two.

On the third lap I dropped my chain and had to get off to fix it. This turned out to be a windfall, because it set me back with the slower riders, and I spent the rest of the race passing people. Turns out that passing people is much more fun than getting passed. I should drop my chain in every race.

I went home not knowing how well I did and not even really caring. That's the great thing about cross: It's fun no matter what. Last place has as much fun as first. Most everyone in the 4's is there for a good workout or to dabble in a different discipline. There's none of the pressure or tension of road racing. It's just go go go, fun fun fun, wheeze wheeze wheeze. I think I'm hooked.

(Two days later I found out I got 13th out of 79.)

It takes a lot to bother me, but some of the reaction to last weekend's road rage incident has left me dispirited. Some have used the attack as an opportunity to launch angry, hateful rants against cyclists, in particular those who don't obey traffic laws with the to-the-letter vigor that drivers do. It's a blame-the-victim mentality that doesn't make a lot of sense. It's like taking a mugging and turning it into a discussion about jaywalking.

I turned off the comments on Chicago Bike Racing after one person wrote a particularly degrading comment, taking issue with the size of my testicles and insulting the two teammates who have died this year.

I responded as any rational person would: I invited him to lunch. On me. I figured if he felt that strongly, he'd welcome the opportunity to insult me and my dead friends in person. We could enjoy a burger and have a civilized conversation about what a humorless idiot I am. I promised him I would not cry.

So far he has not responded, He has declined, which I take to be a white flag vis-a-vis the question of who has the bigger cojones.

Photo taken by E. Wight: Sept. 23, 2007