“It was the day of my race, and I was ecstatic. I was ready to do the thing I had been waiting to do for over a year. “
In September 2018, four of the AAVC Juniors traveled to Waterloo, WI, to participate in the Trek CX World Cup races. It was one of the highlights of the 2018 for the juniors. Here at the AAVC, we not only develop the cycling skills and fitness of our juniors, we expect them to be good citizens. They are encouraged to write their own race reports. Anyone with school-going children knows that writing assignments are low-priority for most children. I was pleasantly surprised to receive the following race report from Ansel de Jong. Thanks, Ansel! It reminded me of the good times we had in Waterloo. Allez AAVC and allez les jeunes!
As I lay down in the hotel bed I was staying in, all I could think about was how excited I was to start the race the next day. I had been running around the house the entire month leading up to the race, and couldn’t imagine what it would bring. All I knew was that there were three people including me racing at the race. I was in the 11-12 age category, Connell was in the 13-14 category, and Michael was in the 15-16 category. Other than that, my brain was empty of all thoughts.
It was the day of my race, and I was ecstatic. I was ready to do the thing I had been waiting to do for over a year. My entire team was wearing our Ann Arbor Velo Club jerseys and shorts, which had distinct yellow and pink lines through the center. It was helpful at the time to my father and coach, for he could easily tell where we all were. We were all lined up several feet behind the start line, and we were slowly getting called up. When I heard the name Ansel de Jong ring out through the air, I moved my bike towards the start line where the officials checked to make sure that my number matched what it should be.
When the whistle finally blew, I was amazed at how fast some of the juniors were. The 18 year olds were going nearly as fast as the pros, but I forced myself to realize that some of those kids were going to become professional just a few years later. There was no reason that I should compare myself to them. In fact, a nice thing about our club was that we just did it for fun. We all knew that none of us were going to make it onto the podiums, but we were having a good time nonetheless. We were all going around the first bend of the race, and the grass began. We had a couple of flat loops before the first flyover came into view. It was incredibly steep, and people were already starting to get off and walk up it. I knew that I could ride it, but I had no room to do so. I would have to try another lap. I spent over a minute waiting for a gap to show up so I could walk up it. I finally got up to the top, clipped in, and rode down the other side. I was riding a slightly bigger bike, but it was a much better cross bike than the road bike that I had been using. Connell and I were both using club rental bikes, but I was happy to be using those instead of my road bike.
I was right behind a small kid from a team called Midwest Devo when the next obstacle came up. It was a steep hill that was only just rideable. However, making it up would lead me straight to a small rock wall. I thought I could do it, so I did. I made it up the hill, and actually managed to pass the kid in front of me, but I had to get off at the rocks. I could hear my father shouting at me as I went by. “Keep going Ansel, you can catch him!” I noticed that the kid had passed me once more, but that wasn’t the worst of it. I was starting to get a stomach cramp. That meant that I hadn’t had enough water. I continued pushing, but it was getting more difficult. When the cramp finally went away, I was coming up on the next flyover. That one wasn’t nearly as tall as the first one had been, and I was able to ride it easily. However, the kid only a few feet behind me wasn’t able to. Although he was in a different age group than me, I still really wanted to beat him. When I got to the top, it was nice to stop pedaling for a bit, but it didn’t last long. Before I knew it, I was riding on the grass again, and was approaching the next stone wall. I hadn’t seen anyone ride that one, and I knew that there was no way I would be able to do so. I got off my bike in a smooth dismount and picked my bike up over the rocks. I hopped back on, and continued riding.
The second to last obstacles on the course were the barriers. Most of the professional riders could jump their bikes over them, but almost none of the juniors could. Just as I had with the stone wall, I dismounted from my bike, jumped both barriers, and hopped back on. Once I was finally back up to speed, I noticed that the kid behind me had passed me again. I let him go, giving up on catching him for a while.
After I created the final flyover of the lap and rode through the finish, I noticed that the lap counter told me that I had just one lap left. I was happy that I wasn’t going to do any more than two laps. From then on, I started to pass some people, and I didn’t feel nearly as slow as I had before. I hoped at the time that I wouldn’t end my race in last, but I felt fairly confident that I would hold my ground and finish ahead of at least five people. Not everyone in the race was a future pro. I could only keep pedaling, and never give up. However, my legs were telling me differently. They were screaming at me as I dismounted at the front of the flyover and ran up it. I only had to wait for about 10 seconds before working my way up it. When I finally reached the big hill a quarter of the way through the lap, and I realized that the hill was easier that time. I had finally figured out what the best path was. Unfortunately, I did no better with the rocks than I had the time on my first lap. When I tried to ride over them, my pedal got caught and I lost more time than I gained after trying that.
When I finally got to the barriers, I knew I was almost done. They were the last obstacle other than the final flyover, but that was going to be easy. I nearly tripped on one of the barriers but I was able to hide my small mistake. At that point, I was telling myself that I was insanely close, and I was starting to see the final flyover coming up in the distance. I pushed down on my pedals as hard as I could, and actually managed to pass a few people on my way. I rode straight up the flyover, and felt my tires hit pavement. I went around the grass turn, and came right back onto the pavement on the other side of the metal guard rails. I sped straight under the finish line, and went almost directly off the course. My dad was there ready, and Connell and Michael had already finished. We congratulated each other and went to the tent for a bit of food.
My day ended with fun games in the hotel before going to bed after a long day of racing. From then on, I loved going to races like that, and it became a tradition to go there every year. This also made me feel the happiness of socializing at a place like that, and I realized that although it was a race, it wasn’t only about winning.