In my opinion, the best part of any race be it a run, a triathlon or a cyclocross race, is the finish.
It’s not about the race being over. Instead it’s about the moment I see the finish and dig deep, push hard and heave myself over the line. Regardless of placement, it’s a moment of victory. A moment when a challenge accepted is completed (sometimes well, sometimes not). A moment of celebration with my family, friends and fellow racers.
And it’s a moment that, too often, is stolen from me and my fellow Category 4 (beginner) cyclocross racers.
For those not familiar with the situation, in cyclocross we race for a pre-determined amount of time. During the first lap, those coming across the line in front determine the number of laps to be completed. If you are passed by a leader, you finish your race on the same lap as the leaders.
Often we Cat 4 racers are racing with those in Cat 1, 2 or 3, meaning there is a very high probability we (I) will be lapped, and forced to end our race early.
The system is not the problem. As a Cat 4 racer, I understand and accept the rules. The problem is when the officials don’t follow the rules, or change the plan halfway through a race.
For example, at today’s race we were told that no one would be pulled, which means (to me), that as long as I wasn’t passed, I would be expected to complete the same number of laps as the leaders.
So that was my goal – don’t be lapped.
Approaching the finish line after four laps, I was thrilled to have met my goal and was gearing up for one more lap. I didn’t sprint to the finish because I was conserving my energy for the final pull. Unfortunately, the race officials had a different plan, informing me as I crossed the line that I was done.
And in that moment, they stole my finish. What should have ended with a bang instead went out with a whimper. And the confused question – “am I done?”
Ending a race like this is unsatisfying. Frustrating. Unfortunate. And a regular occurrence for Cat 4 women races.
This doesn’t happen in any other type of race I do. And, it’s been noted by many, that it doesn’t happen in other categories. But it happens to the beginner women. To the people, I assume given the room within our races, we are looking to to help build the sport.
I’m sure the officials and race organizers don’t mean to “steal” my race finish – but ultimately, through their actions that is exactly what they do.
And did again today.