By McKenzie Melcher
As a freshman in college at San Diego State, my days consist of taking notes in chemistry lectures, participating in studies for psychology, studying for the next Calculus 3 midterm, constructing model planes in my aerospace class, and working on my next five page paper. But even with such a busy schedule, I make room for my love of cycling. Almost every weekend, whether it’s camping out for a collegiate mountain bike race or getting up early to drive close to two hours for a cyclocross race, I find myself at the start of another race; my heart beating against my ribcage with a combination of excitement and nervous energy. This past weekend at the San Diego Velodrome, I stood at the staging of yet another Socal Cross Prestige Series cyclocross race, fueled by the determination to push myself to my limits.
My name was called as I rolled up to the line next to Caroline Schiff and Emily Georgeson for the Women’s A race after a rushed warm up and quick preride. Two minutes to the start. I shook out my butterflies. Thirty seconds. I took a deep breath, and let all of the week’s worries drain from my mind—there was just my bike and myself. The siren sounded, and we were off! I got onto Caroline’s wheel on the pavement as we sped over the finish line and made our way out of the infield.
Just as Caroline began to pull away, Emily came around me to chase her down. For the first three laps of the 1.4-mile long course, the pair remained just within sight, but just out of my reach. With every twist and turn in the course, I fought the urge to take a quick look back to see who might be chasing after me. In the third lap just after the barriers, my pedal clipped the side of the hill in the turn! I almost went down right in front of the team tents, but I managed to force the bike upright again and save it! Then it was around another bend to the gravel pit. I held the bike steady and powered through it every lap!
Coming back into the infield of the velodrome for the finish had to be my favorite part of the course. I sprinted on the black line and bunny hopped off the apron onto dirt to the lone barrier in the infield. On the sixth and final lap of the race, I remounted the bike after that last barrier and ignored the burning in my legs as I let out one last sprint to the finish. I had managed to keep off the other racers, and finished in third place behind Caroline Schiff (first) and Emily Georgeson (second).
After the awards and celebratory cold brewed coffee, I found out there was a fixed gear cyclocross race right after the Men’s A race. I’d been dying to try out my pink Nishiki fixie in a cross race since last season when I missed the one in Los Angeles. I had the spare cross tires, all I needed was the bike. The drive back to campus where I kept my bike was only ten minutes, so how could I pass this up? I registered, made the drive, came back, and changed the pedals, but when I tried to put my spare cross tires on, they didn’t clear the fork! After all of that effort to race, I couldn’t not race. So, I rolled up to the start on my Nishiki fixed gear with slicks on. I slid around every corner of the two laps we did, but I had a great time! I was the only woman in the race with three other men. All of us gained a little street cred after that race, and it was a great ending to a fantastic day of racing thanks to Dorothy Wong, Jeff Hering, the San Diego Velodrome Association, and Socal Cross!