Brad smiles a lot. He’s a good natured guy. So the snow and bitter cold that visited Cyclocross Nationals in Hartford last weekend didn’t dampen his spirit. It only excited him.
“On race day,” he says, “I got to the course around 10:45am. It was 20 degrees out, with clear skies. By 11 am, it had dropped to 18 degrees with snow flying, but it was so cold that the flakes just fell and didn’t stick to anything.”
“I got three pre-ride laps in,” he continues, “with each one being 100% different than the last time I’d been through. It was a variable I had no control over, but nobody else did either, so I was getting stoked! I pretty much had a smile on my face from 11am until…well, I still have it.”
“At 2pm, it’s still 18 degrees. It’s still snowing. I kept warm and loose until the call ups. I didn’t know where I’d be in a national field, but I landed in the 4th row out of 146 starters. Looking around me I could see maybe four people I have raced against all season. Everyone else was new to me.”
“The excitement kept me warm until the race was on, and then it was basically mayhem for the first part of lap one. The snow covered up the frozen icy ruts that had formed throughout the week. Any line you wanted to take, you couldn’t get to. The snow never got worse nor let up, so each lap you’d search for the lines everyone else was taking, but they were covered by fresh snow.”
“Everything was a gamble and a scramble. “Every time you had to turn or ride an off camber, you wouldn’t know where you were entering or where you’d exit,” he laughs.
It’s hard to explain what keeps a racer’s mind off the pain in his or her legs, what keeps them going when they’re exhausted, but cyclocrosses heckling tradition might be part of it.
“After a few laps I honed in on people yelling something about my beard,” Brad says, “but I was moving just fast enough not to really understand it. It just kept resonating in my head that something was getting people talking.”
At the line, he finally put it all together, saying, “After 45 minutes of slip sliding and scrambling I crossed the finish line in 21st with my eyelids frozen open, eyebrows caked with ice, and my beard as white as Santa’s. The smile was frozen too.”
Bradford Smith is a full-time bike builder at Seven, and erstwhile leader of the Drifters.