Racing is coming back. Regardless of the specifics or how you feel concerning the current state of the world, much of the populace here in the US is peaking out from under the covers and realizing that soon it will be time to step out from isolation and return to “life”. Instead feeling we have to fight for a race to either take place or be stopped we now find ourselves knowing that these events are just going to start returning. Participation will cease being a statement of politics or personal belief and will simply demonstrate desire to dip the toe in the waters of competition.
I think I always believed there would be a date we would return to racing and that we would all be so excited. Instead I’m starting to realize that it will be a slow transition from where we are now to a point where everyone who wants to race feels safe in doing so.
It should be no secret to any of you that the cycling industry has been through the wringer. During this time many of us who have been involved heavily in racing have taken to a different life. Our activities have not been centered around the incessant demands of hosting, supporting, and participating in any form of racing or event possible on every possible day throughout the entire year. That void was filled with all sorts of different activities. Spending time with families, starting or reconnecting with old hobbies, actually riding a bicycle for the purpose of riding a bicycle, or even taking a weekend and sitting around the house.
As embarrassing as it is to say I think I have actually connected more with my family than I ever have before. This is the same family that has tirelessly attended almost every single race and event on the calendar. The family that hauled gear, set up tents, and knew everyone in the racing community. I have gotten used to the new life. We have some time for us. I have some time for myself. I even take a day off every week.
My own experience aside many other members of the racing community are approaching the same realization. As we get closer to racing I talk to more of the people that have always been a part of it. I hear the same kind of thing. “I am not sure how much I’m going to do.” “I’ll be there but I think I want to do ____ racing instead.” “You know what I think I am done after this year.” It’s an uncomfortable realization that it will soon be the time to decide if they’re in or out.
At the same time I have noticed the exact opposite. I have piles of late night (most likely drunk) texts and messages from old friends and teammates who raced a lot but left over time for one reason or another. All along the lines of “that was fun, I miss it, I started riding again and I plan to be back when racing returns”. Every time I turn around there is someone new walking through my front doors telling me about how they started riding during the pandemic and now have decided they think they want to give racing a try. While old races have disappeared I still hear people say things like, “hey why don’t we try to do a ____ on the old ____ course but this time lets add ____”
While I have definitely “enjoyed” the benefits from this time away from racing I have absolutely no doubts that when the time comes I will be all in. It’s because I know the true nature of the sport. Racing, at its core, is basic and pure. It has laid hooks into our souls and given rise to our passion. It’s the speed of road, following wheels, only the sound of tires and shifting. It’s the challenge of cyclocross, out thinking the racer right in front of you when all your body wants to do is stop. It’s the sheer thill of track racing where you can hear colors and smell sounds. Where split second decisions mean glory or disaster. Mountain Bike where the course and your ability to think under duress can be your toughest opponent.
This is the core element of competition with others, the course, the equipment, and ourselves. It’s that connection to our passion that will ensure that we keep coming back. So instead of the uncomfortable realization being about having to make a decision to return – maybe the uncomfortable part is realizing that no matter what we always will return and soon it will be time.