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December 08, 2021 3 min read

Photo - Daghan Perker

Mental Health and Small Monsters.

These last few months, Ben (yes, the same Ben that answers your support emails here at Ornot) has been traveling and racing. This is not your run of the mill, hobby sport, extracurricular racing - It's racing with the worlds fastest Cyclocross racers.  This year, he has dedicated his season to raising awareness for mental health and the Love Your Brain Foundation, a non-profit organization whose mission is to improve the quality of life for those affected by Traumatic Brain Injuries and raises the awareness about the importance of brain health.

Ben's main race related goal this year was to line up at the 3 US World Cup Races in Waterloo, Fayetteville, and Iowa City, and he made it! So, when you're racing at the top of the sport, at world cup races, with the fastest athletes in the world, do you still need to wait in line for tacos with the spectators, Ornot.  Find out more below.

 Photo - John Brunner


Everyone has to pin on numbers. 

After years of standing in lines at registration, I was tickled to have the numbers delivered to us by the Team USA Director. Each number had a timing chip in a plastic pocket which needed to be cut out at the finish of the race. The UCI official gave me a funny look when I asked them to be gentle when cutting out the chip, because I wanted that as a souvenir. 

Everyone pre-rides, everyone falls, and everyone has to practice.

Just like local races, there are technical parts of the course that everyone has to practice, watch each others lines, and ultimately fall on all to figure out the best line for the race. I got to watch Sven Nys and Lars van der Haar session some lines together.  Then, it was a “pinch me” moment to have riders from the Pauwels Sauzen Bingoal team watch me ride up a stair section. But as things go, I took a nice digger during the pre-ride in front of some of the Europeans. A few laps later, a famous Belgian rider fell in front of me. See, everyone falls. 

 

Everyone eats the cinnamon rolls, everyone eats tamales.

Well, maybe not everyone, but I stood in line at the taco stand after Jingle Cross behind a fellow WC athlete from Belgium. We then took our taco stand food to watch Marianne Vos win her second World Cup of the week. Speaking of Marianne Vos, she was staying at the same Holiday Inn Express as me and we both sampled the cinnamon rolls from their famous continental breakfast. I wanted to teach her about the waffle machine but we didn't have time.

Everyone cheers (or heckles) everyone.

Context / in Cyclocross, especially in the USA, heckling is kind of a "thing", people enjoy it, it's not meant to be mean, and it's just fun / So, there were places on course where (as cheesy as it may sound) the noise of the crowd made the pain in my legs ease. I got my fair share of good natured, “are you going to catch that group, Ornot?!” and just stoke for being out there. On Mt. Krumpit in Wisconsin, there were fans swinging a fishing pole with some dollar bills attached ("hand-ups" are also an accepted part of the sport here in the USA, we try to keep it fun). Now, technically you aren’t supposed to receive outside support in a World Cup race, but I also may or may not have made $38 dollars during the race. 

 

For this 30 something year old, full time worker, part time bike racer, the World Cup experience was amazing, but the core of it was not that different than a regular weekend race. At the end of the day, nothing changes for me if I get top 10 or get pulled a lap down. It was grounding to know that it’s just 60 min of really hard pedaling, around a field, with other folks, wearing stretchy clothes and finding dirt in their ears the next day. 

- Ben



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