Words by Eike Haumann
Photos by Constantin Gerlach

10:30 on the first real cold sunday somewhere in Berlin. Constantin, Jonas, Juliane and myself just met to start our little cross adventure. As so many other cyclist most of us started the cross season a couple of weeks ago. We made the most of the really mild temperatures, heading to the „Grunewald“ on regular terms and enjoying the possibility to ride in shorts until mid-november. But now things are getting serious – with the weather and with the riding. Our first cross race is about to happen and we are all kind of nervous but mostly positively excited. For all of us it is their first cross race – for Jonas at least in more than 15 years. Constantin is accompanying us to capture the fun, pain, sweat and tears in the – not existing – mud. He is strangely sad about the sun shining and no snow falling as the forecast had suggest a couple days back. One last stop for some coffee as well as croissants and we’re off to Lostau.

One and a half hours later we find ourselves behind a little sports hall somewhere nowhere. The strong wind is seriously cooling things down and getting out of the warm car is the first challenge of the day. We get ourselves registered and go for a first course inspection. The start and finish area already hosts to some quite tricky obstacles. A 2,5 meter high sand bank has to be past back and forth. Riding the whole thing is not possible and so we trying to find the quickest way over the obstacle – running the whole thing, riding one part and then running – so many options. As we continue our look on the course we find that the organizer have done a great job installing a technically challenging and really fun 2,1 km lap – mostly on single tracks and with at least 4 tricky passages. The level of excitement rises and we are happy that watching the elite racers is giving us some helpful tipps. We head back to the car, get dressed and start our warm-up. The first warm up lap does not feel great at all – even easy looking parts prove themselves to be quite tricky if underestimated. With a growing number of laps on our back I feel more and more comfortable and everyone is slowly finding their line of choice. Once again back to the car, most clothes off, and it is race time.

30 riders are stacked at the starting line to battle each other on the following six rounds. A little confusion pushes Jonas into the second row while I barely make it into the first. I knew that cross starts are something different but I was not really expecting this. Off the whistle everyone is pushing all they got to get to the front. After the first two turns I find myself around position 12, Jonas is stuck even further behind. Quickly we both realize something we hadn’t thought about before – there is practically no place to pass competitors. Running past them on the sand pit or the one of the other obstacles soon shows to be the best option. Not for long and I’m on my ass. On the mentioned sand bank I get stuck and fall in slow-mo. It takes me until the third round until I successfully ride this obstacle as planned. Jonas at the same time struggles with the people in front of him. Now and then he passes a rider but mid way through the race he has nobody in front of him – not the best condition to catch more riders. Juliane started off the back of the grid and feels more and more comfortable with a growing number of laps completed. Unfortunately she get’s a puncture during he last lap, forcing her to quit the race. Bad luck for her but such a strong performance anyways – considering it was only the second cross ride ever in her life.
I’m able to catch rider after rider in the first three rounds, lifting me to a fourth place after half the race. Soon I realize that the first three guys are too strong to be caught and concentrate on not being caught myself. With one lap to go a small group of three rides are close to my back wheel. Luckily I find some reserved energy which makes me loose them once again. In the end I finish fourth. My legs and my lung are burning but I’m really glad with the result and most important I had a ton of fun. Soon after me Jonas reaches the finish line. He manages to finish on a good 11th place.

Constantin captures our post race look and we’re quickly back in our warm jackets and pants. With the car packed shortly after we are en route to Berlin where it appears to be snowing like hell. Back in the big city we finish this perfect day with burgers and fries. Everyone talks about the perfect day we just had. It doesn’t get much better than that. Thank you guys for the awesome trip and the great amount of fun we had together. To more of that.

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