Back in December the DCT’s Sebastian Logue ’22 had the opportunity to travel to Tacoma, WA, to compete for a National Champion’s jersey in Collegiate Cyclocross. Asked for a brief summary of his trip, Sebastian sat down to prepare an essay. Here’s what the team’s social media guru had to say.
“After spending the last 30,000 feet of descent staring blankly at the faint silhouette of the tip of the wing some fifty feet away, the sheen of wet asphalt materialized without warning just below. ‘On behalf of your crew today, we’d like to welcome you to the Seattle-Tacoma International airport. The local time is 11:10pm.’
I was told it rains in Seattle. You, like me, might be inclined to believe this is just an exaggerated stereotype. It is not. Over four days I saw blue sky a single time for one fleeting half-hour before the standard haze and mist reasserted itself.
On the night of my arrival, as I drove into downtown Tacoma for the first time, through an urban, industrial area in the middle of a cultural and economic revival, it felt as if I had stumbled onto the set of a noir film. Streetlights cast cones of harsh light, distorted by the unrelenting, fine drizzle that accompanied my entire stay in the PNW.
However, as grim as the weather was, there’s no denying that it made for some excellent cyclocross racing. Preride became a melee of weaving through riders stopping, crashing, and running backwards on course to try features again. Racing was—— well, before we get to that: let’s talk mud.
Now I’m no Earth Sciences major (for that you’ll have to talk to Zach Berkow ’20, I hear he went on the Stretch), but in my cursory, bike-oriented understanding of soil and mud, there are a couple types and consistencies of mud.
First: there’s mud with a high clay content. This is the stuff of Zilker Park in Austin, TX or Joe Creason Park in Louisville, KY. This mud gets DEEP, is extraordinarily heavy, and sticks to everything, especially bikes. This is the kind of stuff that rips derailleurs off and clogs frames to the point that wheels don’t spin.
On the other side of the coin, there is mud with a high sand content. This is what Tacoma had in surplus. A thin layer of light, non-viscous mud, aided by constant precipitation, over either solid bedrock, or more, even sandier, soil. This had it pros and cons. It meant that the mud was very watery and did none of the sticking and clogging of mud with more clay, but it also meant that traction was not a spectrum, it was a knife-edge. There was traction all the way up until the breaking point, and then, with nearly no warning, you were sliding, as if on ice, from one side of the course to the other.
With the race start at essentially the crack of dawn, I was up before the sun. A little jittery, maybe from the coffee, maybe from nerves. Borrowed some guy’s pump in the parking lot. Shoes. Jacket. Glasses. No Helmet.
I left my helmet at the Airbnb. Not exactly the kind of problem you want to be trying to solve twenty minutes before you race. I did a lap of the parking lot, begging anyone I could find for a spare helmet. Finally I found one. An old Giro that must have been from the mid 2000s. It barely fit over my fairly large melon of a head. Saved, I gridded surprisingly early, in the second row.
The pack of fifty college students charged down the long stretch of pavement, turned left onto the first muddy straight away, and, in the stomach-lurching noise of brakes squealing and spokes snapping, I caught two people colliding and tumbling in my peripheral vision. I missed the pileup that ensued, riding an uneventful race, in the top ten for the first lap, before drifting backwards, and coming back around a couple riders for sixteenth in the final.
With two long run-ups, paired with two technical descents, the course was taxing physically and mentally, requiring fitness and composure to negotiate the rapidly deteriorating conditions of the ruts and washboard on the descents.
All in all, a pretty mediocre performance, but I knew that before I landed at SEA. This one was for the experience. To get out on a fun, challenging course worthy of a National Championship and rip around. I’ll be back next year, maybe with more training. Maybe not. Hopefully with my own helmet.”