Man carrying bicycle up sandy hillside staircase.

Pumpkin Hop Cross

On Saturday, October 12, Neil and I carpooled to the first Heart of Illinois Cyclocross Series (HICX) race of the year, Pumpkin Hop Cross, in Beardstown, Illinois. It was my first non-local cyclocross race after breaking my hand and jaw in April 2017. It takes a while to get over being scared of falling after something like that, even though that wasn’t a cyclocross race, and it also takes a while to gain hand strength after an immobilizing cast.

I was sad to discover that in my absence, HICX races lost enough Women’s Category 4 racers that they quit offering payouts to that field (but did to Women’s 1-3, Men’s 3, and Men’s 4), which meant that even if I repeatedly won this fall I wasn’t going to be able to race for free, as I did the last time I did the entire HICX series. When I got there it was just as glum as I feared, with three Women’s 3s, and me, the lone Women’s 4 and the only other woman there., and all of us racing with the Men’s 5s and the Juniors.

Really though, my performance was pretty abysmal, with failure to ride the first sand pit on all three laps, bad remounts after hopping over the pumpkin barriers, a mystifying wreck in the mud somewhere on the second lap (which cost me the lead I’d gotten on one of the Women’s 3s), and a spectacular wreck in the second sand pit on the third lap (which I had managed to ride the first two laps). I didn’t really deserve the pie they gave me, but I ate it, including the delicious pie crust “1” with which they had decorated it. It was tasty.

Man carrying bicycle up sandy hillside staircase.
Neil tackles the Belgian Stairs at Pumpkin Hop CX 2019

Neil is Cat 2 for cyclocross, and his field only had three entries, one of whom was incredibly fast, and the other of whom did not finish. There were some other local-to-Champaign-Urbana riders that were there cheering us on – notably Mike Ozment and Kyle Lockhouse (who both raced in the combined Men’s 3-4 field and Kyle came in second) – but Beardstown, Illinois is a two and a half hour drive away, which meant that many other Wild Card racers didn’t make it. Charleston, Illinois is less than an hour away, so I have hope that more than a few will show up this weekend at Candy Cross.