As part of an burgeoning effort to turn my two-wheeled exercise into a competitive activity, I registered to race in the Crystal City Diamond Derby on Sept. 29.
The Crystal City Diamond Derby is a combination of a bicycle race and a fashion show. It definitely doesn't take itself too seriously, and I think that's what attracted me to it. I was looking for a low-pressure way to gauge my readiness for the Hyattsville CX which I'll be riding in this weekend.
Held in a subterranean parking garage in Crystal City, the Diamond Derby featured races for kids and adults, fashion, food, music and beer for fans of two wheeled transportation in the D.C. area.
The day began at 2 p.m. down at the Titanic Memorial on the Southeast Waterfront. There, about 50 cyclists gathered for a casual ride from Washington to Crystal City. The ride was led by members of the Dandies and Quaintrelles, a cycling oriented social club which combines refined style with two-wheeled transportation. The Dandies are perhaps most renown for their fashionable Tweed Ride, the next edition of which will be held on Nov. 4.
The ride covered about 13 miles from Southeast, through downtown, around Hains Point and then over to Crystal City.
This would be my first organized bicycle race, ever, and I was curious to see how I might fare against the competition. The race itself was billed as a "4X Comp". Whatever that meant was beyond me. It wasn't a series of heats, as it was described on race materials. Rather, they just gathered the 19 riders who had registered for the race and set us off all at once.
I didn't have any lofty expectations of a first place finish, mostly because I just recently became a recovering pack-a-day smoker with a not-too-strict cycling regimen consisting mainly of rides to places I need to go in my immediate area.
But I am a competitive person, and I did not want to finish last. I just had no idea how utterly outclassed I would be from the get go.
I had tried to mentally prepare for this by reading various message board threads describing first race experiences. Many noted how, though they thought they were quick on a bike, only to have people passing them like they were standing still. If it is at all possible to go beyond that, at times people passed me as if I was going backwards.
The course itself was a joy to speed through, speed being a relative term here. Racing through several levels of parking garage with a concrete roof over your head and solid concrete pillars speeding past your side brings a kind of claustrophobic thrill uncommon in the normally outdoor sport of cycling.
Styled as "urban-cross", course designers had a half dozen hay bails set up near the final turn which riders had to either hurdle, bunny-hop, or simply plow through in order to proceed.
In the end I came in 15th out of 19 riders. The leaders lapped me four times, which was disheartening, but I took some solace in the fact that I didn't come in last. The entire field, in fact, was lapped at least once by the first and second place riders, each experienced cyclocross racers.
This was the second Crystal City Diamond Derby, the first one being held back in March. Organizers hope to hold the event every six months from now on.
There were other races, too, including a circuit for the kids to go round. The most entertaining event was undoubtedly the team relay, and I give mad props to the team dressed as characters fro Mario Kart.
Hyattsville CX This Weekend
As mentioned above, the Hyattsville CX will be held on Sunday, Oct. 7 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Magruder Park in Hyattsville, Md.
The event features a series of cyclocross races around a course at Magruder Park. It's also a fundraiser for the Prince George's County Special Olympics cycling team. Last year's CX attracted nearly 600 racers and raised $7,000 for the program.
The Hyattsville CX is a part of a MABRACross Super 8 cyclocross race series.
There's more than 11 races across 18 different categories, starting with a mens Cat 5 race at 8:15 p.m. and culminating in a 4:15 p.m. victory lap for special olympians.
Registration is still open, but act fast. Registration closes on Thursday, Oct. 4 at 11:45 p.m.
DC Bike Party Rides Next Wednesday
If you're looking for a fun social ride next week, swing by Dupont Circle on Wednesday, Oct. 10 for the 4th monthly DC Bike Party.
It's a social ride held on the second Wednesday of each month. The rides are accompanied by a battery powered cycle-towed sound system blaring dance music. This edition will feature a 13 mile cruise from Dupont Circle, through Georgetown, the Mall, the Southwest Waterfront neighborhoods, across the Anacostia River into historic Anacostia and back across the river to Pennsylvania Avenue SE for post-cruise drinks at Trusty's bar.
Along the way, there will be a pit stop featuring some lighthearted races.
Bike partiers will gather at Dupont Circle at around 7:30 p.m., with a sharp 8 p.m. departure time.
Have Some Cycling News to Share? Let Me Know!
If you want information about your Washington, D.C. area bicycling event to appear in this column, or have questions about cycling infrastructure or news in your area? simply drop me an email at Michael.Theis@patch.com, and I'll work it into an upcoming column.