Cycling through School

 Mr. Greg Butler races against competitors at the Full Moon Vista. He grips the handlebar tighter, tucks in his elbows, and squints his eyes ahead to where he can nearly see the finish line.

Mr. Greg Butler races against competitors at the Full Moon Vista. He grips the handlebar tighter, tucks in his elbows, and squints his eyes ahead to where he can nearly see the finish line.

Suddenly, he is interrupted by a wooden board that is about a foot tall.

He swiftly gets off the bike, hoists it onto his shoulder, and sprints across the board. By the time he reaches the end of the board, he can almost taste the finish line.

Pedaling expeditiously, he concentrates on beating his competitor to the right, who is just a few feet behind him. He triumphantly zooms across the finish line.

Cyclocross is a type of bike racing in which competitors race in parks over different terrains and avoid the obstacles. Mr. Greg Butler, a special education teacher at the school, competes in this sport.

“It’s the type of racing I enjoy most, because of the scene,” Mr. Butler said. “It’s very relaxed and fun, unlike road racing which tends to be more serious and you don’t have spectators like you do in Cyclocross racing.”

Cyclocross races have an intense social setting, and the competitors are often spectators as well. This means competitors will compete in some races, but spectate in others.

“It’s a great social outlet, because it always involves friends, both cheering for them when they’re racing and having them cheer for you while you’re racing,” Mr. Butler said. “Then getting together after the race, having something to eat, something to drink, and talking about how everything went. So, I think that mentally that’s helpful too, like there’s a release.”

Spectators can be heard cheering loudly throughout the whole race and often ring cowbells and hold up signs to inspire extra confidence. However, cheering people on is not the only motivator for racers.

“Food trucks are always part of it, so there’s always good food,” Mr. Butler said.

Races occur on most weekends from September to December, and are only an hour or two outside of DC. They are very spectator-friendly because they take place in parks, making them easily accessible.

“The social scene is so good. Everybody should go to a cross race, just for the social element,” English teacher Ms. Jacqueline Stallworth said. “People are happy. There’s normally a lot of food and drinks and it’s a very festive environment.”

Despite the lightheartedness of the spectators, Cyclocross is an intense sport. Mr. Butler does not shy away when discussing how laborious races can be.

“Your heart rate is pretty much maxed out from the time it says go,” Mr. Butler said. While competing in the 8-10 mile race, competitors may be required to carry their bike up stairs, or tackle cycling through mud.

Giovanni Congelio, a junior who also competes in Cyclocross, finds that the most demanding part of it is maintaining endurance.

Each race is 45 minutes, and you’re giving it everything you got for the whole time,” Congelio said. “It really wears you out.”

It is also an incredibly competitive sport, no matter where on the racetrack competitors are there is always someone nearby. Mr. Butler recalled that he and his friends often refer to it as, “A race within a race,” since you are always competing against someone.

But the competitiveness of the sport does not hinder the fun of it for racers.

“It’s a good friendly competition, because when you’re riding the fields are so spread out you can’t tell who’s  first or last, so it’s fun! I just wanna keep riding till the end!” Ms. Stallworth said.

Races mostly transpire on the weekend, which can take a toll on Congelio, whose busy schedule makes it difficult to balance school assignments and Cyclocross. However, Mr. Butler doesn’t find this to be a complication, since after school he can typically get about two hours of riding in on one of the many bike trails.

“Usually I can get out most days after school. I’ll get an hour and a half to maybe three hours of a training ride, and this area’s really good for that. With all the bike trails we have, it’s not too hard to get away from traffic and out to some country road.”