Your First CX Descent

Your First CX Descent
(after the short story His First Flight by Liam O’Flaherty)

(The Cyclocross season has now officially started, like the arrival of the first Brent Goose, the season is heralded by the musings of Brendan aka the ‘Bard of the Bike’ or the ‘Pedalling Poet’ even sometimes the ‘Taciturn Tricyclist’)

The newcomer stood alone on the precipice.  Beneath her, her brothers and sisters of the colony swooped and dived, shouting and screaming, some with bravado, others with relief.  She took another look down and wheeled away from the ledge.

Beneath her she could see the promised land of lush grass and clear paths, their defined ways offering comfort to those who had already braved the precipice.  Beyond them again, she could make out the youngsters tumbling in the fine gravel which somehow seemed more comforting than the cliff she looked out from.  But right now it all seemed out of reach. 

Earlier, her life partner had smoothed her fears, delicately pinning on the numbers that said she was one of the flock.  Others had commented on the sheen of her gloss black frame, which stood out amongst the mottled assembly that congregated for the new season.

She had followed the pack up to the precipice, just like nature intended.  An inner call led her to pursue them to the height, each ramp bringing her higher and higher, each offering the relief of making it and the fear of what would come next.  Some of the turns had left her breathless, not quite believing she was here.

Her older brothers called at her to come down from the ledge. Do-it Do-it they encouraged, before being distracted by their own friends swooping around them to calls of Heh-Bren-Heh-Bren.  Her sister arrived on the ledge, looked down, and confided her heart was in her mouth as well.  Then she too disappeared.

Back on the ledge, she sought comfort from knowing that she could scrabble down the cliff face, but feared the danger of the hurtling speed of those around her.  She wheeled back but returned to look down again.  An older brother insisted she could do it, hectoring about lowering her flight path and moving her weight forward at the bottom of the precipice. Like this he cried, but his words were lost to the drum of the heartbeat in her ears.

Behind her she could see others mounting the ramps to the precipice.  She looked down again and felt the rush of butterfly wings inside her.  She closed her eyes, letting an ache from her neck descend into her shoulders, her ears becoming attuned to the clamour of others descending around her.  Her fingers loosened the brakes, while her feet sought out the pedals that would wed her to the turn of events.  Her wheels inched forward and her tyres lipped the embankment.  She remembered the sincere words she had heard, believe me, it’ll find its own way down.

Then in one single motion, she gripped the bars tight while letting the brakes go.  The butterflies arose inside her, her thudding heart sending messages of alarm to her fingertips.  But she was made for this, she just didn’t know it yet.  Her gloss black bike glinted in the sunlight, her position perfect, she flexed her arms to cushion the terrain, easing and controlling the wheels and brakes to land in the lush grass that once seemed so far away

Her sister called congratulations to her, and she smiled back, amused by what she had achieved.   Her brothers appeared from around corners, calling her to come back up and do it again and again.  And she did.  Then she completely forgot that she had not always been able to do this.  Her life partner looked on proudly while others from the flock arrived and departed around her, not knowing that she had overcome her fear.  She had made her first CX descent. 

Photo credits: Bill Maguire

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