During the first week of January of 2017, USA Cyclocross Nationals are being held in Hartford, Connecticut. (If the timing surprises you, I guess the January date adds a bit of additional excitement and unpredictability to a sport that already has plenty of both.) I knew early on that I wanted to go, but I felt that I needed a purpose to make being there even more memorable. Weeks before the event, I reached out to contacts in the industry and pitched a few ideas. When that didn't work quite as smoothly as I'd hoped for, I decided to just go and photograph, channeling the freelance spirit of David Burnett. Without the obligations of a photographer on assignment, I am free to photograph what moves me.
A full 24 hours of rain early in the week turned midweek racing into a mudfest. Lap times increased dramatically as lightweight cross bikes became heavier than beach cruisers. Even with a bike change available twice during each lap, racers were no match for the weight, drag, and mechanical failure the mud caused. Meanwhile, the conditions were causing havoc in the pits, with support staff trying to keep up with the demand for power washing in order to get the bikes clean and ready for the next bike change.
Of course, not even epic mud can dampen or discourage the spirit of die-hard cyclocross racers or their supporters, especially when championships are on the line.
As you read this (while comfortably sitting on the warm couch, sipping your coffee), I am back in Hartford (in my cross country ski wear - it's snowing sideways) to watch and photograph the weekend championship races. I expect there'll be more to share with you next week.
See ya then,