We want to use markandsean.com to tell stories and feature the friends we make along the way and who make cycling in Wisconsin awesome. So we're really excited to have our first Guest Post! Beth Pickhard, who we met last year at the Door County Century, has graciously agreed to share her cycling Origin Story and to write about what it’s like for a rider to take part in a bike race that we commentate. (We hope it's fun!) Beth writes about bikes and beer on her blog, Brew City Biker, so be sure to head over there and check out her work.
Mud-caked riders streamed by, unclipping their muddy shoes from their pedals and jumping off their bikes, sloshing up a hill and over plywood barriers impeding their progress. I was spectating at my first cyclocross race in Verona, Wisconsin, which just so happened to be the 2012 USA Cyclocross National Championships.
The guys I was with were sooo into it. They were drinking beer and heckling the riders, shouting “up, up, up!” while the riders jumped over barriers with the gracefulness of a gazelle. I didn’t know how to react to the whole scene sprawled out before me. I had recently started riding a bike as an athletic endeavor while in college, putting on miles on weekends between house parties and homework. But these ladies didn’t look like me. You could tell they trained hard be elite -- a regiment of sprinting, eating kale and practicing carrying their bikes thrust over their shoulders, I assumed.
The whole racing scene can seem rather intimidating to young, female bikers (like me at the time), but also people who have never entered the bike “scene,” whatever their age, or are simply attending to support their cousin or daughter or whomever. Things like cookouts, beer and fun people make people want to attend things like criterium racing. If you had to Google “criterium,” you are probably one of the people that needs to be enticed to attend a bike race. We have all these silly bike words. Fortunately, we have people like Mark and Sean who can describe the scene and never make us feel dumb for not knowing the lingo.
They may not have known it at the time, but I saw Mark and Sean for the first time in 2014 at the Door County Century where they were commentating the Cross of the Century, a cyclocross race that takes place the day before the century ride. Most people do the race for fun, and many of them are riding 100 miles the next day. There were tiki torches out on the course and kids drenching the riders with squirt guns. Mark and Sean were doing a lot of heckling, dangling bacon and other consumables from fishing poles. They were making cyclocross seem really FUN. I kept thinking to myself, “Who are these dudes?!”
Fast forward to 2015. My group of lady friends and I finally got up the courage to say “Hi” to Mark and Sean at the Cross of the Century. Life has been more awesome ever since. We laughed a ton at the cross race and the next day we rode our 100 miles and did what I endearingly like to call “Closing the Door County Century.” (Basically we consumed a bunch of beer with the drink tickets that rained down upon us from Illinois people driving home that afternoon and were entrusted with leftover cherry pies. Soon after the pies came, we were promptly told to leave). I was glad that Mark and Sean were a part of that awesome day (although sadly they missed running into a freezing Lake Michigan and drinking more beer in a hot tub). Anyway, the story happily did not end at that day. We kept in touch and I ended up seeing them at two fat bike races this winter -- Broken Spoke’s Shelltrack and Wheel & Sprocket’s Hugh Jass in Appleton.
You know, I could tell you more about the lively shenanigans that take place at bike races when Mark and Sean are around, but that’s not the point. The best part is that Mark and Sean make people happy. The duo has a sense of humor and a way of speaking that makes racers and spectators alike feel special. They care about riders and want them to have fun. They care about spectators and want to entertain them. If you’re lucky enough to be friends with Mark and Sean, those feelings intensify at least 150%.
Now that I am obsessed with bikes, I can look back at that first cross race in Verona and tell you that if a commentator like Mark or Sean had been present, my perceptions of the sport would have changed instantly. Bikes are fun and racing is meant to be fun. If you’re not having fun, you’re doing it wrong. And it’s fantastic when you have Mark and Sean to remind you to enjoy every minute of the sport.