Ask Oli: Ending where it began
Oli wades back into the grass and mud of Manitoba cyclocross
A return to my roots felt right.
Closure is what was missing the last two times I quit.
Though I know this still is not the end, and that I’ll line up again one day to throw some elbows, butt some heads, laugh and joke, and try to be the first across some line, I feel more at peace with my departure than I ever have.
I wouldn’t say I’m on a new page, nor would I claim that this is a new chapter of my life. I’m living the introduction of an entirely new novel titled ‘Oli: Something Other Than a Mediocre Cyclist’, but I know that a cyclist I’ll still be, albeit a slower, heavier, and weirder looking one than ever.
It’s a lifestyle. It’s a part of my being. I no longer feel the need to force a clean break. I no longer need to forget it. That would be a battle that never ends. You can’t resist reality. I won’t deny a part of me.
But it was while racing at home, in grass, mud and rain, when I accepted that it was time, and that this last race would leave less of a void than the Whistler Fondo did.
Trudging through clay and dragging a bike that wouldn’t shift through a ‘cross course in Manitoba, alongside (behind) some of my best friends and old teammates, my old coaches and opponents – my original cycling family – would serve as a more fulfilling goodbye to racing.
Cyclocross in Manitoba is truly where it started for me. Sure, I joined a mountain bike club and crashed my way through a few races first, but on a ‘cross course I found my mojo, and through a discipline that can’t decide whether it’s mountain bike racing or a Tough Mudder, a trajectory for me as a cyclist appeared. Perhaps this ambiguous, non-conforming identity as a sport suits my non-conforming identity as an athlete.
The two races I did in Manitoba helped me let go. I wasn’t at all concerned about a result or how I looked. I rode a handful of times in the weeks leading up to the races, and instead of training on a ‘cross bike, I sold mine. My first dismount in two years was on the first lap of Mennocross (it hurt).
At the second race, Viking Cross, I raced in an old skateboard helmet that made me appear as though I was preparing for battle. I was there to ride. That’s all.
This article, I’m not sure what it’s meant to be. I don’t know if there’s a point to it, other than to pay tribute to the community that welcomed me, raised me, and now let me go as a cyclist.
Thank you, Manitoba, for everything. Especially for setting me free.