Shivering - frozen bodies clad only in lycra, huddled in the corral wait for the gun to release the massive pack up the hill and into the first turn. Anywhere further back than 10th or 20th into the turn you're faced with increased chances of carnage... The freezing mud pit that has swallowed so many other riders whole. The day ebbs - the field grows and thus the number of the pit's victims grows as well. 170 bikes compete for the same small patch of frozen ground, searching - ever searching to discover the ever moving, ephemeral "line."
Most lose sight of the leaders mere seconds after the gun. Unless we make up lost ground inch by inch. Relentlessly, lap after lap, passing slower riders - trying not to be beaten mentally and physically. So many would be satisfied simply to finish on a day such as this.
Navigate the frozen tundra, wondering if the bike will hold up under the frozen conditions. Steered with frigid, aching hands - bodies dropping to the sound of rubber knobbies ripping at the ice and rutted turf - followed often by cries of agony - dislodged by pain as jagged ice bites tender flesh that wishes to be warm.
Snot and breath freeze to your face, fingers sting from the arctic wind, toes go numb - you fight to stay focused - pushing onward, onward... the finish line...
The body says give up - the rabid fans jumping in the cold demand more. Bells, horns, screaming voices encourage you to continue on - deliver more. How can they all know me? Who are they? It is good, the absence of feeling, the grayness...
You cross the line, your head is slumped, eyes watering from the searing wind and something else from deep inside. A ragged breath - you let it go. Then, slowly you smile. You have completed the Kansas City US National Cyclocross Championship. You have won - before or after whom - it matters not, you have survived.