Inside the Dirty, Dangerous World of Cyclocross @MaximMag

Inside the Dirty, Dangerous World of Cyclocross

It's gnarly, it's muddy, and it's the fastest-growing sport on two wheels. Can you survive cycling's crucible?
On the Sunday afternoon when he should be resting, Jeremy Powers instead takes the road to the left, and soon his bike hums over the gently sloped lane, the stunning but foreboding forests of Western Massachusetts crowding the path and humidity curdling the air, until he sees the pavement rise before him, rise and curve and rise again, epically, endlessly. His pedaling slows and then nearly stops—so steep is the incline—and now he’s up off the saddle and pumping, the bike swaying wildly with each downward stroke. He has already this morning done the lunges and box steps and side crunches that he hates, movements that strengthen his comically slim core but will leave him with a soreness that lasts until Wednesday. He has also already gone on a five-mile run. And yet the notorious King’s Highway—the kind of relatively empty but challenging path that abounds in this region, which is why he chose to live here—seems uniquely torturous today, each push of the legs an attempt to reestablish not so much a good pace as just forward movement. No one has reached Powers’ level in the cycling world, let alone his highly unusual subspecialty, without answering a question he often poses to those who ask his advice: “How much do you want to suffer?”