RICHMOND, Va. -- Cyclocross is a combination of road racing and mountain biking that is usually run on something very close to a cross country running course.
“You're going to ride on grass, you’re going to ride on some pavement, there’s probably some gravel in there, some dirt. A little bit of everything,” cyclocross champion Greg Wittwer said. “It’s very individual. It’s very ‘you and me against each other,’ we’re going to figure out who the best rider is during the entire race.”
Wittwer has been cyclocrossing for over 20 years.
“I think that challenge really drew me to it. I didn’t feel like I was just hopping on my bike and riding for 50 miles and then waiting for a 20-second sprint at the end to see who won,” he said.
The timed races are usually either 30 or 60 minutes on a course that runs between 1.5 and two miles. Cyclocross also provides a little extra challenge on every lap.
“Every course pretty much has an area where you have to get off the bike and run with it,” Wittwer said. “We race from the beginning of September, sometimes all the way through to the end of January. When it gets really cold, you need to get that circulation in your feet.”
Wittwer has raced all over the country and has racked up over 100 wins. His daytime job is as a Health and PE teacher at Varina High School in Henrico.
Students know he rides, but some aren't convinced as to just how good he has become.
“I tell them about my race, and I tell them, ‘Oh just Google me. They’re like, ‘No, you’re not on Google. Yeah, just Google me.”
A Google search yields results that show he won the 2018 National Championship for his age group, besting 80 other riders and becoming the second member of his family to win such an honor.
His father has won six national titles.
To get to that peak, he needed the right coach.
He found one in his wife.
“She’s a pitbull man,” Witter said of his wife and coach Erin Wittwer. “She`s a tough one.”
Normally a husband would not be able to get away with describing his wife in such a manner. But Erin is the exception.
“I can see in him and believe in him things when I watch him race that I don`t think he quite believes yet,” Erin explained.
Erin was an accomplished rider herself before getting into coaching almost by accident. She developed a talent for finding talent in other riders, including the one she lives with.
“My husband will crumble,” Erin said. “He will fail in a workout and that’s normal. That’s where we know, OK, that’s a limit right now.”
“It doesn’t mean you’re terrible,” she continued. “It doesn't mean you suck. It’s just something we have to work on.”
“She had seen me race for a long time and really has been able to zero in on what my weaknesses were, and has really made me work on those,” Greg added.
But that work wasn't easy. It sometimes led to tensions boiling over that normally wouldn't be brought to the dinner table.
“I knew going into the workout, he was cursing me and then I knew coming home, I needed to stay clear and be out of the house so that he could throw objects without me being in the way,” Erin said. “Once he chilled out and got over it, things were fine.”
In the end, as most wives usually are, Erin was right. Their trophy says it all.
“She`s seen the hard work, so for her to be there and see it all happen, I know that it`s like her winning her own national championship,” Greg said.
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