A challenging journey peppered with obstacles. A road you ultimately travel alone, even though others will be there to cheer you on. Adrenaline-packed adventures in unpredictable weather.
Take a look at cyclocross, and you’ll see this fascinating sport has a whole lot in common with the journey to becoming an Eagle Scout.
And as proven by 16-year-old Michael Mason, Eagle Scout and 2018 Virginia Cyclocross Series champion, a young person can do both.
He’s an Eagle Scout from Troop 710 of the Heart of Virginia Council. And he dominated the 2018 Virginia Cyclocross Series for riders age 15 to 18. That means he’ll wear the champion’s white jersey when the 2019 season resumes this year.
Michael is the latest example that there’s time for school, Scouting and sports — whether that sport is basketball, kayaking, swimming, football … or cyclocross.
So, what is cyclocross?
Cyclocross is a type of bike racing typically contested in the fall and winter on a looping course featuring a mix of pavement, grass, sand, dirt, mud or snow. In most races, riders will encounter obstacles too difficult to bike through, forcing them to carry their bikes like a canoeist completing a portage.
Cyclocross riders are tough. On rainy, windy, snowy or haily days when most cyclists would switch to a stationary bike, cyclocross riders say, “bring it on.”
That’s another thing they have in common with Scouts. As long as it’s safe to do so, Scouts camp in conditions others avoid.
Michael, who started Scouting as a Tiger Scout, says the program has taught him toughness and the desire to identify and reach his goals.
Those traits have come in handy as Michael has raced past his competitors to become the best junior cyclocross rider in his state.
“The desire to reach Eagle is like the desire to reach the podium,” he says. “It’s about working toward your goals one requirement at a time. Sometimes you just have to get into the work and do it.”
What’s next for Michael?
Michael is continuing his climb through the sport of cyclocross this fall.
He’s a rising senior attending the Miller School of Albemarle, which offers world-class academics and a top-ranked development program for junior riders.
And he’ll continue to participate in Scouting as his competition schedule allows. He already earned the Cycling merit badge — no surprise there — but wants to continue giving back to the troop that has given him so much.
But even when he’s not at a troop event, Michael says his Scouting lessons will come along for the ride.
“Things that I have learned from Scouts have not only helped me along my journey to Eagle, but they have also helped me in everyday life,” he says. “All of the work needed to complete merit badges and to acquire a higher rank has helped me work harder while still having a balanced life.”