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The road to being a national champion is a bumpy one, especially in cyclocross.

But Colton Bailey is ready for it.

At 13-years-old, Bailey, of Mason City, lined up at the starting gate against 39 men of all ages at the USA Cycling Iowa state championships on Nov. 25.

His goal was to podium, but he won, which punched his upcoming ticket to nationals in Reno, Nevada, on Jan. 13.

Bailey’s been hooked from the start. Born to a triathlon-loving family, Bailey and his dad, Steve, grew to love cycling more than any other aspect of the race.

“I had always been better on the bike than anything else, so he started racing and I watched him,” Bailey said. “A few years later, I fell into it.”

It started with mountain biking at 8, then road racing at 10, but Bailey would find his one true passion in cyclocross at 11.

Cyclocross has a little bit of everything: mountainous terrain, mud, sand, grass and occasionally pavement. It’s unpredictable in more ways than one, athletes won’t know how long the course is or how many laps they are racing until two laps into the race.

If the race is 45 minutes long, the officials determine how many laps the competitors will take based on the pace they set. So, if the first two laps of the race take five minutes, then the lap counter will tell the cyclists they have seven laps left, assuming that’s how long it should take.

[photo from Globe Gazette and taken by Leman Northway]

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