If you are anything like a lot of the guys here in our office, as the summer starts to draw to a close it can only mean one thing… it’s almost cyclocross season! Stretching from mid-September into February (depending on where you live), the cyclocross season fills the winter competitive void for road cyclists and mountain bikers alike.
For those in need of a quick primer, cyclocross racing dates back to the early 1900s, more than likely started after early road racers raced each other home across fields and through woods and soon decided that a race like that would be a great way to stay in shape in the winter months (plus it just sounds like fun). From it’s probable origins in France, cyclocross racing spread throughout Europe in the years before World War II (and most significantly into Belgium, the undisputed spiritual home of ‘cross, if only because of the rabid fans).
But it wasn’t until 1950 that the first Cyclocross World Championships were organized by the Union Cycliste Internationale (the governing body for world cycling). In the US, ‘cross really only became popular in the 1970s, starting from hotbeds in the Northeast, Northwest, and in California. Of course now there are races and series all over this country, although the highest professional level of the sport, the UCI Cyclocross World Cup, still takes place only in Europe. The exciting news is that that may be changing soon, as cyclocross gains in prestige and popularity here in the US, since Louisville, KY was recently awarded the 2013 Elite World Championships.
Cyclocross races usually consist of many laps over a short course (2 miles or less), ending after a pre-determined time limit. Basically the lap time of the lead rider is taken and then the remaining number of laps is determined by this initial lap time; i.e.: if the lead rider does his first lap in 10 minutes and the race is an elite level race, usually 60 minutes long, then the field will have 5 more laps to complete. The remaining number of laps is posted at the start/finish line for the field to see as they pass by during each lap.
Terrain varies from paved roads to grassy fields to dirt paths (with mud or sand pits), featuring short steep climbs, off camber sections, lots of corners and sections (like the one with barriers below) where the rider may need, or would be best advised, to dismount and run while carrying the bike (although courses are usually about 90% rideable). Because of the varied terrain in a cyclocross race, a cyclocross bike looks like a modified standard road bike, with better clearance for wider knobby tires, cables routed on top of the top tube to allow the bike to be shouldered, lower gearing, and cantilever brakes (plus mountain bike-style clipless pedals are also usually employed for their quicker entry and exit).
So that should give you a good idea of the basics of cyclocross riding and racing, but really the only way to get a real feel for ‘cross is to give it a try. One of the best ways to try out ‘cross is at a local clinic, where you can pick up tips and tricks from more experienced riders. Here at Performance we have an established group of cyclocross riders and racers, and they are always willing to share their hard-earned knowledge at bi-weekly ‘cross clinics, where we caught up with Spin Doctor Advisors Randy and Eric (part of our team of employee product testers & advisors) to talk about why they love riding and racing cyclocross:
We’ll be following the cyclocross racers from Performance here on the blog throughout the season, so check back for more updates. The first race for many of the guys (and gals) will be the Charm City Cross weekend of races, in Baltimore, MD on September 18-19. Keep an eye out for our Tyler’s team kits and stop by to say hello!