I was vaguely aware of cyclocross last year but this season my children have decided to give it a try. “Cross is Here” said the hashtag I kept seeing on Twitter, but what is it and why? For those who have never seen it – cyclocross involves racing off road, usually on drop handled racing bikes with off road tyres but sometimes on mountain bikes. The choice of bike, braking system and gearing is left to you, no gear restrictions other than the amount of strength left in your legs to get you up the worst hills, plus it’s fine to get off and run when it’s too hard to ride.
Fortunately every race we’ve been to has been dry so far and we have yet to experience the mud baths that will probably/certainly be around later in the season. This may explain why I’m feeling so positive about it at present. Part of each course has been fast riding grass, with added twists, loose ground, ditches, steep up and downs and man made hurdles added in for extra excitement. From a spectators point of view cyclocross is great to watch as you can see all the different approaches to the technical sections, successful or not. It looks extremely hard work – the field splits up very fast and everyone is riding as hard as possible for the duration of the race.
There’s races for all ages, so you can get involved as well as the kids. The V50s and Ladies races have been over subscribed at every event so far so “sadly” I haven’t had a go. I have however ridden the course as a sighting lap along with Leo (6) who has been having his first cross racing experiences. They are very welcoming to younger riders and are happy for parents to run alongside them if neccessary as long as they don’t get in the way of the race. U8s race with U10s, so they are lapped by faster riders and do need to be aware and listen, but it seems to work. Riding the sighting lap at Colchester through the twists in the wood seriously stretched my bike handling and it’s definitely doing wonders for Leo’s bike skills. I almost shut my eyes as he tackled some of the descents last week.
Be aware that cyclocross age groups are different to road racing age groups at this point in the year, probably because the season crosses over December 31st. Those in the second year of the road racing age groups will have already moved up in cyclocross terms – for example second year U12s in road racing are already U14s (which means eligibility for prize money so there’s a silver lining!).
There’s been lots of LVYCC riders at the various events who have been enjoying plenty of success, and there’s always been friendly people around to point us in the right direction and give us tips. It seems a great way to keep fit over the winter season and improve bike handling. So go on – give it a try! However, one word of warning, I did watch a GCN video “Matt does Cyclocross – the Big Race” – in which Matt Stephens has a go at a national cross race in Milton Keynes – take a look at the scenes of the pits in this. Not sure I’m quite up for those conditions…
This Video is from the Northlands cross last weekend…
(Image credit to Danielle Eagle and John Swindell)