We hand over to Kate, to demystify CX (AKA cyclocross) and why you should try it…
- Mud is good!
- Cyclocross is an off-road, winter sport. We live in Britain, the home of rain and grey skies! Yes it’s a bit of a pain to wash everything afterwards, but the challenges (and hilarity) that the slippy stuff creates means that you will learn to love it. Just remember to wrap up warm when you’re not racing!
- Everyone is friendly
- A far cry from the slightly more serious/elitist atmosphere of a TT or road race, the vast majority who race CX are in it for the bants. Top finishers are happy to give tips to those who are more at home at the back of the grid, horns and cow bells are aimed at anyone who races (regardless of whether they’re at the front, back or going the wrong way!) and even if you turn up alone, someone will take you under their wing for a recce lap.
- Be prepared to feel like you’re gonna puke!
- Races, whether 40 minutes (women, junior + vet men) or an hour (senior men), are full gas from the off. Whatever your cycling threshold heart rate is, you will hold for the duration. Best not to look at your Garmin and just crack on 😊
- You WILL have to get off your bike and run
- Whether by fault or design, you are guaranteed to need to unclip and try to make progress on 2 feet. Most courses involve at least one set of barriers which are bunny-hoppable by only the talented few who grew up mountain biking. Not to mention steep ascents, sandpits, off-camber greasy grass and steps…
5. Food WILL be consumed
- Whether you’ve a sweet or savoury tooth, there will be plenty on offer. Homemade cake, bacon butties, calzone and of course Belgian frites 😊 If you’re watching your waistline, make race day your treat/cheat day and reward yourself for a hard effort. It’s the law.
6. Every course is different
- Some are flat, fast and wiggly, others are brutally hilly or technical. Whether there’s a bridge, steps, gravel, rutty sections, sandpits, snow tunnel, bomb hole or halfpipe, there’s always a course aimed at different skillsets. So don’t worry if you don’t do well at one, there’ll always be another to suit your strengths.
7. Skills and fitness are optional, but having fun is mandatory
- You get all sorts at CX events: skilled off-roadsters, lesser-skilled roadies and triathletes in their off-season, as well as WAGS HABS and offspring who are just “having a go”. Some folks are both skilled AND fit (commonly found on the first 2 rows of the grid), whilst others are skilled and relish mud/tree roots/gravel but hate the hilly courses, or fit and “wing it” 80% of the time when it all gets a bit technical 😉 No matter which camp you fall into, the camaraderie and abundance of support will make it all worthwhile!
8. Wear ALL YOUR CLOTHES
- For the race, you’ll likely just need a cycle jersey/shorts or skinsuit and in the colder races a base layer +/- arm/leg warmers. But before and after racing, there is a LOT of standing around supporting… make sure you bring at least trackie bottoms, a decent jumper, bobble hat, gloves and jacket. The colder blooded among us also bring handwarmers, thermos flasks, scarfs… even the odd Dry Robe has been seen!
9. Warm-up/recce laps are encouraged
- And a good idea! There’s usually 15-30 minutes allotted for competitors to ride around the course at their leisure, to get a general feel for the course, try out any technical bits and most importantly for some to stop your bits freezing off! Use this time wisely and you may find you are very glad you did come race time. If you get more than one opportunity to recce, consider doing both. After a couple of races, conditions can change quite dramatically, going from slippy to dry or vice versa.
10. Remember to be thankful to all those who help make the race happen
- Marshalls, those on the registration desk and often the photographers… they’re all giving up their own time to make this happen. What you don’t see is the hours of planning and meetings which go into plotting the course and getting it approved. The reason race day happens so seamlessly is 100% due to these guys and gals, so make sure you give them a shout out during their own race (or just a thank you for those who don’t take part themselves). Chapeau you wonderful people!