by Kristi Berg
If slogging through mud on bike and foot, over obstacles and riding hard in rain or shine sound like a fun way to spend 30-60 minutes on a Sunday morning, then cyclocross racing might be in your future. For many of you, it’s already a way of life come autumn in the Pacific Northwest. While it may sound intimidating, the cyclocross community welcomes beginners. Following are some pointers for getting into cross.
Tip #1: Tune Up Your Bike
Like a lot of people racing cross, you’ve been spending a lot of time on the road this summer. You might need to switch over some parts of your bike to prepare for the cyclocross season. To get started use a Mountain Bike, old road bike, or ideally a Cyclocross bike. Clean every part of your bike, ensuring that it’s in good working order and buy light weight components (because you lift and run with the bike) that will stand up to hard riding over rough terrain. You don’t want to spend your first race fixing a broken chain.
Tip #2: Sharpen Your Skills
If this is your first season of racing cross, consider taking a class or clinic (See “Resources” at the end of article for some suggestions). You’ll be with other beginners while you learn basic cyclocross races skills, such as the proper way to mount and dismount your bicycle, to shoulder your bicycle when you run up and over barriers, and several other aspects of cyclocross. These classes are great not only for beginners but also for seasoned cross racers who want to sharpen their skills.
Tip #3: Practice
Once you’ve taken a class or experienced a season of cross racing, you’ll have a better idea of what to expect. Go out after work and practice the skills that you’ll need in a cyclocross race, such as:
Smooth remounts without hopping
Stepping through with inside leg into a run on faster dismounts
Gently putting bike down after running sections – no rear wheel bounces
Grabbing the bike and shouldering it for a run-up
Tip #4: Be Prepared
Once you have started to master the skills of cyclocross, the only thing left to do is get out and race. Get used to preparing for all kinds of weather. Some good things to remember:
Pack a race bag with everything you might need, from booties to a rain jacket. Be sure to pack dry clothes to put on after the race.
Always keep that bag stocked so that you can just grab it and go come race day.
Consider bringing a Thermos with hot tea or soup (Oregon’s Crusade and Seattle Cross have been sponsored by MacTarnahans and New Belgium Brewing for the more seasoned racer)
Pack warming crème or lubricant for your legs. These lubricants are great to rub on your skin before your race in wet and cold conditions to protect your skin from the moisture and cold temperatures.
Tip #5: Don’t Forget to Eat
Try to eat 2-3 hours before your race so that you have adequate time to digest your food. Take in some form of simple sugar approximately 15 minutes before your race start, to ensure proper energy during the race (you’ll be sprinting pretty hard!).
Be sure to hydrate very well the day before and the morning of your race. In cyclocross racing, water bottle cages are a hindrance (they get in the way when you shoulder your bike); therefore, you will not be able to drink fluids during your race. Drink as soon as you finish to avoid dehydration.
Tip #6: Have Fun
Remember that cyclocross racing is a fun way to stay in shape during the rainy season. The races are very social events, which often include food, beverages and – sometimes – costume contests. Don’t take it too seriously your first time out and you’ll have a great time!
Kristi Berg of Seattle has been the Seattle Cyclocross Womens division overall championship for the past 4 years, is USAC and ACE certified and is Head of Women’s Cycling at Seattle’s Cycle University.
For a list of cyclocross clinics and classes being offered in the region, see:
http://www.obra.org – Oregon Bicycle Racing Association
http://www.SeattleCyclocross.com – Seattle Cyclocross