Interested in learning more about cyclo-cross racing?
Cyclo-cross began in Europe in the 1920 and ’30s as a way for road racers to stay fit during nasty, off-season weather. There’s plenty of that in New England, so the sport is a great fall exercise option, according to Molly Hurford, an elite racer and author of the book “Mud, Snow, and Cyclocross: How ’Cross Took Over US Cycling.” Here are some of her tips for joining the fun.
Cyclo-cross bikes may look like road bikes, but they are specialized with wider clearance for mud, special brakes, and wider tires. You don’t need one to get started, though. For your first event, “race on whatever you have,” Hurford advises. “Don’t waste tons of money on a super fancy bike.” Race organizers commonly allow mountain bikes in amateur races so long as the bike does not have extenders on the handlebars. A helmet is required.
“The best place [to start] is more of a local race. If you want to see how the pros do it, then go to Gloucester and go to Providence first, but don’t try to race them. Just go to them and really experience what it is.”
Some smaller nearby races include:
The Night Weasels Cometh, Oct. 3, Shrewsbury; Downeast Cyclo-cross, Oct. 20-21, in New Gloucester, Maine; the Plymouth Festival of
Cyclo-cross, Nov. 10-11, in Plymouth; and the Baystate Cyclo-cross,
Nov. 24-25, in Sterling.
The Shimano New England Professional Cyclo-cross Series (Gloucester and Providence are part of this series) includes two other big races: The Cycle-Smart International,
Nov. 3-4, in Northampton; and the NBX Gran Prix of Cyclocross, Dec. 1-2, in Warwick, R.I.
Check www.bikereg.com for a calendar and registration info.
Skills and racing
US cyclo-cross races include categories for the pros and amateur fields for men, women, and juniors. Odds are you will find someone to race, even at the back of the field. Speeds are lower, and crashes less terrible. Skills handling a mountain bike on trails help in the many turns of a ’cross course.
As for those dramatic flying dismounts and remounts? Hurford says forget them if you are new. “Make sure you’re comfortable stopping the bike and getting on and off of it.”
Cyclocross magazine’s newbie tips: www.cxmagazine.com/newbie-news-tips-starting-cyclocross-noob
CyclocrossWorld.com is a great source of information about the technical aspects of the sport’s gear. The website office is located in the same building as Pinnacle Bikes in Beverly, and they welcome riders who may need in-person advice.
Simon Burney’s book “Cyclocross: Training and Technique” offers good advice for beginners.
Races have come a long way since the early days, but for a laugh — and inspiration — check out these tough ’cross racers on YouTube: