What is Cyclocross?

Monday, October 8, 2018 by Ziggy's

Do you like the fast breakaways of road riding but crave the all-around intensity of mountain biking? Have you ever seen riders make their own trail through a field, only to hop over a log and race through a muddied path and thought, "wow, I wish I could do that"? Need more cowbell in your life? Always looking for a challenge? Okay with getting dirty? If you've answered yes to any of these questions, cyclocross may just be the sport for you.

Cyclocross combines the best sprints of road racing with the technical demands of mountain biking. The cyclocross season runs through fall into early winter, traditionally September to January. Cyclists ride, as well as run, jump, and scramble while carrying their bike through a course that can be made up of anything from rolling fields to short, steep (often muddy) hills. Courses usually contain natural or man-made barriers such as river crossings, logs, or fences that riders must clear by either bunny-hopping over or dismounting and carrying their bike over. Courses are generally 2.5–3.5 km long and is 90% rideable. Races last anywhere form 40 minutes to an hour, with riders racing to compete as many laps in the allotted time and microchips keeping track of which cyclists are where. Riders who are lapped by the race leaders have to leave the course to avoid confusion.

History of Cyclocross

Cyclocross has been around for years before it got its name. In the 1900s in Europe, adventure riders would pick a landmark to race to, with the winner being the first to arrive at the landmark by any route. This often required riders to clear obstacles such as fences and logs and ride through fields and muddy trails, paving the way for modern cyclocross courses. In the beginning, the sport was called 'Steeple Chasing,' referencing the churches that were regularly used as finish lines.

Cyclocross officially got its start as a sport in France in 1902, when a French soldier named Daniel Gousseau organized the first French National Championship Cyclocross race. Cyclocross appealed especially to road racers, who raced cyclocross in the off-season to stay fit and work on handling through rough terrain. As the sport grew in popularity, both road and mountain bike riders were intrigued by the fast-paced environment and technically demanding course.

Spectators at cyclocross races often dress up in costumes and bring cowbells to cheer on the racers. The use of the cowbell to rally racers is thought to have come from the Swiss team, who are known for using them to cheer on their ski teams. There is usually food, drinks, and tons of festivity which makes for a fun day for racers and spectators alike.

Elite and Local Races

Whether you are new to cycling, or you come from a background in road or mountain racing, cyclocross is an exciting, yet challenging sport that offers something for everyone. For more information about elite races, the 2018/2019 UCI Cyclocross Race calendar can be found at the Cyclocross Magazine website here

The Waterloo Cycling Club is hosting the KWCX race on October 27, bringing cyclocross to Waterloo Region for the first time in 2018. More information can be found here.