Saturday, November 19, 2005


Saw my first cyclo-cross race this weekend. I had never heard of the sport until this year, but it turns out Sacramento has an active XC community. A couple of guys in the bike club at work had mentioned it, and on Jmac’s recommendation, I headed out to watch the final races of the season on Sunday.

Here’s a brief summary of what I’ve been able to piece together as far as what cyclo-cross is. Back in the day, roadies wanted something to do and to stay in shape for after the regular road bike racing season ended. The fall season would be colder, and rainier, with worse weather overall. The idea came that instead of running from the conditions, embrace them. Since you can’t know what the road conditions are going to be, why go on the road at all? Keep in mind that this was before the legendary Specialized Rock Hopper hit the market spurning the mountain biking craze of today. Instead, you simply took the road tires off your bike, and put on knobby tires slightly wider than road tires. Then take off your front derailleur, and switch out your chainring for a single smaller chainring (something closer to what you’d see on a track or mountain bike). There you have it, a simple cyclcross bike. A modern cross bike will also have a higher bottom bracket, but in these races you see everything form cross bikes, to modified road bikes, to mountain bikes. Disc brakes and forward pointing bar extensions are illegal though.

Now that you have a bike, all you need to do is set up a small circuit court going through parks, and what not. A good track will have sections of mud, dirt, hills, stairs and lots of obstacles. Here’s the thing though. A bike like this still isn’t going to be able handle the abuse that a modern day mountain bike takes, so what do you do to handle obstacles in your way? The forefathers had quite the idea, get off and carry your bike, hence the “cross” nature of the sport originated. This isn’t an optional aspect either. Even if you think you could handle going over a log, the rules require you to port your bike across certain sections. This brings a completely different element to it, requiring different muscles, and different types of breathing to go from sprinting, to taking a hair pin corner in the dirt, to dismounting and sprinting up stairs, to getting back on your bike.
I saw three such scenarios in this weekend’s race. The first involved running up a set of at least twenty stairs, and then later dismounting to jump over an obstacle and push your bike up a single track hill. The last one was to pick your bike to run/jump across a series of logs laid across the path. Super fun stuff.

The races went from registration at 8:00 to numerous divisional races spaced roughly 1 hour apart. I had biked the 23 miles out to the course mid Sunday morning, but had only planned on staying for short bit, just to check it out. The course was set up much better for spectating than I had anticipated, though, and after running into some friendly faces, I decided to stick around till the A race, and watch Jmac.

For information, and cool pics, check out : Velocommunity
Not only is this home to Sacramento’s Cyclo –Cross, but it’s also the home of the greater Sacramento cycling commuting. “A blog not just for me, but for everyone,” as the webmaster envisions it. Hopefully that vision will come to be.


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