The nights are cooler, cold fronts are starting to come through the Natural State bringing rain and cloudy days. For some it’s time to head inside and take refuge from the elements. For others it’s time to enjoy the soul cleansing properties of mud and grit. Time to fight back against the elements with nothing more than a skinny-tired bike and good friends. It’s time for CYCLOCROSS.
What is Cyclocross?
This is not a sport to be watched on television nor would you want to. Cyclocross spectators watch from the course, out in the elements cheering on their favorite riders or whoever happens past them. Feeling the cold, getting at least a little mud on their shoes, cyclocross spectators are part of the event. I’ll borrow this bit from Wikipedia to explain the basics:
Cyclo-cross (sometimes cyclocross, CX, CCX, cyclo-X or ‘cross’) is a form of bicycle racing. Races typically take place in the autumn and winter (the international or “World Cup” season is October–February), and consists of many laps of a short (2.5–3.5 km or 1.5–2 mile) course featuring pavement, wooded trails, grass, steep hills and obstacles requiring the rider to quickly dismount, carry the bike while navigating the obstruction and remount. Races for senior categories are generally between 30 minutes and an hour long, with the distance varying depending on the ground conditions. The sport is strongest in the traditional road cycling countries such as Belgium (and Flanders in particular), France and the Netherlands.
Although any bike can be used (many beginners use their mountain bikes), cyclocross specific bikes are preferred by many. These bikes look much like a standard road bike with a few exceptions. Most notable are the tires. The frames and wheels are designed to handle a slightly wider tire that has a much more aggressive tread pattern than the road tires. Also the brakes are usually center pull style that allow for more clearance from mud and leaves. Some have frame designs that give a bit more ground clearance for the bottom bracket and may give the rider a slightly more upright position for better control.
A little history
Cyclocross first gained notoriety after Octave Lapize attributed his win in the 1910 Tour de France to his off season cyclocross training. Since then cyclocross has been a staple in European cycling as a means to continue training through the winter. The sport is a bit newer to the States but is quickly gaining popularity.
In Arkansas eight cyclocross races make up the Arkansas Super-Prestige Cyclocross Series which take place in Central and Northwest Arkansas (with only a couple of exceptions). A full list of events is available on the Arkansas Cyclocross blog. You’ll find that they have a few night races and most others are on Sunday mornings. This makes it possible for local bike shop employees to take part. The more the merrier.
The first two races in the series are in Little Rock on Saturday night October 13 and Sunday morning October 14 at Kanis and Reservoir Parks, respectively. Everyone is invited to race or watch. Since the courses tend to be tight short loops that wind in on themselves spectators are treated to non-stop action. Superb bike handling, speed, treacherous terrain and barrier challenges all within view of the crowds which makes cyclocross one of the most enjoyable and exciting cycling events to witness.
And now for the noise bonus
A staple of cyclocross events is the use of cowbells by spectators to help cheer the racers on. The more cowbell the better. So to support the riders and to get the spectators in the mood, Arkansas Outside is giving away 25 cowbells at each of the first two events. We will have a booth set up at each event and all you have to do is be one of the first 25 people to tell us the secret phrase.