Guest Blog by Chris Huller from Cycleboredom
Here in the States and northern hemisphere, we're at the halfway point in our cyclocross season. But that doesn't mean you can't jump in and join the fun. There are plenty of races to go throughout the months of November and December. Here are some reasons why you should register for your first cyclocross/cross/cx race right now!
1. It's ridiculously fun, despite what our faces are saying.
I've never had so much fun putting myself through some of the most intense, self-inflicted pain I've experienced. Yes, it's an incredibly strenuous physical activity, but one that's especially rewarding the moment you cross the line.
Photo: Ben Kristy
2. There aren't any rules
Okay, there are rules—especially if it's officiated by the UCI. However, there aren't any of "The Rules." You can race in anything you please. You'll find racers clad in skinsuits, regular kits, as well as t-shirts, shorts, and sometimes even jeans. Also…
3. There are costumes
Once "The Rules" have been jettisoned, the sartorial fun begins. Sometimes you'll find hot dogs, unicorns, Care Bears, The Great Pumpkin, or a host of other characters blazing around the course. You can race competitively or simply do it for the spectacle, but it's always to keep the sport fun and weird. Plus nothing says winning like getting lapped by someone dressed as food.
4. It doesn't matter if you're fast or slow
One of the most intimidating aspects of racing is the thought of not being "fast enough". You imagine everyone disappearing into the distance leaving you to ride to the finish alone. Not in cyclocross. The group may leave you behind but at that point, it's more about you against the course than you against the field. However, if you find yourself among other racers, try to stick with or pass them. With the lead changing often, you'll struggle to get ahead, then try and hold them off until the finish. For those of us not at the pointy end of the race, a hard fought one on one battle can be pretty exhilarating.
5. Everyone cheers for everyone
First through last. Once the whistle sounds and you sprint towards the first turns and obstacles, the race breaks up, spreads out, and everyone loses track of what place you're in. It no longer matters what place you're running. What matters is you're out there trying and your fellow racers and spectators know this. Navigating a cyclocross course at any speed is a difficult proposition which is why everyone gets a cheer.
Photo: Bruce Buckley
6. Spectating is a participation sport
One of the crucial elements of cyclocross are the spectators. Cheering at the top of your lungs for anyone and everyone is the preferred method here. Cowbells are an essential tool for the cyclocross spectator. So much so they might as well be an appendage. So are bullhorns. Then there are the handups…
7. You can drink beer while racing
Food and drink handups are a thing. As you're smashing the pedals at threshold trying to hold everything together someone will likely lean over the course tape offering you a beverage—either in a plastic cup or the entire can itself. I've ended up with a decent buzz at the end of a race after downing a few cans of beer. It helps ease the fact you're getting lapped.
8. You can eat donuts while racing
If the thought of downing a beer while grinding away at nearly Zone 5 isn't your thing, we got you covered Nuun fam. Donuts are a staple diet to the cross racer. That and cupcakes. And bacon. Also, whipped cream. That donut handup might be the best-tasting donut you've had your entire life.
9. It challenges you
Cross is challenging both mentally and physically. You will be pushed to the limit physically as you drive your bike over the course. Mentally, you will question all your life choices at some point during the third or fourth lap. Lasting anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour (depending on your category), you'll end up crossing the finish utterly spent, confused as to why you just did that to yourself. Yet, within moments of catching your breath and replaying the race with friends, you'll immediately want to do it again.
Photo: Tom Olesnevich
10. You don't need an expensive bike
Technically, you need a CX bike to race, but a CX bike can also be a mountain bike. What's most important is a bike with at least 32/33c knobby tires and enough frame clearance for the inevitable mud buildup. When starting out, your tires should provide traction in a variety of conditions (mud, dry dirt, pavement, gravel, grass, sand). That'll provide some safety by keeping you upright as you learn to drive your bike.
11. You don't need to be on a team
For the loaners out there like me, you can race solo without a team. There really aren't any team tactics like there are in road racing. Everyone's out there to race their hardest and try to win.
12. The cross-community is amazing
My time with the CX community has been one of the most positive experiences I've had. There is nothing but PMA (positive mental attitude) projected your way whether you're on the podium or crossing the line last. If you're going fast, they'll cheer. If you're going slow, they'll cheer. I'm a hopeless introvert and I look forward to seeing these people each weekend. Then when the season's over I miss them all. It's an incredible phenomenon.
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