Cyclo-cross (universally abbreviated to CX), is a form of racing that is somewhere between cross country mountain biking and road racing. Races are typically held for a period of time (usually 1 hour) with competitors attempting as many laps of the course as they can within the time period. At a CX event, it is usual for there to be children’s races first (10 minutes for under 10s, 15 for under 12s, 30 minutes for older children), followed by a novice adult race (30 minutes) and finally the main adult race. CX races tend to be part of a league, so there will typically be a series of six plus races which happen over the winter months when the ground is soft. CX can be a very muddy sport!
CX is the most informal discipline of racing with most riders not taking it too seriously. Typically, the best riders will be allocated a place in the front line for the start of a race, with the rest positioning themselves in the rows behind depending on their level of confidence. There is normally a lot of competition to be in the last line and a high level of camaraderie exists amongst the weaker riders! The spectrum of skill and fitness within a race is huge; from professional riders and teams keeping fit through the winter months, to quite unfit riders who will be lapped many times.
CX races are held off road and include a range of terrain from flat grass (such as a football pitch), through single track in woods, to steep banks. Due to the traffic free nature of the courses, they are particularly well suited to children who wish to experience some competitive cycling. Adult courses tend to be between 1 and 2 miles long – the riders attempting as many laps as they can within the allotted time period. Depending on the conditions, level of rider skill and power that they have in their legs, steep banks can be ridden, or the bike shouldered as the competitor takes to their feet. Adult courses also include several hurdles (about a foot high), where the bike again has to be shouldered. CX riders use a special technique to dismount & remount without slowing down (in theory anyway).
CX bikes look like road bikes to the untrained eye. Most riders choose these, although a significant proportion also rides mountain bikes. Most courses favour CX bikes however, although mountain bikes have a distinct advantage during cold weather when the ground is frozen: their chunkier tyres giving more traction.
CX bikes differ from road bikes in the following ways:
· They have wide knobbly tyres to improve off roads traction.
· Far lower gearing, although all but the best riders will never use their big ring when racing.
· A CX bike is heavier as it tends to have a stronger frame.
· The brakes are cantilever style to allow for more mud clearance.
At British cycling races, such as the Central Cyclo-cross League (see below), a trailer of CX bikes and a mechanic are on hand for any rider to borrow a CX bike for the race. This is to encourage new riders to take part & I don’t believe that there is any charge for this.
Recent club involvement
The club used to have a number of keen and active CX racers – look at the photos in the club rooms! During the 2010/11 season, six members of the club raced in the Central Cyclo-cross League. The younger riders did better than the adults, with Rhona Grant sharing first place in the Under 12 league, and Alasdair Grant coming third in the Under 10 league.
We are trying to encourage more club riders to take part in the 2011/12 season and the club has affiliated to the league as a result. This means that individual members do not have to pay to affiliate (although they still have to pay race fees). Due to the club’s new status, all of our participating riders will receive a ranking in the league.
The Central Cyclo-cross League
Our local league, the Central Cyclo-cross League runs from late September until Christmas. It is a British Cycling league and the Central region stretches from Kettering in the north, to Twickenham in the south, and from Newbury in the west to Luton in the east. Our nearest races are held at Kettering and Milton Keynes.
On each race day, children’s races are held from around noon, with youth and adult novices around 1pm. The main adult race starts around 2pm, with all adults (apart from the novices), racing together. There is usually up to a hundred riders in the adult race.
Riders do not have to enter in advance, although this tends to be slightly cheaper than entering on the day. In order to race, a valid British Cycling Race Card (see below) must be presented as proof that you are insured. This includes children.
There is a charge of about £12 for an adult to race, and £1 for a child. If you don’t own a CX bike, or a mountain bike, don’t worry. British Cycling has a trailer full of CX bikes and a mechanic on hand at every race. So you can borrow a bike (for free I believe) in order to have a go!
The 2010/11 season saw two of the club’s young riders go onto the British National Championships after their successes in the Central League. The ‘nationals’ tend to be held over two days in January and are a great spectator event!
British Cycling membership
In order to race, every rider must be a member of British Cycling. This provides insurance for racing and is also a good way of getting insurance and legal cover for all cycling activities. When you join British Cycling, you will automatically receive a Race Card allowing you to take part in league races. Annual individual membership starts at £13.50 and family membership starts at £58. Your first year of membership is normally free.
Cyclo-cross within the A5 Rangers Club
We are trying to build up interest in CX again within the club. Its informal nature and traffic free environment make it ideal for anyone who would like to try some racing, or simply have a laugh! Several members of the club are hoping to take part this coming autumn and if you would like to take part in a race, or the league, please get in touch with me. My contact details are under the ‘Contact Us’ tab on this website, or simply let me know on a club ride.