I am in a semi circle straddling my bike and surrounded by a bunch of smiley faces.
The atmosphere is full of anticipation and nervous tension. For me it feels like I have been let loose for the day, and I am secretly a bit giddy with this opportunity to run amok on my bike. I look around and can judge by the faces that I am not alone, confirmed further by the rider next to me who confides, ‘this is the best way to spend Mother’s Day!’ She reveals that her two sons are spending the day with her in-laws.
Our leader is Kate, and she is wearing an all-black tightly fitted outfit complete with long socks. It is the uniform of her inner urban bikie gang, but this sort of gang is far from usual. Called the ‘Dirty Deeds’ crew, they are the heart and soul behind the burgeoning Cyclo-cross movement in Victoria. And today this über cool gang is teaching a Beginner’s class on ‘cross skills for women.
What is Cyclo-cross? Kate tells us that it is like an off-road bicycle racing circuit involving a bit of sand, a bit of grass, a lot of mud, and some small bits of paved surfaces.
The course designers add in ‘obstacles’ such as steps, barriers or slippery muddy slopes which cannot be ridden on a bike. The participant needs to jump off, get over the obstacle, and then remount their steed.
The atmosphere at the events is very supportive, and in the last few years have generated huge inner urban crowd followings despite the depths of winter in which the ‘cross season prevails. All participants are wildly supported no matter the level of ability.
While the winners are clapped politely, the biggest cheers are reserved for the best crashes. For some strange reason I am comforted by this explanation.
We are told the number one ‘skill’ to master is the combined art of dismounting, getting over the obstacle, and remounting in an efficient manner as possible. Kate is gracious in her demonstrations and assures us all the grass is soft enough for all of us to try the new techniques without fear.
I noticed straight away the difference in backgrounds across the riders attending. I knew some of the faces in the group from their racing backgrounds – track and road, but there were also mountain bikers, commuters and tourers. Many of whom had never raced before.
As we began our first attempt at dismounting, I soon learnt that our cycling backgrounds were irrelevant. If you have a hint of bike skills, and most women do given that 90% of us rode as kids, it was relatively simple to pick up the skill of a Cyclo-cross race dismount. It was very liberating across the whole group to see everyone learning something completely new, and to pick it up so quickly.
The session continued and we tried to pull all the new skills together in an attempt to establish a flowing dismount, cart-bike-over-the-barrier, and remount in a fluid movement. Two women who had quickly picked up the dismount-jump-remount combination confessed they had backgrounds in horse riding. Those foolish ones on mountain bikes (me included) immediately noticed just how heavy a mountain bike is to pick up and cart over an barrier, but we comforted ourselves that the extra pre season weight training from hiking these beasts would pay off in the long term. Here’s hoping anyway.
We added some more skills including cornering on grass and race starts before participating in a mock race. This was definitely a highlight for me, trying to put all the newly acquired skills into a pressure and real-time format. It was crazy. I scared myself, rode hard, breathed harder, dropped concentration in parts and tried to recover in others. I finished the race with my head spinning but loving every second of it, alongside thirty other women feeling the same way. Awesome.
Image courtesy of Cycling Victoria
After suffering through snow, freezing conditions, a tornado warning and flooding, the 2013 UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships came together to produce a stunning day of racing for its American debut in Louisville, Kentucky.
The Netherlands were the big winners, taking three out of four titles, including Marianne Vos winning her fifth consecutive Elite Women's Rainbow Jersey, but Belgium salvaged its pride by winning the premier Men's Elite race, as veteran Sven Nys took the second world title of his illustrious career.
A crowd in excess of 9,000 roared their support for the stars of cyclo-cross, many making their first appearance in the United States.
Flood warnings had forced a hasty rescheduling of the Sunday Elite races to Saturday, giving spectators a rare opportunity to see all four championship events in one day of racing. Race day began with snow, leaving nearly five centimetres on the ground for the start of the first race, however, it steadily warmed up through the day.
The Elite Women's race was expected to be between Vos, going for her fifth title in a row (and the sixth of her career), and American Katie Compton, the reigning World Cup champion. However, Compton got off to a poor start, falling back as far as tenth on the first lap. Vos, her team mate Sanne van Passen, Eva Lechner (Italy) and Lucie Chainel-Lefevre (France) took an early lead, as Compton steadily moved forward through the field, catching everyone but Vos by the third lap.
Vos proved to be in a class of her own, recording the only sub-7:10 laps of the race and pulling away to win by one minute and 34 seconds over Compton. Chainel-Lefevre took the bronze medal in an upset, after Katerina Nash (Czech Republic) suffered a mechanical while in third place, less than 100 metres from the finish line. Nash ran for the line, but Chainel-Lefevre sprinted by her with only a few metres remaining to claim the final podium spot.
“A world championship [win] is always special,” said Vos. “The pressure is going up every year because everyone expects you to win. Of course, if you already won it five times, they think you can win it for the sixth time. They think it will be easy, but I was kind of nervous. The difficult moments were in the past two weeks.”
The Elite Men's race was Belgium's not to lose, fielding a squad stacked with stars of the World Cup circuit. However, the Belgians seemed to be caught a little by surprise in the opening laps, when the French pro Francis Mourey attacked, gaining a 15 second advantage. Mourey managed to hold off the Belgian train until the fifth lap, when he was swarmed by three Belgian riders - Nys, Klaas Vantornout and Kevin Pauwels.
Mourey and Pauwels stayed with the leaders for one lap before Nys and Vantornout turned up the pressure and rode clear. As the two chasers faded, Lars van der Haar (Netherlands) was picking up places, moving into third with a lap and a half to go, and only 17 seconds behind the leaders as the race entered the last lap. Nys and Vantornout were looking over their shoulders as they started the final lap - was there a chance that van der Haar could catch them and give the Netherlands a clean sweep of the titles?
The answer was a definite No, as Nys took control of the situation. The Belgian legend rode five seconds clear of his team mate, foregoing a bike swap as he attacked the final half lap. Nys had actually announced in frustration at last year's world championships that he would no longer race it, after once again failing to claim his first world title since 2005.
Vantornout tried valiantly to reel in Nys, even sprinting after him on the final pavement as Nys celebrated, but finished two seconds behind to claim silver. van der Haar could not match the Belgian attack, but hung on for the bronze medal, denying Belgium a clean sweep of the podium.
"It's amazing," agreed Nys. "Last year I said I won't do it anymore, and now I win the World Championship in the States. I would say thanks to all the US fans, they helped me a lot. It was a lot of motivation for me, and it created something special here. My family and my fans in Belgium, my national federation, they did one hell of a job. I am really happy with my second world title and now my career is complete."
In the Junior and Under 23 Men's races, the Netherlands was the victor, with Mathieu van der Poel - son of legend Adri van der Poel - winning the Junior race ahead of team mate Martijn Budding, and Mike Teunissen coming back from a crash to beat two Belgian rivals
New Zealand picked up its first ever UCI Cyclocross World Cup points on the weekend at the Koksijde World Cup in Belgium.
Kiwis Alex Zander Revell and Angus Edmond both scraped inside the top 50 finishers at the internationally renowned event to claim their places on the UCI Cyclocross points table.
Wellingtons Revell has shown tremendous improvement since arriving in Belgium as an unknown moustache-bearing foreigner just months ago, and despite still finishing four laps down on eventual winner Sven Nys (BEL), made another step in the right direction with this performance.
The momentum has continued to grow in equal measure to the experience and form I am gaining, said Revell, who finished second at the first official New Zealand Cyclocross Championships in Hawkes Bay earlier this year.
It has been the most surreal experience, going from the humble but passionate grassroots scene in New Zealand to the big time on the world stage with a nation of people whose life really is cyclocross.
Edmond finished one further lap behind Revell and lone Australian Lewis Rattray in the battle of the Southern Hemisphere trio.
The next UCI Cyclocross World Cup event will take place on December 2 in Roubaix, France.
In the eyes of many, it’s nothing shy of a match made in heaven: bicycle racing meets beer, they fall in love and decide to throw a party. The annual Idaho Crosstoberfest presented by SCOTT Sports is just such a celebration. Combining two days of cyclocross races with a craft beer festival, Crosstoberfest—as it’s simple called in the Gem State—will be celebrating its 8th year this October 26 -27th. While cyclocross racing has been popular in Europe for over 60 years, the sport is essentially just catching on here in the States—but it’s doing so swiftly. Cyclocross is America’s fastest growing cycle-sport. Cyclocross events traditionally take place in the autumn and early winter and consist of short races (usually lasting less than an hour) where the competitors make laps on short tracks (usually less than two miles long) that contain challenging terrain, which varies from dirt to pavement to grass, and includes obstacles that occasionally force riders to dismount and carry their bikes.
This fun twist on traditional bicycle racing has it roots in places like Belgium and The Netherlands, so it’s only fitting that handcrafted beer would get wedded into things.
Crosstoberfest Idaho was the brainchild of Billy Olson, a former professional road bike racer and owner of what is considered to be one of the best—and perhaps only—bike repair shop/beer geek haven/burger bars in the nation according to places like Outside and Bike magazines, the Power House Pub & Bike Studio. “This event is just a lot of fun,” Billy said, about truly grass-roots event that has been steadily growing since its inception. Both the pub and Crosstoberfest take place in Hailey, about a dozen miles south of America’s original destination ski resort of Sun Valley. Scott Sports has long been a big supporter or Crosstoberfest and consider it an investment in their business as well as the community.
According to Adrian Montgomery, Scott’s Bike Division Marketing and PR Director, Scott considers being involved in Crosstoberfest to be a win-win, as it helps raise awareness to the sport of cyclocross and the excellent CX bikes Scott has designed. "We're a long time supporter of Crosstoberfest and now we have the SCOTT-3Rox Racing Team that can come and contest the event," said Montgomery. "I'm fired up to show off our product and our team in our hometown." Close to two thousand riders, racing fans and beer lovers are expected to attend this year’s Idaho Crosstoberfest, which features races for just about every age category and almost 100 different beers from more than 20 breweries from across the globe. Live music and locally grown and raised Bavarian-style food is also on the line-up. Even if combining bicycle racing and a beerfest seems like and odd marriage to some folks, no one can debate that it sure makes for one heck of a party. For more details, check out crosstoberfestidaho.com/
The 2012 Champion System SRAM National Cyclo-cross Series wrapped up on Sydney's northern beaches on the weekend, with Victorians Adrian Jackson and Lisa Jacobs crowned the inaugural Series champions.
The 2012 Champion System SRAM National Cyclo-cross Series wrapped up on Sydney’s northern beaches on the weekend, with Victorians Adrian Jackson and Lisa Jacobs crowned inaugural Series champions.
The exciting new Series featured six rounds held across three weekends in July, August and September, with riders racing on some classic Cyclo-cross circuits in Melbourne, Adelaide and Sydney.
The final and deciding rounds were both held in Terrey Hills, with riders faced with a ‘fast and flowing circuit’ for Saturday’s round five. The smooth ride was shortlived however, with ‘a full Flemish course’ for Sunday’s final round promising an afternoon of gut-busting pain similar to that seen in Europe, the home of Cyclo-cross.
In the women’s event, series leader Lisa Jacobs was looking for a clean sweep of all six races, however in Saturday’s five-lap race the Victorian took a conservative start allowing Mel Ansett to take an early lead.
The pair stayed together for the majority of the race until a fall by Jacobs on the second lap allowed Ansett to ride away for a comfortable one minute victory. Jacobs secured the Series victory after finishing in second place, while Terri Rhodes finished third just four seconds behind Jacobs.
In the men’s event, it was neck and neck between Adrian Jackson and Sid Taberlay for the majority of the nine-lap event, with Jackson claiming a twelve second victory over his rival. Mitchell Cordner was a further minute behind the duo in third.
Despite the overall women’s Series being decided on Saturday, series’ standouts Ansett and Jacobs put on a nail-biting tussle for the fans during Sunday's final round.
Holding the pair closely for the first three of five laps was Rhodes, although the pair managed to shake the youngster before continuing their battle to the line. On the final grassy corner, it was Ansett who gained the edge on Jacobs to take the victory.
An ecstatic Jacobs celebrated becoming the first Australian National Cyclocross Series Champion as she crossed the line two seconds later.
“It’s a great honour an privilege the be standing here,” said an elated Jacobs after receiving the winners jersey.
“All anyone has to do is to see how much fun the events are when you are here, the atmosphere is incredible, the spectators are great and the races are even better.
“I say get amongst it,” remarked Jacobs of the new Cyclo-cross series.
In the men’s final round, a blistering start by John Groves saw him create a considerable gap on the strung-out field shortly after the start, however a blistering run by Adrian Jackson saw him quickly bridge the gap.
A deft move by Taberlay saw him sneak past the duo on lap two of nine, with the 2004 Athens Olympian slowly extending his lead as he completed each lap. He went on to recorded a comfortable 31 second victory.
In a battle for the minor placings, Jackson turned the pace on during the last lap to finish in second, securing the Series title in the process.
“I asked my team if they’d give me a cross bike for this year and they were obliging, so it’s all worked out really well,” said Melbourne's Jackson, who claimed the honours in just one round of the Series, but finished second in all five other rounds.
“I would like to thank everyone involved for putting on such a great series, it was fantastic and I am certain it is only going to get bigger and better,” he added.
Champion System/SRAM 2012 National Cyclocross Series
Elite Women Standings 1. Lisa Jacobs 2. Melissa Anset 3. Erica Gurner
Elite Men Standings 1.Adrian Jackson 2. Lewis Rattray 3. Leigh DeLuca
Image copyright/courtesy of Joshua Nicholson
Complete Series Standings
CA - Cyclocross - Information
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