We are fast approaching the cyclo-cross season and if you have never taken part in a cross race, you’re missing out on some of the best fun you can have on a bike.
One of the great aspects of cross racing for amateur riders it is accessible to all and,it doesn’t matter how fast you are – because the race takes place on a short-lap-course, you can guarantee you will be in the thick of the action for the entire race.
The first international cyclo-cross race was held in Paris, as Le Critérium International de Cross-Country Cyclo-Pédestre in 1924. By 1950 it had developed into the cyclo-cross World Championships.
Although the origins of cross are vague, it is generally agreed that the history of the discipline goes as far back as the history of the bicycle. There are accounts that it was a way for riders to retain their racing form through the grottier winter months.
They would challenge each other to race to the nearest town by the quickest route, which usually involved muddy fields and hopping over streams with their bike on their shoulder.
Daniel Gousseau, who later became president of the French Cycling Federation, is often credited as the father of cyclo-cross and he organised the first French cyclo-cross Championships. He also promoted it as part of military training.
But it was professional road racers who, at the turn of the 20th Century, led the way for the popularity of cross racing. Octave Lapize credited his 1910 Tour de France win to a winter spent racing cyclo-cross, and the sport began to spread across northern Europe.
Over the winter months, it is possible to race cyclo-cross almost every weekend and the camaraderie and friendly atmosphere at races make it very accessible to those who have never raced before.
There are technical elements to the courses, but many riders will dismount their bike and run with it to bypass any obstacles – often this can be the quickest way through such sections.
The races are usually an hour long and many have different age and ability related categories, so it’s possible to turn up in the morning and cheer your kids on as they race, then in the afternoon, the kids laugh and cheer as their red-faced parents huff and puff their way around the course.
One of the greatest aspects of cyclo-cross racing is that it’s perfectly suited to the Scottish winter climate. It is rare that an event is cancelled due to the weather – usually only if snow means access to the event is compromised.
In fact, often, the muddier and wetter it is the more fun you’re going to have. I remember one race in Dunfermline where I was riding through six inches of mud. Each pedal stroke was a massive effort, just to keep the bike moving forward. My lungs were burning and my heart was beating so hard I could feel it pounding in my chest.
Each lap I felt harder than the last and I scanned the course for the easiest route through the thick, brown porridge. Time seemed to slow down. I was convinced I had been racing for an hour, but in fact, only 30 minutes had passed.
All other competitors around me faded into the background and the next 30 minutes became a battle with myself to keep going. I ploughed on and made it to the finish crossing the line with a huge grin on my face. It had been painful, but also some of the best fun I had had on a bike. The only downside was a very muddy bike to clean at the end of the day.
Where to Ride: Callendar Park Cyclo-Cross
When: Sunday October 6 2019
Details: Round 2 of the Scottish Cyclocross Series will be held at Callendar Park near Falkirk. Entries close on Wednesday October 3
Enter at: https://bit.ly/2TSjLeD