There is a fever running around out there. Forget about ebola, forget about, yellow fever, and malaria, the disease du jour is CYCLOCROSS! Once infected with this particular malady, perfectly cool and heretofore "Normal" mountain bikers and road rockets begin to exhibit signs of the encroaching breakdown.
The symptoms are very easily spotted once you realize what they are:
- They start their riding season September - Well OK.
- They End their bike riding season in January? Hmmm?
- They dress like Roadies - They come home covered in mud!
- They ride what is basically a road bike - in the dirt?
- They carry their bike during the race?
- The consider rain and snow to be bonus features?
Well Gary and Dan are set to risk everything. They will boldly rush where the brave fear to tread. This weekend tossing caution to the wayside they are traveling overnight to Providence Rhode Island to cover the Liberty Mutual Cyclocross Nationals.
The danger of infection with Cyclocross fever is very grave. Both Gary and Dan have been known to take bikes out in blizzards and ride their roadies where only the insane would follow but, let's hope for the best for them as they bravely seek out exposure to this dreaded scourge in order to illuminate for you their dedication to asnwering the burning question, "What the heck is Cyclocross anyway?" Look for the answers on these pages this weekend!
In order to better prepare our readers for exposure to one of the dark sides of bicycling, we offer you this from the Liberty Mutual Cyclocross Nationals website:
WHAT IS CYCLO-CROSS?
Cyclo-cross is the steeplechase of cycling. Riders compete on tightly woven circuits that may include grass, pavement, or dirt sections. Courses are also designed to force riders to dismount their bikes, run for a brief period, and re-mount the bike. Cyclo-cross has become wildly popular for both racers and spectators. On average, racers complete laps in around six minutes, with fans able to see nearly the entire course. The 'cross season runs from mid-September through January. The U.S. national championships are typically held in mid-December with the world championships held the final weekend of January. The sport is sanctioned by the Union Cycliste International (UCI), which governs competitive cycling at the professional and Olympic level.
A Brief History of 'Cross
In its raw spirit, cyclo-cross is as old as bicycling itself. Any time a cyclist cuts across a park or carries the machine up a staircase one sees the basic elements of 'cross. Not long after the invention of the "safety" bicycle with a chain and matching wheels, bicycle racers were charging through fields. In the early 1920s, modern cyclo-cross racing developed in Europe. The first world championships were held in 1954. The first U.S. national championships were held in 1975, with national champions crowned in three categories. There were fewer than 100 competitors in the first ´cross nationals. More than 1,200 competitors are expected to line up in Providence, all of them hoping to win a title in one of 25 categories.
Who Races 'Cross?
Many of the same faces you see racing in such events as the Tour de France, Paris-Roubaix will show up to race cyclo-cross. But the world═s top mountain bike racers also compete. Most big names in the sport have raced cyclo-cross. Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault, Alison Dunlap, Davis Phinney, Gary Fisher, Marla Streb and even Lance Armstrong have competed in this cool-weather sport. But since the 1990s, cyclo-cross specialists have dominated the podiums.
How is 'Cross Different from Mountain Bike Racing?
After Americans developed the sport of mountain bike racing in the 1980s, European 'cross racers moved in to dominate the new sport. But there are big differences between the two. In simple terms, mountain bike racing is more of a race against a course, while cyclo-cross is a race against racers. Whereas mountain bike racing has 'single track' sections with room only wide enough for one rider, 'cross courses have a minimum width of about 10 feet. Cross races are shorter and more intense, with pro-elite men racing for just one hour. Whereas a mountain bike racers must perform nearly all the repairs on a bike, 'cross racers have pit crews in dedicated zones and can swap entire bikes. A cyclocross bike, which resembles a road bike, is far lighter than a mountain bike, with some machines weighing just 17 pounds. But the bikes have many elements of mountain bikes, such as knobby tires and cantilever brakes that shed mud.