Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Cyclocross in Upper Belgium - 4 years on.

My Singular Kite, a very fun bike.
We are pretty lucky in Wellington, well Upper Hutt actually, with a great Cyclocross series put on by the crew from the Bike Hutt. The series actually started 4 years ago. The first race had but a handful of CX bikes and most of us were on MTB's of some kind. I opted for an old  single speeded Diamond Back until the next year's series where I used my newly acquired  Karate Monkey with Cross tires. It was great fun but the Monkey is a pretty hefty bike to shoulder with discs. The next year I put my back out in the very first race of the series and was knackered for the rest. At the end of that year I took delivery of a proper cross bike frame, a new Singular Kite. I quickly built it up and have done some awesome rides on it of both on MTB trails and on Gravel Grinding rides.

Cross racing is unlike anything else I have done on two wheels, and I have done quite a few different things. It doesn't have the cut-throat style of road racing, or the same kind of intensity as track racing. It doesn't feel as serious as MTB racing and there is a real camaraderie amongst the riders as they battle each other lap for lap, until one of them blows, and they often do blow. There is no sucking a wheel in CX. There is mud, and spills, but injuries are rare. And afterwards there is always a heart-felt hand shake from the competitor you have been racing.

Why Cyclocross is a good idea
1. You don't need to do a lot of training, races are all under 1 hour, doable with a bit of commuting and maybe some running to boost your cardio fitness.
2. It's great to spectate at. Friendly sledging and cheering is encouraged.
3. You can watch the other grades race as well and get to know those riders as well as the riders from your own grade.
4. Because of the flat nature of the courses its very easy to include a kids race into the programme.
5. No matter what bike you ride, you will be welcome. No one will look down their nose at you if you don't have the latest gear.
6. You can be deadly slow but you will never finish more than 1 lap after the winner. (Those are the rules).
7. When you are not CXing your bike will make an awesome commuter and adventure bike. You may even want to do some Brevet style riding on it. It will also pass as a road bike with some slick tires one.

A good thing about the Bike Hutt series is that we have some very good photographers recording the racing and publishing or putting videos on line. 

Craig has also published a Coffee table book of some of his favourite shots from the last two years racing. 2012 and 2013.

Check out one of Ricoh's videos.

The as always immaculately dressed Gav flinches as Marcel
monsters past and roosts all over him.  Awesome shot Ricoh.
Ricoh's Flickr stream

This year was the first year I have actually ridden a proper CX bike in the races and it makes it a lot more fun. I was actually planning to do a bit of training for the CX series this time around but we sold our house and moved into Wellington so there was basically no time. I had a race entry carried over from last years Night Time Madness night-running race so I thought I could probably train for that instead with a few lunch time runs.

A shot of the Harcourt Park final from Craig Madsen.

Here is my schedule in a bit more detail if anyone is interested. As I said it was a minimalist programme aimed at a running race, not Cyclocross racing.

Basically it was (weather dependant) 3 runs a week, one of them long and 3 commutes by bike on the flat. My commuter bike is a 2x1 with 50/36 - 17 gearing so it was mostly spinning. Before that, for maybe 2 months I was doing pilates once a week with 3 short runs and maybe one ride a week. Before that I was doing some pretty hard cross-fit sessions at lunch with one of my work mates. I am sure the core work is a great help. I think I got a far better return in my cardio fitness from the hill running as I would not have been interested in riding hard at that time of the year. The commuting was just enough to remind the legs that they needed to go around and around hard, once a week at a CX race on the sunday : )

M - Sa shift house
Su CX race 16th California Park

M 50 mins commute x2,
Tu 50 mins commute x2, 1.09hrs hill run
W 50 mins commute x2, 55 mins hill run
Su CX race 9th Moonshine Park

M 50 mins commute x2,
Tu 50 mins commute x2, 1.02hrs hill run
W 41 mins hill run
Th 1hr hill run
Su 2hr hill run

Tu 50 mins commute x2, 60mins hill run
W 2hr hill run
Th 50 mins commute x2,
Su CX race Nats round 9th O/A Blenheim

M 50 mins commute x2, 28mins flat run
Tu 50 mins commute x2, 38mins hill run
W 50 mins commute x2,
Th 2hr hill run
F 25min run
Su CX race 9th California Park

M 50 mins commute x2, 53mins hill run
Tu 50 mins commute x2, 39mins hill run
W 50 mins commute x2,
Th 2hr hill run
F 50 mins commute x2
Su CX race 8th Moonshine

M 50 mins commute x2, 42mins hill run
Tu 50 mins commute x2,
Th 1.38hr hill run
F 50 mins commute x2, 29min run
Su CX race 5th Harcourt Park

A word of caution, Cyclocross is a winter sport. If you put a lot of effort into it you may well find yourself feeling a bit fried at the time of the year you would normally be starting to get serious with some base training for your summer season.

See you next year.