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What is Cyclocross?

| Greg Hodges
Cycling

Your morning ride through the park just got complicated. Your mind is blown as what seemed like a pack of road bikers came ripping past, in the dirt! Wait a minute, those guys shouldn’t be able to do that! But there they are, riding off in a cloud of dust, then just when you thought it couldn’t get any weirder, they jump off their bikes at full speed, pick them up in one smooth motion and run straight up a flight of stairs before disappearing over the hill…

Cyclocross actually gets its roots from the early World Wars. Troops that worked as messengers between the front lines and the rear commanders were some of the unspoken heroes of those early wars and played an important role in how those wars played out, often times riding through active battle zones and destroyed roads to get their messages delivered. Cyclocross as a sport began when road cyclists, shortly after the great World Wars, decided to race from town to town in a straight line as an alternative to riding on frozen roads in the winter. This meant through farm fields, over hills, climbing fences, hedgerows and any other obstacles that happened to be in the way. Much like its track and field cousin, the steeplechase, racers race from one town’s church steeple to the next town church steeple, as that was often the tallest thing in the small, European villages and the only landmark to lead the way. Cyclocross is usually run in the winter, bringing in the element of unpredictable weather as well. Rain, mud, ice and snow are rather common sights on many a ‘cross course.

So what does that mean in today’s world? Well, cyclocross here in the Pacific Northwest is huge. Our mild, wet winters offer some amazing courses and the fact that it is accessible to non-cycling family and friends, requires considerable less time, takes place in many of our local parks and the fact that anyone can do it, from toddlers on balance bikes, to seniors well over 70, having a great time with their friends, cyclocross is the fastest growing segment of cycling in America.

Come out to watch a race and get hooked. It’s a great time, heckling your friends and fellow racers is not just accepted, but expected – just so long as everyone has fun and you make sure to get just a little bit dirty…