Everyone in Florida knows that “The Tour” is the official end of the off-season and the start of training for Fall racing. The road racing is back in full swing and the XC riding is about to start. The season opener for the Florida Points Series (FPS) is knocking on the door… hopefully all those long road miles will pay off with massive endurance gains! Several races into the XC FPS we will begin to see the start of the Florida CX racing series. In Florida, we have done away with all the boring aspects of CX racing, like spectators, technically difficult yet fast courses, and starting grids. In their place we have races attended only by other CX racers, leaving the Pro, Cat1 combined race (last race of the day) as something that is assumed to have happened but nobody knows for sure because everyone finished their respective races earlier in the day and are now dozing off comfortably to the hum of an air conditioner unit in a cheap roadside motel.
Needless to say, CX racing is not as big in Florida as it is in ____________ “<——– insert any other state name here”. The folks that have adopted CX as their sport of choice are few and far between. Gainesville has a hand full of eager CX racers that have been putting off training as long as possible and are now reluctantly dusting off their knobby 700c tires and trying to wrap their heads around an hour of soul crushing, lung hammering, leg crushing fun.
I don’t know where this is going, but let me skip ahead to the final point Cyclocross riding is, hands down, the most fun that can be had on two wheels. Period.
Cyclo-cross (sometimes cyclocross, CX, CCX, cyclo-X or ‘cross’) is a form of bicycle racing. Races take place typically in the autumn and winter (the international or “World Cup” season is September-January), and consists of many laps of a short (2.5–3.5 km or 1.5–2 mile) course featuring pavement, wooded trails, grass, steep hills and obstacles requiring the rider to quickly dismount, carry the bike whilst navigating the obstruction and remount. Races for senior categories are generally between 30 minutes and an hour long, with the distance varying depending on the ground conditions. The sport is strongest in the traditional road cycling countries such as Belgium (and Flanders in particular), the Netherlands and the Czech Republic .
Cyclo-cross has some obvious parallels with mountain bike racing, cross-country cycling and criterium racing. Many of the best cyclo-cross riders cross train in other cycling disciplines. However, cyclo-cross has reached a size and popularity that racers are specialists and many never race anything but cyclo-cross races. Cyclo-cross bicycles are similar to racing bicycles: lightweight, with narrow tires and drop handlebars. However, they also share characteristics with mountain bicycles in that they utilize knobby tread tires for traction, and cantilever style brakes for clearance needed due to muddy conditions. They have to be lightweight because competitors need to carry their bicycle to overcome barriers or slopes too steep to climb in the saddle. The sight of competitors struggling up a muddy slope with bicycles on their shoulders is the classic image of the sport, although unridable sections are generally a very small fraction of the race distance.
Compared with other forms of cycle racing, tactics are fairly straightforward, and the emphasis is on the rider’s aerobic endurance and bike-handling skills. Drafting, where cyclists form a line with the lead cyclist pedaling harder while reducing the wind resistance for other riders, is of much less importance than in road racing where average speeds are much higher than in cyclo-cross.
A cyclo-cross rider is allowed to change bicycles and receive mechanical assistance during a race. While the rider is on the course gumming up one bicycle with mud, his or her pit crew can work quickly to clean, repair and oil the spares. Having a mechanic in the “pits” is more common for professional cyclo-cross racers. The average cyclo-cross racer might have a family member or friend holding their spare bike.