September 2016 - BICYCLING
Cyclocross Continues To Grow
By Dave Beals
Cyclocross was once described as being on the fringe of the fringe sport of cycling. That is, few people knew exactly what the sport was and even fewer actually engaged in it.
Also known as CX, cyclocross was a sport that was hugely popular in Europe, and still is, yet had no visibility here in the United States. That has certainly changed in the past couple of decades. USA Cycling, the licensing organization for bicycle racing here, records this growth in the number of cyclocross racer days, or the number of races that a licensed racer competed in a year. In 2005, USAC reported 31,828 CX racer days nationwide. Just 10 years later in 2015, USAC reported 131,042 racer days, representing a more than fourfold increase.
In the New York and New England regions, CX has seen a similar rate of growth. In fact, the Northeast has become a real hot bed of CX talent, with many cyclists from our region racing at the highest levels of international competition, and races in our region are drawing professionals from Europe and beyond.
One of the reasons for this explosive growth is the attraction of the sport to young people. Youngsters from age nine to 18 can participate in the sport at many local race venues. These races are typically held in a local park or on the grounds of a school. The courses are closed, meaning that there are no cars or other vehicles allowed. Junior racers race against other youngsters their same age, so they will not be on the same course as elite adult racers. Parents can be close to the action and watch their children race in a relatively safe environment.
Don’t get me wrong, cyclocross racing is hard. The racing is fast, challenging, tough at times, sometimes muddy, sometimes hilly, but that is usually what kids thrive on and it keeps them coming back for more. Race courses sanctioned by USAC must follow certain guidelines in their design, they are inspected by USAC officials, and safety for the racers is key. Some race venues may have a shortened course for the youngest of age group races to minimize risk of crashes and to allow the juniors to get the most out their race.
A great way for any young person or adult to get started in cyclocross is to attend a local clinic. There you will learn the basics on navigating a typical race course, including mounts and dismounts, running over barriers – with the bike, of course – and running hills. There are several local groups that provide instruction. One great example that caters to juniors, is the HRRT cyclocross clinic held in the Schenectady area every week beginning in September. Check hrrtonline.com for details for the current schedule. If that schedule or location is not convenient, check this magazine’s Calendar of Events or ask at your local bike shop.
If you want to race, the NYCROSS Race Series is a great series of local events that are conducive to junior racing. There are several junior race categories with reduced entry fees. The races are USAC sanctioned, well organized, the categories are not huge, and you won’t get pulled from the race if you are off the back or you get lapped. The competition is still pretty serious though as racers vie for prize money, merchandise, or more importantly, series points that are tallied for places all the way from first place to simply finishing. This popular local series, consisting of six races this year, are all within a short drive of the greater Capital Region, and provide a great opportunity to race against others of similar age or expertise.
Each race follows a standard schedule of races and a standard set of race categories. There are races for several age groups as well as men, women, and junior categories. The closely watched series points are tallied from all the races within the series, and can be tracked for all who enter at crossresults.com. Details can be found at nycross.com and folks can register at bikereg.com, search for NYCROSS.
The first race in the NYCROSS Race Series is the Kirkland Cyclocross race held at the Kirkland Town Park in Clinton (near Utica) on Sunday, September 18. This is a great race with a nice piece of sand landscape to traverse. Make sure you have your bike and your fitness finely-tuned for this race.
Saturday and Sunday, October 8-9 will be the Uncle Sam Gran Prix weekend of racing, the second and third race in the series. Saturday’s race will be the 2016 New York State Cyclocross Championships. The USGP is in its 11th year at historic Prospect Park on Congress Street in Troy. The urban park offers a great mix of grassy hills, park roads closed to traffic, and some challenging climbs every lap. The course has proven to be championship worthy. Covered pavilions, neutral bike support, food vendors, bathrooms, bike wash, and plenty of parking are provided. The championship races on Saturday will allow cross racers from all corners of the state to compete for the NYS Championship jersey in more than 20 race categories and age groups. For more details, contact race promoter Eric Schillinger at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Sunday, October 30, the series moves across the border to nearby Bennington, Vt. for the Wicked Creepy Cyclocross race. This is one the nicest venues in the series with bucolic Vermont mountain views, a BMX track, food, hot coffee, and a couple of hills every lap for the racers. Halloween costumes are optional.
The Bethlehem Cup at Elm Avenue Park in Delmar moves up to race number five in the series on Sunday, November 6. This race boasts a killer run-up and leg busting hills, along with some fast flowing grassy sections. There will be free chili provided by many of the racers and racer’s family and friends.
The final race in the NYCROSS Series this year is the Saratoga Spa Cyclocross race on Sunday, November 13. The race returns to the Columbia Pavilion in Saratoga Spa State Park in Saratoga Springs. There will be free kids’ races with age divisions for those younger than five, between ages 6-7 and 8-10, you can’t beat that!
Also notable here in New York is the Rochester Cyclocross weekend in Rochester, on September 9-11. On Friday, September 9, Jonathan Page, a four-time US National Champion will put on a CX skills clinic. Beginners and seasoned veterans alike can learn from one of USA’s top ranked and most experienced cyclocross stars. On Saturday and Sunday, the Rochester Cyclocross races open up the 2016-17 UCI Cyclocross calendar here in the US. The two internationally ranked races will attract the best racers from across the country and around the world. There are race categories for all ages, skill levels, amateurs and elites.
International cyclocross racing returns to NY again with the Super Cross Cup in Eisenhower Park in East Meadow on November 19-20. The Super Cross Cup also boasts UCI category races and will draw top CX talent from across the country. These are great events for the amateur racers as well, because they can race on the same course as the pros, and then get a chance to see some top notch racing later in the day. Bikereg.com is a great resource to find cyclocross races. See you at the races!
Dave Beals (email@example.com) is an avid cyclist residing in Colonie. He’s a member of the NYCROSS Cyclocross Team, Capital Bicycle Racing Club, and Mohawk-Hudson Cycling Club.