Cyclocross is hard.
Really hard. And intense. And ALOT of fun.
For those of you not familar with cyclocross, wikipedia defines cyclocross as:
Cyclo-cross (sometimes cyclocross, CX, 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 in one motion.
Last night I headed to the weekly training ride organized by Proteus Bicycles in College Park. Proteus is a great group of folks and one of the best bike shops in the area. Noel bought her Orbea there and has been super happy with it. If you're a woman and want to make sure that you get women specific issues addressed, they're definately the place to go.
I lucked into finding out about the 'cross practice through one of the postings on the website's blog. We did basically the same course that is shown in the video. I've embedded the video below and I will note that Jim and the riders climbing up the hill at the beginning are in GOOD shape. That hill is alot harder than it looks on the video. Its especially hard after the fourth lap or so. Which brings up an important point. While the rides are relatively short - 30 to 45 minutes - you get anaerobic really quickly (at least I did last night) and I expect that fatigue comes on really fast. I'm expecting that the farther along I get in the race, the sloppier my technique will get and the slower I will get - which will actually probably make things more fun - certainly more comical.
Since I'm a newbie, we spent a good bit of the time last night focusing on mounting and dismounting the bike, "suitcasing," and "shouldering" the bike. These are the techniques used when you have to clear obstacles or climb hills that are too steep to ride. Mounting and dismounting are pretty straightforward, but alot harder to do at speed gracefully. Suitcasing is picking the bike up by the top tube and lifting it up as you run over an obstacle. Shouldering is putting your shoulder through the frame and carrying the bike up hill.
I felt like I was getting better with my suitcasing, and near the end of the ride felt like I was figuring out a motion to get off, lift the bike, get back on and smoothly pedal away. My shouldering is not too strong yet. Its very awkward to toss a bike on your shoulder and carry it up a hill. I'm having a bit of trouble with grabbing the drops and keeping the bike from sliding down my shoulder. I'll get alot of opportunity to work on that in the next couple weeks, because the course that Jim from Proteus runs folks on has a fair number of hills that I'll be climbing. Below are some videos that provide and idea of what mounting and dismounting and carrying a bike should look like.
Finally I am preparing for my first cyclocross race. I will be racing on September 21st in the Charm City Cross race. I completely expect to thoroughly get my ass kicked, but I am going to have a ton of fun doing it. I haven't competed in a sport competitively since I wrestled in high school. I'm really looking forward to heading out there and pushing myself to ride a little harder than I would otherwise and see if I can finish in front of at least one other guy. If you want and idea of what the course looks like, check out the video below. All of you are welcomed to come out to Baltimore's Druid Hill Park and cheer for me/laugh at me.