Race Team News - Cyclocross: My New Favorite Sport

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Thoughts of a new DBC cyclocross racer

Cyclocross: My New Favorite Sport

By Ellen Sherrill

All photos: Ellen Evans

Howard Park
Concentrating in a muddy section at Howard Park Cyclocross

Without really having much more than a vague idea of the nature of cyclocross racing, I have harbored the idea for a couple of years that I would like to give it a try eventually.   With so many other disciplines vying for my attention (road racing, marathon running, triathlon, mountain biking, etc), it was a thought for the future.   When sidelined from all types of racing and training mid race season in July, I began to cast about for some type of race fun to be had during the fall, when my health and fitness had rebounded, but most bike racers and event promoters are taking a vacation from the usual.  Cyclocross was an obvious option, and when an injured friend offered an extended loan of her cross bike, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to give it a try.

I started my race season at Squaw Valley on September 25th, a warm and sunny Sierra Nevada morning.  Arriving to register, I was struck by the laid-back atmosphere.  Nobody was warming up on their trainer, scowling and lost in iPod land.  All the racers looked relaxed, and there was a free pancake breakfast getting set up for anyone wandering about by a local bicycle courier service, complete with maple syrup, bacon, and…Miller High Life?  Then everyone went out and raced as hard as possible, pushing it to the max for 30-60 minutes, depending on category.   I hung out with some other racers enjoying a picnic lunch after my 45 minutes of pain, cheering participants in the later races. 

Muddy Bike
Too many endorphins plus mud: post-field win at Howard Park Cyclocross

Over my next two month of frequent weekend cross races, I repeatedly experienced a similar vibe to that at my first race.  Just as I had heard rumored, cyclocross culture is a great mix of laid-back and occasionally very silly with hard racing.  While people push themselves to the maximum during their race, they don’t seem to take themselves too seriously otherwise and have a good time.  Cross races are very spectator-friendly and create a great venue to watch your friends racing, as they will be passing your location every 5-10 minutes or so, depending on the length of the circuit.

Training for Bend
Ellen trains in the snow for Cyclocross Nationals near her home in South Lake Tahoe

And, cross courses are a blast to ride!  The variety of terrain and obstacles keeps it interesting, as does the necessity to get off your bike at least a couple of times per circuit and run, bike in hand or shouldered.  Aside from having fun cyclocross racing for DBC, I’ve been doing pretty well, winning races, and will be going to the Cyclocross National Championships in Bend, Oregon in mid-December to represent the Davis Bike Club Race Team.  I don’t expect to do at all well with that kind of elite competition around me, but I DO expect to have a great time.  There will be several other DBC teammates racing there as well – wish us luck in the cold and snow!

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