Entering a cyclocross race is a bit like jumping into a time machine that will transport you back to childhood again for one quick, raspy, high-energy hour.
Racing is as hard as you make it – everyone carries on riding short laps until the bell goes, so if you find yourself on the slower end of the field, you’ll just ride fewer laps. On the other hand, if it transpires you’re an absolute natural, you’ll be able to measure yourself against your closest rivals as the end of the race draws closer.
You can take part on a mountain bike or a cyclocross bike and one of the beautiful things about cyclocross racing is the sense of community. No one barmy enough to want to go out on a Saturday morning and race laps of a muddy field is going to hold any airs and graces. Most people just want to have a good time, and enjoy a slice of cake and a cup of tea after.
So – if you’re thinking about having a go (and you really should!) – we’ve compiled a short list of tips to help make sure your first experience is a good one…
Learn to dismount and remount
Cyclocross races usually feature some ramps and obstacles that may be quicker to defeat by jumping off and running than by attempting to ride over them.
You can have all the fitness in the world – but if you lose valuable time at every obstacle you have to get off the bike to cover, you’re going to lose all the benefit. Yes, this skill does take a little practice, but it’s a bit like riding a bike – once you’ve got it, you won’t forget. Check out our guide here.
Practice makes permanent, so keep on trying until the flying leap comes naturally to you, and don’t be disheartened if the pressure of a race situation makes you forget it all first time round – just keep at it.
A word of advice: If you’re using clipless pedals, don’t be surprised if you find there’s so much mud in your shoes you can’t clip in straight away when jumping back on. Simply place your feet on the pedals, and then whack the sole of the shoe against the pedal until the mud clears.