If you’re wondering what it is, it’s cyclocross
BRECKENRIDGE – So you’re wandering around Breckenridge this Saturday looking for ways to celebrate Oktoberfest, when you happen upon the Nordic Center and see something just a little odd – people riding road bicycles off-road.
No, it’s not the high-alchohol content of the fall specialty beers, nor is it the lack of oxygen from walking up Ski Hill Road to the Nordic Center.
It’s cyclocross racing.
Arguably one of the most esoteric forms of bike racing, cyclocross finds its roots in European road racing in the early 1900s. When road racing first became popular, cyclists in the chilly northern countries needed a way to train in the winter, so they came up with this: riding their road bikes with wider tires across frozen dirt roads.
And, just for the sake of making it stupid-hard, they added obstacles that riders are required to run up and over.
Racers are started in waves based on age and category on a course usually less than 2 miles. Official rules governing cyclocross courses strongly discourage singletrack, with wide trails preferred. These same rules also dictate that a certain amount of pavement be included, which helps speed up the race.
Then, there are the obstacles.
Usually a course will have two run-ups and two flatland obstacles, consisting of small barricades across the course. These features force the racers to jump off of their bikes, run with their bikes on their shoulders, then remount in a fluid motion.
The idea is to complete as many laps as possible in a set amount of time, similar to criterium racing, which is the most common form of road racing in America. The short courses force racers to push as hard as possible in an anaerobic sprint.
Mountain bikes are allowed, and race promoter Mark Taylor of Great Adventure encourages the local mountain bike racers to participate. Bar ends are not allowed. The close-knit style of racing allows for too many opportunities for the attachments to get caught on another bike, and in the case of the Nordic Center, on trees.
For many years, this style of racing languished in obscurity in northern Europe, where it was created, but slowly its popularity spread. It made its way to America, but not until the last few decades. The real explosion in cyclocross racing happened here in the last 10 years.
So if you want something a little different, head up to the Nordic Center on Saturday. If you’re racing, strive for that free Breckenridge Brewery pint waiting for you at the end. If you’re not racing, find your own brew and then kick back and ponder the weird world of road racing off-road.
The Brecktobercross cyclocross race will be held at the Breckenridge Nordic Center Saturday. The race is open to anyone with a cyclocross or mountain bike, with registration beginning at 8 a.m. Bar ends are not allowed on mountain bikes. The race is sanctioned by the American Cycling Association with one-day memberships available at registration for a small fee. For more information on specific start times, contact Great Adventure Sports at (970) 453-0333.
Richard Chittick can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 236, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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