Cyclocross

Trek Bicycles hosted the first round of the UCI World Cup Series over the weekend. Since their HQ is only about 20 miles away and I had ridden out there earlier in the week, I made my way there on Sunday to watch. Since organizers said there was no secure bike parking, I drove with my bike in the van. This turned out to be a good plan, as the only parking was over a mile away, so I parked and rode back to the course, locking my bike to a fence on the grounds. Carrying a heavy lock and cable for 40-50 miles of riding wasn’t in my plan.

The women’s race was exciting, with multiple lead changes and three Dutch women together on the last lap. The race was won by Fem van Empel (who just turned 20 last month), narrowly beating Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado (same time), with veteran Lucinda Brand fading to third on the final stretch.

It’s hard to tell from the photo, but the uphill stretch leading into the turn in the first photo slopes steeply to the riders’ right. Walking on it is difficult without sliding off, and the approach is ridiculously steep. The men’s race was anti-climactic, with Eli Iserbyt of Belgium roaring off to an early lead that he never relinquished, finishing with no one in sight. 32 seconds later, Laurens Sweeck (also of Belgium) crossed the line, with Dutch rider Lars van der Haar another 46 seconds back. The riders were so spread out that it was sometimes difficult to tell who was way in front and who was way behind, but there was some tight middle-of-the-pack action.

For those new to this, cyclocross began in Europe as a way for road racers to stay in shape over the winter. The first races took place in France early in the 20th century. Courses may combine paved and unpaved sections and include obstacles requiring the rider to dismount and run, carrying the bike, then hop back on without breaking stride. The course could be dry and dusty, muddy, or snow-covered. This course wound its way in and out of deep woods, over steep bridges, and over rocks and logs.

It is a great discipline for spectators, as you can wander about the course, crossing at marked intervals when the riders aren’t there, so you can watch from various vantage points. There were also video cameras throughout the course and live commentary, so the less-mobile could sit in the biergarten and watch on a giant screen. With the beating the bikes (and riders) take, I would never buy a used cyclocross bike (a friend used to own a bike that had been ridden in the Tour de France, where the beating is less severe), nor would I (at nearly 70 years of age) try this. I’ll stick to easy stuff, like riding across the continent.