Double Trouble: A Weekend of Cyclocross

The XCM National Championships were now over for 2015, which means I get to enjoy a break in the normal training schedule and savour a few weeks of rest, recovery and riding for fun. After not partaking in a great deal of activity for a good week, it was time to have some fun and jump back on the cyclocross bike. Coincidentally, round one of the Manly Warringah Cycling Club CX Series and round one of the inaugural Western Sydney MTB Club CX series were running back to back over the weekend.

Prior to race day, I was trying to describe Cyclocross to a friend:

You essentially ride what is a road bike with knobbly tyres off-road, across dirt and grass, through mud and sand and often in adverse weather conditions. Courses have obstacles like barriers and stairs, where you have to jump off, run/jump/climb through with your bike on your shoulder and then jump back on again. It’s high intensity for 45 to 60 mins – your heart is trying to escape your chest the whole time.  Oh and people throw water and beer on you while ringing cowbells.

Cyclocross is a real sport – even if it sounds completely fabricated! The video below helps describe the sport and gives some background on how it originated:

The Manly Warringah (MWCC) race on Saturday was held at Terrey Hills, in Sydney’s north.  The shorter ~1.8km circuit winds around a park, BMX track and horse riding club, which makes for some great obstacles. Riders have to dismount for  a set of stairs and some barriers designed for equestrian, as well as having the option to either run or ride a few smaller obstacles, such as a telegraph pole and two sets of lower barriers and tyres. While the course didn’t have any serious boggy patches, there was plenty of mud which became more and more chopped up as the race ran it’s course.

MWCC has plenty of tight corners and few long straights, which meant those more technically proficient would come out on top. This was the case in the Women’s race, with Oenone Wood taking the win ahead of myself and Sally Potter. In the Mens Elite, Garry Millburn and Chris Aitken were neck and neck until Chris went down entering the last lap and was unable to make the catch.

Photo by Mike Isreal
Photo by Mike Isreal

Western Sydney MTB successfully launched their inaugural Cyclocross Series with race one at the Sydney International Regatta Centre at Penrith on the Sunday. A lap of the Western Sydney course (~3.4km) was almost twice as long as Terrey Hills and contained a number of fast straight grassy sections, which gave those with good fitness a bit of an edge.

Splitting the long fast sections however were some very twisty and tight cornering which worked to sort out those who could corner smoothly, without loosing too much speed – and those who could not. Two sets of barriers (low enough for some of the elite men to jump) made life difficult for many. One being near a large group of spectators, which meant timing your dismount well was imperative (or else a crash would probably be caught on camera and remembered forever). The other significant challenge was the two large pits of mud down the far end of the course – a foot deep in places meant picking a good line and hitting it with speed was a requisite.

Photo by Ben Porter
Photo by Ben Porter

Garry Millburn backed up well to take the Men’s Elite category over Ben Henderson. I was lucky enough to win the Women’s Elite ahead of Fiona Millburn.  While neither field was as big as MWCC the day before, I think it’s fair to say the Western Sydney event was a success and it will only grow in the future.

All in all, great to see so many new riders giving both races a shot – especially those on CX bikes, racing for the first time. Everyone hurts during the race, but it’s rare to find someone at the end who didn’t have a fantastic time. I am sure both clubs will see continued growth in numbers for race two and beyond.

Photo by Michael Crummy
Photo by Michael Crummy

Australian Cyclocross Magazine has a calendar of events on their website. Check it out and get involved. Most races allow you to ride any kind of bike if you are unable to get your hands on a CX specific.

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