Cyclocross Is Back!
For weeks all over social media, we’ve heard that #CrossIsComing – well, now it’s here – Cyclocross is back! The new cyclocross season has started and kids (and adults) up and down the country are participating in the exciting world of CX racing. Some for the first time, and others who couldn’t wait to get back in the mud.
What is Cyclocross or CX?
Cyclocross is bicycle racing on a field completing laps of a circuit with short, steep banks and many twists and turns over grass and mud, and sometimes through sand. Adult and youth races include hurdles (between 8 and 16 inches or 20 and 40 cm high) that you must dismount and carry your bike over before remounting. Most children’s races (U9, U12 and U14) will not include hurdles or for those leagues around the country with obstacles in some categories, the hurdles will be very, very low.
Cyclocross is muddy. Perhaps your first race in the season was on a drier course due to the time of year and the weather. But (and it’s a big BUT), as the season progresses and the weather turns, you will get muddy. Accept it and enjoy yourself.
First Race Of The Season
Our kids were back to begin their second season of cyclocross on Saturday. Nerves, excitement, ‘I can’t do it’, ‘I can do it’ – we had it all.
But once they were on the start line with race faces suitably scowling at the competition, elbows sticking out to claim their personal space, pedal ready to push off and determination coming out of every pore – they were ready to go.
Our daughter races in the U9 category. Before she begins every race, she says she doesn’t want to do another. That’s the nerves talking. From the first pedal stroke, she’s racing. Chasing down the competition, passing as many riders as she can. Her legs turning those pedals, finger and thumb flipping through her gears, taking the best line she can to save precious seconds. She will tell you otherwise, but watching her race you can see she truly loves it. And afterwards, she is practically glowing with excitement, satisfaction and the pure joy of racing.
It’s a great feeling as a parent.
Our son is in the U12 category. He loves racing, but has very little confidence in himself. We do everything we can to encourage him as we know he really, really wants to do well. Doubt – in himself, in his ability; makes a difference. You can see it in his face when he’s on the start line. This is what’s holding him back.
Fortunately, he is improving (as we saw from the effort he put in on Saturday). It helps that he has a number of friends who all race too either in U12s, U9s or U14s. He loves riding with them, and very tellingly, always keeps up with or even rides in the lead setting a fast pace when out on social rides. The difference is that the social rides are not a race and he knows that. We’re sure the biggest obstacle to our son’s racing is psychological – he’s overthinking what’s to come. He tells himself he won’t do well and so he doesn’t. He isn’t the only participant to do this. In fact, I’m sure some professional riders suffer from the same. He is our son and as long as he wants to race, we will encourage him and support him.
Ups and Downs
As a parent, watching our kids race is both pleasure and pain. You see their highs and lows and experience it with them. You want them to do well, you want to encourage your children. You don’t like seeing them feel disappointed in themselves. We do everything we can to help our children learn and understand that failure is a part of life and you can only improve. From our point of view, our kids don’t fail. Last season, they participated in and completed all ten races in the league and got a medal for doing so. That’s success and we celebrated with our kids. Anything else is a bonus. We love our kids and want them to achieve their goals. Clichéd, but very, very true (and which explains our bank balance!).
If your child wants to start racing then support them to do so. There are cyclocross leagues all over the country with a race somewhere every weekend until at least the end of January. If your kids are not sure they want to compete, why not go as spectators and let your kids see what cyclocross is all about – you will learn something too! Ask the staff questions (when they’re not rushing to sign people in or prepping a race start!) and most will be happy to help.
Don’t Be That Parent
We will make one point though after attending numerous races. Please, please don’t be that pushy, obnoxious or soul-destroying parent. There’s always one that stands on the sidelines, screaming or berating their kids.
We witnessed one incident last season, where the child was participating in his first ever race (we learned this fact later). After the race, his so-called father was berating him (with extremely bad language) asking why he didn’t do better, why he wasn’t one of the leaders, why didn’t he put some effort in (if the kid had put any more effort in, he would have imploded – perhaps he knew what his father would say if he didn’t). The boy in question looked about 9 years old, racing in the U12 category. 10 months later I still remember the look on the boy’s face. Fortunately, the marshals stepped in and had a quiet word with the parent about his behaviour and reminded him that such behaviour is not tolerated and he would be asked to leave if he continued. I couldn’t help but wonder what happened after the father and son left the race.
Don’t be that parent. You are not helping or encouraging your son or daughter. You are slowly destroying them. You are guaranteeing a vicious cycle of failure through negative reinforcement. I know this, and I’m not a psychologist. It’s simply common sense.
Cyclocross is a fantastic sport and can be a gateway into many avenues of racing in different cycling disciplines. Marianne Vos, Zdenek Stybar, Lars Boom and Wout van Aert all race or raced cyclocross and now participate professionally in road races.
Cyclocross is also (and from our point of view, most importantly) lots and lots of fun. You get to ride your bike in a race against others of a similar age, encouraged by your parents to cover yourself in mud and have lots of fun doing it. What’s not to love?
Our kids love cyclocross. While they want to race, we will support, encourage and experience their highs and lows with them. And afterwards clean their bikes too!
Many cyclocross races are listed on the British Cycling website – check it out to find your nearest race.
Before any race or ride make sure your bike is safe to ride.