Looking Back At Cyclocross
For the second consecutive year, and like many children across the UK and Europe, our kids competed in cyclocross races. In the 2018-2019 season, our kids participated in every CX race in our local league. This season, they took part in every race except one – our car refuses to start when the temperature drops below zero!
Cyclocross is the perfect starting point for kids to get into racing. Races are usually in parkland or fields so there’s no traffic and the ground is (mostly) soft if they fall off their bikes in their enthusiasm.
Cyclocross is a gateway discipline to other areas of cycling. Tom Pidcock has competed in CX, road and MTB. Evie Richards in CX and MTB. Anna Kay and Ben Tulett compete in CX and road.
There are many cyclocross (CX) leagues around the country. Our children ride in the U9 and U12 races in the NDCXL (Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Cyclocross League). This season comprised of 13 races located around the two counties in some truly wonderful venues, and some venues which were challenging to say the least. We’ve visited Matlock, Mansfield, Derby, Bingham, Nottingham and even out towards Uttoxeter.
As our kids have only competed in the NDCXL league, we can’t comment on how our league stacks up against others. But we feel fortunate.
The races we’ve been involved in have been well organised and run very well. Parents, commissaires and other volunteers have been friendly, welcoming and very helpful to entrants whether they’ve been racing for years or are starting in their first race. Riders can do a few practice laps to learn the course and warm-up. The races are inclusive and everyone has a good time. It’s great to see parents dashing around the outside of the course to see their kids competing, taking photos, offering advice and cheering riders on. I am do this too, I can’t help myself! Marshals are dotted around the course to not only monitor the race, but to help the kids too. Chains come off, riders fall and encouragement needed. The marshals do it all, for which as a parent, I am very grateful.
What it’s like
‘Cross isn’t just about riding your bike as fast as you can. In fact, it’s a very rare occurrence to be able to stay on the bike for the entire course. Cyclocross is approximately 80% riding and 20% running. Depending on which league you race in, obstacles such as hurdles have to be jumped or steps have to be crossed. NDCXL doesn’t have hurdles for U9 or U12 races, but the kids do have to run with their bikes especially on the trickier off-camber sections or, in one notable race this season, in thick, sticky mud.
In the last race of 2019, the kids were racing in a farm field. To say the mud was thick is understating it. Most participants ran for 80% of the race. I know one rider from our Go Ride group who ran the entire race! He placed well too.
The most important aspect of cyclocross racing is that it’s fun. Riders are encouraged to ride as fast as they want, and if you’re not covered in mud by the end, you’re not doing it right!
Our kids love CX racing. Our daughter especially. It’s an opportunity to take all the techniques and skills the children have learned and put them into practice in a friendly and safe competition. Smooth pedalling, choosing the right gear, exceptional bike handling. Cyclocross also helps riders develop strength and power as well as confidence and raising self-esteem. What’s not to love?
If you want to learn more about cyclocross, contact your local cyclocross club and league, or check out the British Cycling events pages to find a race near you.