It was started by European road races in the 1900s but today cyclocross has become increasingly popular around the world. Now this unique sport has come to Idaho.
A typical cyclocross course is usually 1.5 to two miles long and riders go around it as many times as possible within 45 to 60 minutes. The terrain can be smooth and flat or steep and harsh. Add to that sharp turns, dismounts, barriers to jump over, hills to run up, sand to sprint across and bikes to shoulder and you can definitely say cyclocross is not a sport for novice riders.
There’s sand, mud, grass, gravel, asphalt. All kind of conditions that require you to dismount your bike, get over that obstacle, get on your bike and get to the next area. It’s just one of those things where lap after lap- towards the end you can start feeling it. Your energy level is say only so high and each lap you just start to get a little more fatigued as the race progresses. So areas like that where there’s sand or mud and you have to expend energy just to power through it… that’s why it’s so challenging.
Shawn Mitchell of Boise is one of Idaho’s best and most experience riders. He says cyclocross is all about staying fit in the fall and winter and competing on courses that are set up to throw you off. It’s a challenge Bob Walker and his wife Kris have embraced whole heartedly. Bob took up the sport three years ago after years of racing on the road, while his wife Kris is one of the most competitive riders in Idaho’s growing field of female crossers. She loves the sport and says the variety of skills need to make it through a course is what makes cyclocross the fastest growing sub-section of USA cycling.
It’s not just about fitness. It’s about bike handling. I think it says that people are ready to start something different. They’re ready for something that’s not so time sensitive. A cyclocross race is 45 minutes to an hour, so it doesn’t take fifteen hours of training a week to be competitive. And you can bring the family out.
Cyclocross races are put on nearly every weekend fall through early winter and the courses are always different. But whatever the course has in store for them it’s likely the racers will go up against each other again and again. Idaho’s cyclocross scene remains small enough for it to be considered a “fringe” sport, where success is based on overall fitness and a fierce sense of competition…with others and with yourself.
The whole game here is to push yourself mentally and physically as far as you can. And it’s even an emotional stress because you push yourself so far. And that’s the purest form of being extreme is exploiting yourself physically and mentally.