It’s only been a few years since I got hooked on cyclocross but despite it being such a niche sport, I’ve enjoyed learning the ropes and also seeing interest in the sport grow. One thing I’ve noticed though is that many people, especially women, often get put off by the fact that cyclocross events are all called ‘races’.
Whilst this is true - you’ll be working hard for the entire race - this doesn’t have to be off-putting. And, if racing or taking part really isn’t your thing (or you’re injured?!), there are still plenty of ways to get involved on race day and beyond.
You’re actually only racing against yourself
Firstly, I’m not going to give up on encouraging you to give racing a go! There are plenty of reasons you might not think it’s for you. A couple of my reasons have been:
- Not feeling fit enough
- Not wanting to come last
Not Feeling Fit Enough
I was lucky enough to hang out with Alec Briggs last season who reminded me that you don’t have to race every event. Infact, you can use events as your training! What better way to get prepared for the demands of a cyclocross race than taking part in a cyclocross race?
Not Wanting To Come Last
Sometimes I see it as ‘taking one for the team’ when I come last because someone has to. The great thing about cyclocross races are that the course is on a loop meaning once the riders settle into the race, you barely know who is first from last.
The best way to race, without racing, is to give yourself a goal for each event. Once I’ve done the sighting lap and gotten an idea of the course, I decide how many laps I would like to aim for in the race time. Majority of the time I end up surpassing that goal, but it at least gives me a bare minimum to ride for!
Go along to cyclocross skills sessions
The next best thing to racing, is skills training. Most cycling clubs offer skills training (typically on road bikes) but as cyclocross season comes into view some will offer ‘cross specific skills sessions.
Skills sessions are fun, but they’re also really useful for bike handling. You’ll get the opportunity to practice ‘cross specific skills like mounting and dismounting, bunny hops or carrying your bike without the pressure of a race.
If the session incorporates a fitness element too, that’ll have you ready for race day in no time.
Volunteer on race day
The majority of cyclocross events are run by volunteers. My cycling club - Beyond CC- recently hosted a race in the Central Cyclocross League Summer Series, where there were plenty of tasks to be done before race day and on race day.
- Designing the course
- Setting up the course
- Managing racer sign on
- Registering on the day riders
- Lap counting
- Gridding and starting the races
- Packing down the course
Get in touch with your local league organisers to see if you can support them during the season.
Go along to spectate and cheerlead
Wrap up warm, grab a camping chair, cowbells and a full thermos and head down to race day. With races for kids and various adult age groups, it’s usually a packed schedule of racing on the day and your support won’t go unappreciated.
If friends are racing, grab a few photos or videos of them during their race.
Be race support for a friend
You can also offer to be race support if you have friends racing. So as well as being chief photographer, you can help with simple things like looking after their possessions, grabbing their warm up layers thrown off at the start line or
Train up as a Commissaire
Another volunteer role available which is crucial for every cyclocross event, is being a Commissaire. The role of the Commissaire is to manage the sporting control, ensuring safe and fair competition.
So you will be overseeing and checking pre-event planning and documentation, checking suitable risk assessments are in place as well as ensuring clear communication with organisers, event teams, riders, and parents.
You can contact British Cycling to find out when they are holding a training session near you. The training is free and although the role is unpaid, you will typically be paid expenses for getting to and from events.
Even if you choose not to try a cyclocross race, or are unable to race at prosent, I hope I inspired you with other ways you can get involved and get to know more about the sport of cyclocross.
If you're interested in finding out more about the wonderful Elle Linton and the world of Cyclocross, be sure to follow Elle on Instagram!