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5 reasons why road racers should do cyclocross

Is ‘cross is coming...for you?

junior women Photo by: Nick Iwanyshyn

Cyclocross is already in full swing, but there’s plenty of races across the country still to come despite the onset of winter. After all, ‘cross began as a way for pros to stay fit and motivated in the cold, soggy winters in Europe, but evolved into a separate and specialized form of racing.

In Europe, the cyclocross season takes place from September to the end of January, with the world championships closing it off. Here in Canada, ‘cross starts late September and can go to November or December, with provincial and national championships landing toward the end of the season. There are usually races on the weekend, and in some areas, mid-week races or informal ‘cross group rides/races.

If you’ve never tried it before, this year might be the year to jump in and give it a go.

1. Extend your season

This is a good year to try some races, since there were fewer in the year due to the pandemic. If you ride some fall races, you will definitely get your body back in race mode. Getting a bunch of ‘cross races under your belt in the autumn can make a difference in the spring.

2. Level up your bike handling skills

Courses for ‘cross vary. Races can be on grass fields, in parks or through forests. There will usually be barriers that you can either bunny hop or dismount and run over. There will often be tricky bends and curves that will test your skills. If you want to get better at carving corners for road races and criteriums, CX can be helpful. You can test the limits of your bike by learning how to burn through corners and not worry about wiping out on pavement.

3. Power increases

What do Mathieu van der Poel, Wout Van Aert and Marianne Vos have in common? They are some of the best cyclists in the world on the pavement—and in ‘cross. If you watch them in either a ‘cross or a road race, you’ll be amazed at the incredible strength they exert up short steep climbs. Doing ’cross, whether in soggy mud or blasting up steep hills, will be be way more fun than doing leg presses at the gym. You’ll feel it after, but you’ll also be stronger.

4. Motivation

When the weather is lousy, it’s hard to find reasons to keep training, or training hard. If you know you have a race on the weekend, you’ll probably be more keen to get out there and give it during the week, even if it’s colder. Furthermore, if you have already registered for a race on Sunday, you’ll definitely show up, even if it’s a crappy day for riding—as opposed to calling it a couch day.

5. Run for your life

Yes, you will be running with your bike. Even if you can hop the barriers, there will most likely be run-ups where you shoulder your ride. That means that during the week, you can augment your cycling training with running. It’s a good practice for cyclists to mix up your off-season activities, and running can make for a great high-cardio activity in the fall.