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Yes, the 2011 cyclocross season has begun here is Australia. While you folks in the Northern Hemisphere still have a horrible La Niña summer to look forward to, we’re kicking off our first true cyclocross season and this brutal weather makes for perfect cyclocross conditions.
For those of you unfamiliar, the CX scene is alive and well and it’s no longer an underground hipster movement. I think we’re the last country on earth to come to the CX party, but I find it quite exciting to see how things are evolving. Clubs are getting behind these events and the organisers are running them under official UCI guidelines. This doesn’t mean they’ve all of a sudden become elitist and devoid of fun however. Quite the opposite. For example, the Melbourne series hosted by Dirty Deeds are still giving away significant prizes (i.e. bikes) for things like “best dressed” and “best attitude”. They still want to attract the riders who come for a good time because they are the ones who bring along the atmosphere which makes cross racing so cool. Cowbells, lagerphones, washboards, bush cans cheering on the riders…it’s a huge part of what makes it so much fun.
Another element of cyclocross which makes it unique is that even if you get dropped, it’s not a long lonely ride to the finish. There’s still the crowd cheering you on and if you’re lucky someone will hand you a beer to skull. Both the front and the rear of the race are still exciting.
At this stage of cyclocross racing it’s not required that you ride a CX specific bike. Many events have a CX only category, but organisers are still intent on keeping a category open to any type of bike you wish. Bring your singlespeed, your mountain bike, unicycle…whatever you have.
In general, Cyclocross in the US has held onto the “fun” mindset of keeping things fresh and this is kind of atmosphere you’ll experience (this is in Nebraska, but you get the idea. I love it!):
Organisers have naturally evolved to holding the CX season during Australia’s winter instead of haphazardly putting on a race whenever they feel the urge. Cyclocross needs mud, fallen leaves, single-digit temperatures and the smell of embrocation. The best shot we have at getting this vibe and establishing a true season is between April and August (this past summer would have made an ideal CX season too). I personally believe a challenge in making cyclocross huge in Australia is the fact that it’s not held in Sept-Jan like the rest of the world. However, 35C temperatures in December while competing with crit and track season is an even bigger challenge.
The main difference between a cyclocross bike and a road bike are the higher bottom bracket, longer and wider chainstays, wider fork, and cantilever brakes (disc brakes are now permitted for use). If I could only own one bike, it would be a cyclocross bike. In fact, when I first moved to Australia all I brought was my cyclocross bike. They’re heaps of fun and all you need to do to make it into a road bike is change over the tyres.
You can get into a cross bike for about $1500 and the sky is the limit. You don’t need anything flash. A groupset such as SRAM Rival or Shimano Ultegra is adequate to race with. A few cross bikes that I’m quite fond of are the following (not exhaustive – just off the top of my head). Most look better in real life. I’m not sure why some of these manufacturers put happy stems on their CX bike photos – this makes them look horrible!
Moots Psychlo-x ($$$$$)
Focus Mares ($$)
Jamis Nova ($$)
Specialized TriCross ($$$)
BMC Crossmachine ($$$)
Giant TCX ($$$)
Does this get you excited?
If they don’t get you jazzed up about cyclocross in it’s beginnings, nothing will. Make sure you listen to the hilarious commentary!
Most immediately, the different organizers have some cross races coming up very quickly:
Ipswich Cycling Club (QLD) has their next cyclocross race coming on July 19 at Jim Finimore Park. More info here.
The Illawarra Cycle Club is pioneering cyclocross racing in NSW. It’s difficult to find what’s going on via their website, but if anyone has information on their cross scene I’d love to hear about it and add it here.
It doesn’t look like there’s anything going on in Western Australia, but if there is, please let me know. You guys are spoiled with great road riding and beautiful weather all year round anyway. No need for cyclocross…
I’m stoked to see cyclocross gaining momentum in Australia and I’ll see many of you on Friday evening at the Dirty Deeds prologue!