CROSS IT UP

Australian Mountain Bike - - Contents - WORDS: IMOGEN SMITH IM­AGES: JEFF CURTES, MIKE BLEWITT

Dis­cover why cy­clocross has the X-Fac­tor when it comes to pro­vid­ing a su­per sup­ple­ment to your reg­u­lar moun­tain bike rid­ing.

Cy­clocross might be the per­fect ’cross train­ing for your MTB per­for­mance (see what we did there?)

It’s not that big in Aus­tralia, but in Europe and Amer­ica, it’s a phe­nom­e­non. A small club cy­clocross race in Bel­gium or Hol­land can draw crowds six rows deep, while in 55 freez­ing min­utes bikes are bro­ken, dreams are crushed, tears are shed, and a lot of beer is quaffed.

Aus­tralia has got teams of rac­ers like the Fo­cus At­ta­quer team and Team Willy Locke go­ing over­seas to rep­re­sent at World Cups and World Cham­pi­onship level. And plenty of moun­tain bik­ers have caught the bug: Paul van der Ploeg, Peta Mul­lens, Adrian Jack­son, Melissa Ansett, Andy Blair, Chris Panozzo, Bec Locke and Naomi Wil­liams are just a few elite Aussie moun­tain bik­ers who mix it up on the ’cross scene.

On the lo­cal front, CX is grow­ing, with dozens of new­bies scor­ing a bike and squeez­ing into a skin­suit. From Mel­bourne and Ade­laide’s vi­brant scene and near year-round rac­ing, to new hubs pop­ping up in places as un­likely as Cairns, cy­clocross’s con­ve­nience, spec­ta­cle, and fit­ness ben­e­fits are catch­ing on.

HERE’S 10 REA­SONS WHY WE THINK EV­ERY MOUN­TAIN BIKER SHOULD LOOK FOR A BIT OF ’CROSS-TRAIN­ING:

I. PLUG AND PLAY

You can rock up to any ’cross race with your moun­tain bike, and while you won’t be al­lowed to en­ter the elite cat­e­gory (you’ll need a proper CX rig for that), you’ll be fine in a sport or age group cat­e­gory where you’re bound to have more fun.

II. CLOSE FOR COM­FORT

Cy­clocross events are al­most al­ways held near city cen­tres - in parks, pad­docks, even dis­used in­dus­trial zones. The up­shot is that in­stead of driv­ing for a cou­ple of hours to get to your lo­cal sin­gle­track for a moun­tain bike race, it’s likely you’ll be able to spin straight to a ’cross event on your bike, squeez­ing in a few more miles and spend­ing less time be­hind the wheel.

III. SHORT IS SWEET

At be­tween 45 min­utes and an hour, ’cross races are fast and fu­ri­ous. Sure, you’ll taste vomit, or blood, through­out most of it, but when your race is up, you’re free to go take the kids to sport, wash the car, do the shop­ping, or just re­lax.

IV. GET WILD

’Cross has a com­pletely dif­fer­ent cul­ture from moun­tain bik­ing, so expect some vi­cious heck­ling, proper sledg­ing be­tween com­peti­tors, some serious style go­ing around among spec­ta­tors and rac­ers, and a very, very re­laxed (if not loose) vibe.

V. BUILD POWER

Cy­clocross is in­tense like noth­ing else. Not only are you rac­ing full-gas for about an hour, you’re ac­cel­er­at­ing up steep pinches and out of slow, slip­pery corners again and again. This con­stant ac­cel­er­a­tion forces you to lay down power spike af­ter power spike, so ’cross rac­ing makes for amaz­ing anaer­o­bic train­ing that boosts your Func­tional Re­serve Ca­pac­ity. FRC is the amount of work you can per­form above thresh­old be­fore fa­tigue, and build­ing it is very use­ful to moun­tain bik­ers who want to go fast.

VI. ROCK AND ROLL

Pedalling around in muddy pad­docks may look a lit­tle naff, but when you’re out there on a bike try­ing to get around off-cam­ber corners with as much speed as pos­si­ble on skinny tyres and a rigid fork, the skills re­quired to ace a cy­clocross race start to look a lit­tle more im­pres­sive. Too of­ten in moun­tain bik­ing we’re spoilt by berms that take the think­ing out of cor­ner­ing. ’Cross will force you to get back to ba­sics and work on your en­try and exit lines, and help you wring ev­ery bit of mo­men­tum out of your bike han­dling. Ef­fi­ciency is the key to speed, and ’cross rac­ers have it in spades.

VII. GOT SKILLS

Apart from bike han­dling, ’cross of­fers a bunch of off-the-bike tech­niques that few moun­tain bik­ers bother to learn, but which come in very handy when we do. Learn­ing a proper dis­mount and re­mount can save you pre­cious time on un­ride­able sec­tions (or just tricky sec­tions), and if you can dis­mount and re­mount quickly, you’ll get over an ob­sta­cle just as fast as you would if you rode it.

VIII. WHAT­EVER THE WEATHER

Ever get that sink­ing feel­ing when the heav­ens open or the wind howls the night be­fore you’re meant to go rid­ing? The trails will be slop, it’ll be freez­ing, your bike will get trashed? ’Cross wel­comes the filth­i­est weather with open arms. In fact, the fouler, the bet­ter. Cy­clocross evolved for Bel­gian win­ters, so there’s ac­tu­ally noth­ing our Aussie cli­mate can throw down that will make the dis­ci­pline suf­fer. Ex­cept maybe sun­shine.

IX. BAR­GAIN BASE­MENT

Our lo­cal CX race is just $10 to en­ter, and while it might be a bit more where you’re based, the bar­ri­ers to get­ting in­volved are gen­er­ally very low (that’s an­other ’cross pun), and this leaves more cash in hand for…

X . BEER

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