When summer comes to an end so does triathlon season. After some R&R at the end of a busy season of triathlon training and racing I was ready to get back out there are start my training for Xterra World Champs in Maui in October this year. Xterra is off-road triathlon (swim, mountain bike and trail run). So this presented me with a new challenge to keep me busy over winter, off-road riding!
Thanks to a mild start to winter I have been having a great time on the mountain bike. It has been a refreshing change to worrying about intervals, heart rate or cadence as much as the sharp corner, tree, rock, sharp climb or drop ahead. The Tuesday night Topgear mountain bike shop ride has been a great way for me to learn some off-road skills with great group of people who are happy to offer advice (and banter).
So now to improve my off-road racing skills. I wanted some short and intense races and found the answer in cyclocoss (or CX) racing!
Cyclcross bikes are like road bikes with wider forks and fatter tyres with tread. The races consist on many short laps of a marked out, grass course that includes obstacles such a short hills, stairs or barriers requiring you to dismount and remount. The races are around 30 – 60 minutes long; short and intense!
Over the weekend I raced in the first two rounds of the National CX Series.
The first race was in Cranwell Park on Saturday. This course was on the side of a grassy hill and was a great lactic work out. In each 2.8km lap there were two sets of stairs, 2 small barriers, and a 100 hill at 12% to finish the lap. Coming from a short course triathlon/road riding background this suited me as I was able to make up time being strong in short climbs and fit enough to race the 50 minutes going all out. The course winds around a lot so is great to work on your bike handling skills and being on the side off the hill meant is was mostly dry so mud was not really an issue. The mass bike start is like a triathlon swim start, you need to go all out to avoid being stuck behind people through the corners (a skill I am yet to master).
The second race on Sunday was at Darebin Parkand part of the Dirty Deads CX series. The atmosphere here was a lot of fun! There are various grades of racing and even kids’ races. This course was not as physically demanding but tested my off-road skills more with some slippery corners and nice little rocky climb. But the best part by far is the crowd cheering and heckling. (See the photo below, thanks Jesse from Topgear for the motivation to get up the climb). Great to have Topgear Racing Team TGR out racing and supporting. Massive thank you to Topgear Cycles for the lend of the Specialized Crux for the weekend, its a great bike to ride.
So if you are looking for something to do over winter and want to build some skills and strength on bike while having a lot of fun I highly recommend giving cyclcross racing a go!