Very widespread in Belgium, cyclo-cross is also present in France and is gaining more and more followers. No wonder, it is the perfect discipline to build up a strong body before the spring road race!
What is cyclo-cross?
As its name indicates, it is the meeting between cross-country, which is run on natural terrain (preferably muddy, like cross-country running) and road cycling. This cycling discipline is practiced in winter, in meadows or paths, with uneven ground and sometimes natural or artificial obstacles to overcome, like stairs or boards. The most experienced riders jump all of these, the rest of the world carry the bike on their shoulders to get over the difficulties.
In short, cyclo-cross is :
- exclusively during the winter
- competitions taking place in several laps, of 50min max according to the category
- a discipline which is practiced with a bike resembling a road bike but with big spikes, a wider handlebar, disc brakes (more and more) and a single plate
- difficult weather conditions, mud and many falls
- a friendly atmosphere where we always meet the same people and where we meet around a tray of French fries at the end of the race
So we are cold, we give everything on short and very intense runs, we spread out on the ground, all that to come back covered with mud from head to toe. But it’s great!
In addition, the small organization (we must be 50 people maximum per category) gives to the competition a very relaxed atmosphere of village races. We recover crumpled bibs already perforated by the pins of the previous runners, we can register on the spot, that costs only about ten euro. No headache and it is really pleasant! And at the arrival, you can go to the refreshment bar to warm up around a tray of hot French fries or a beer for a few euros only. Well, personally I am rather “home-made chocolate cake”.
On the spectator side, if there are only clubs at the start, the runners come with their family or their friends. It is very friendly! And when Daddy, or more rarely Mommy, has finished his race, the minis in cycling school take their turn on adapted distances. It’s fun to see the 6 year olds with their noses in the handlebars, concentrated like adults!
The cyclocross’ benefits
In winter, motivation is often lacking to go out riding. It is not pleasant to ride with 10 layers of clothing and to brave the cold. I know I don’t have the courage to ride outside in winter…
So to stay in shape and prepare for the spring, I do home-training in the warmth of my home. Cyclo-cross allows me to vary the sessions, to continue to train during the winter with intense and technical sessions that I won’t be able to work on home-trainer.
Cyclo-cross is the assurance of working your cardio and strength to the max with the numerous restarts you have to do for 50 minutes. You will also work on your technique and balance when you have to negotiate the hillsides, the hairpins and other hillside climbs on soaked ground. The upper body is also put to work when you have to lift the bike on your shoulder when the slope is too steep or when there are obstacles to overcome – even if the best do everything on the bike!
For me, cyclo-cross in winter has the advantage of offering more complete efforts than the usual long Sunday ride. The fun aspect of the discipline, in the nature with an often slippery environment, the short format of the races are also points that change from the road. It breaks the routine and it avoids that the lassitude settles down, something that happens when you say to yourself that you have to ride a hundred kilometers every Sunday morning with frozen fingers or feet…
To compare with the car, cyclo-cross allows me to boost my engine, to build up my body in winter before moving on to a more endurance-oriented cycle in spring when the conditions are better.
The cyclocross tires
The most common tire models
Depending on the condition of the ground in which you are going to ride, you have 2 choices of tires:
- all roads, rolling, these tires have a smooth band in the middle to relaunch quickly
- for greasy, more technical grounds, these tires have more marked studs
To ride on all types of terrains with rolling
- Challenge Chicane XS 33: semislick for speed on the flat
- Schwalbe G-One Allround MicroSkin TL-Easy
- Schwalbe CX Comp
For mud and rough conditions
- Challenge Limus 33: Top in the mud
- Schwalbe X-One Bite MicroSkin
- Continental Cyclo X King RaceSport