Down & Dirty – Cyclo-Cross races come to Walla Walla. October 25 & 26, 2014.
By Kirsten Telander:
When I met my future husband, Todd, I was told that he was quite the cyclocross racer, in a way that was intended to impress me. Admittedly, though I loved both mountain bike riding and road riding, I didn’t know if cyclo-cross (or cyclocross, cross, cyclo CX or CX) was riding some sort of course on a unicycle or motorcycle – turns out, neither.
Though cyclo-cross has gained popularity in the states, it is a sport with a long history in Europe. The first French National Championship was held in 1902; apparently, the brainchild behind the Tour de France, Géo Lefévre, had a hand in the early days of cyclo-cross. To this day, Europeans treat the sport with the kind of reverence we give pro football, though spectating is free and there are no vendors selling t-shirts or pretzels (though beer is often involved). The beauty is that anybody can race cyclo-cross. Yes, you probably want to spend some time on a bike first, but it doesn’t have to be a cyclo-cross bike, there are oodles of participants on mountain bikes. The difference? Think of a cross bike as a road bike but with knobby tires for traction. Without getting too technical, the biggest factor perhaps is weight; you’ll need to carry your bike on parts of a course and jump over barriers with it over your shoulder.
So what is a cyclo-cross race? Depending on the category (beginner, men, women, etc.), the race is 30 to 60 minutes long and consists of laps over a set course with barriers and other obstacles (a steep run-up, for example) that require the rider to dismount and carry or push his/her bicycle. One of the best elements, depending on what you consider fun, is the varied terrain –expect everything from dirt, sand, mud, grass or gravel.
“The great thing about a cyclo-cross race is that nobody knows who’s ahead and nobody cares,” says Steve Rapp, co-owner of Allegro Cyclery in Walla Walla.
Allegro Cyclery is the sponsor and organizer of the Walla Walla races that are part of the Inland Northwest Cyclocross Series. The events are held Saturday, October 25 and Sunday, October 26, 2014 and draw approximately 100 riders primarily from the Walla Walla Valley, the Idaho panhandle and other parts of Eastern Washington. Venues this year may include Rooks Park, Bennington Lake or Fort Walla Walla.
From dragging my trusty, old 1995 GT Zaskar mountain bike out of the garage for a race or two I know just how supportive the cyclo-cross community is. People were just happy to see me out there (or were feeling sorry for me but I think not). Steve Rapp concurs: “The first place and the last place finishers get the same encouragement. It’s just a great cycling community.”
The other perk? The races take place in the fall and winter – good off-season workouts.
Check out these videos, although dated, the race format hasn’t changed. The first covers a beginner race, which shows that you need no real racing experience; the second shouldn’t scare you off if you’ve never raced – although the competitors are more skilled you’ll see how much fun they have!
For more information on the races, check out Allegro Cyclery’s site – updates are posted as the race draws near: http://www.allegrocyclery.com/ or the site for the Inland Northwest Cyclocross Series: http://www.inlandnwcyclocross.com/home.html .