CX, Down & Dirty

One format of cycling many of us had rarely tried, happens to also be the cycling’s fastest growing discipline, Cycle Cross. What appears to be a smashed together version of road cycling and mountain biking, is actually a grueling challenge, even for the most experienced cyclist. How would this bunch of Sufferlandrians go?

Cycle Cross on the surface seems quiet easy, but there are a few components to the discipline that make it slightly more challenging. First, two core skills that we would all have to learn are mounting and dismounting. Under the watchful guidance of Sir Neal, the group made their first attempts to learn the tricky mount.

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Mounting a cycle cross bike takes some skills, and balls. Learning it involves a leap of faith as you swing your leg over the saddle, in the hopes of landing in a position that doesn’t squash the family jewels, and safely on the saddle to pull yourself on. It sounds easy, but it took some time for us to grasp the basics before Neal would let us attempt it at speed. It would prove harder later in the day once we’re on the course and having to navigate over a tree root or board of wood.

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Once we had some of the basics, we graduated to the Cycle Cross course that is a setup at the UCI World Cycling Center where we would be faced with more challenges, including a pump track, tree roots, single track re-mounts and ditch crossings, each with their own unique skill requirements. This was a discipline that proves strength isn’t necessarily an advantage. Instead, a finesse with the bike was needed as you navigate obstacles, while mounting and dismounting the bike.

To add to the drama of the session, two journalists from Cyclist Magazine had flown to Aigle to investigate who this mystery Sufferlandrian team is, and why they were at the UCI. Given the need for their photographer to get some good photos, Sam, the journalist, was volunteered to join the fun as an honorary Sufferlandrian on the course.

With just enough practice, it was time to test our skills in a course time trial. With some blood already drawn during practice, this was going to be fun. One by one we set off on a single-timed lap on the course, each pushing themselves and testing the limits of their new skills around the tight bends, over obstacles and through a ditch. The national spirit was in full force, as we cheered each other as though we were at the World Championships.

With the times tightly grouped, the only way to decide things would be a mass start race. Yes, we were going to squeeze ten riders onto a tight course, and race for five laps. A poor performance in the time trial had me start in position 6, but I made sure to correct that at the race start as I pushed myself up into 4th, right behind Joseph. It seemed we were quiet closely matched, as we engaged in a four lap wheel to wheel battle around the course. He was quicker than me through the ditch and tight corners, but I’d catch him on the leap over the plank of wood and main straight. It went down to the wire, but I just couldn’t find the room to pass.

What did I learn?

Cycle Cross is an exciting discipline that I haven’t tried before. It’s technical, and requires different skills and fitness. It’s a sport that could easily get addictive, and I could see it taking off in Singapore.

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