“Athletic” Experiment: Cyclocross

What with my new bike, my riding a fair bit since August, and my complete lack of fitness for running races this summer, I decided to try a bike race this fall – the “Back to School Cross” cyclocross race that’s been held at St. Olaf College for the past few years. This year’s race is going to be held on Sunday – quite a while after school started at Olaf, but at a good time for me.

Cyclocross is a kind of racing in which riders use bikes akin to typical road bikes(drop handlebars, relatively high gearing, skinnier tires, and such) to cover off-road terrain that usually includes various obstacles like mud pits, low hurdles, unrideably steep hills, and staircases – all of which can require a rider to jump off the bike, run through or jump over the barrier (sometimes carrying the bike on one shoulder), and then hop back the bike to resume the race. Dismount and carrying sections are the classic elements of cyclocross courses, which are typically pretty short, twisty loops (a mile or so) which the racers have to do over and over for, say, an hour. The Olaf course is classic in this sense, though the beginners’ race at Olaf tomorrow is shorter, just 31 minutes long plus one 1-mile lap.

I’ve been practicing my dismounting, carrying, and remounting “skills” (the sneer quotes are my own) for the past month of so, but I still expect to make a complete fool of myself on those parts of the course. And riding in a group (at least off the start line) will be interesting. My experience with “packs” pretty much begins and ends with the occasional walker in the Arb. On the other hand, I hope my experience as a runner will help on the (few) “run up” sections, and my riding this summer (both on gravel roads and in the Arb) will hopefully at least keep me from passing out during what promises to be a pretty intense half-hour or so. God only knows, though, what’ll happen when I hit the Olaf course’s notorious “Pinwheel of Death”:

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