Watching a cyclocross race for the first time

The Men’s Cat. 4 race at Metal Cross begins.

This never rose to the level of an item on my bucket list, but for several years now, I’ve wanted to attend the cyclocross races held each September in St. Cloud.

For three or four years now, I’d find myself at some bike or sports store in St. Cloud looking at a poster advertising the race that happened the previous weekend.

The course at Riverside Park in St. Cloud was marked by plastic tape.

This year I lucked out.

A friend of my daughter, Gabriela, told her he was going to ride in the Metal Cross on Sept. 29 at Riverside Park.

All it took was relentlessly nagging Gabby until she asked her friend about the specifics.

She finally provided a link to a webpage.

All I had to do was haul my tired carcass out of bed at 6 a.m. that Saturday and then awaken my wife, Sofia.

We were on the road before 7:30 a.m. I like to schedule some extra time because I usually get lost.

And, of course, I did.

But we still arrived 10 or 15 minutes before the first race.

The obstacle was not just the box placed by the race officials. It was also the steep hill just on the other side of it.

Cyclocross, cyclo-cross or CX races are not like road races. First of all, they’re held on short, winding courses on surfaces other than pavement – usually grass – with patches of sand, mud, gravel and – late in the year in Minnesota – snow.

There are also obstacles such as sand traps, mud patches, hills too steep to peddle up or just something laid across the course. These obstacles force the riders to dismount and push or carry their bikes.

At Riverside, the course was marked by plastic tape strung from tree to tree.

After watching the Men’s Category 4 start their race, Sofia and I walked down to an obstacle to see how the racers tackled the black box with “Metal Cross” painted on that was placed at the base of a steep hill.

Sometimes there was some congestion at the obstacle.

Once over the obstacle, some riders pushed their bikes a ways and mounted them and tried to ride up the hill as the angle of the climb got less challenging. Others tossed their cycles over their shoulders and ran up the hill.

Both techniques had their advantages and drawbacks, the announcer explained. Running is generally faster, he said, but riding usually takes less energy.

After riders had been timed on their first lap, the announcer reported that the half-hour men’s cat. 4 would consist of five laps.

That’s all I know about cyclocross. Here as some links if you want to see the results for the Metal Cross or learn more about the sport.

Metal Cross results

Video of a Metal Cross race

A report about the race

Wikipedia’s article on cyclocross

Cyclocross in Minnesota

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