[Photo Brian Mangano brianmangano.com] I must admit I have been a late convert to the world of cyclo-cross. I saw pictures of the Dirty Deeds CX series last year in Victoria and thought it was cool, but couldn't make any of the races. I've always enjoyed seeing photos from Euro CX races (cowbells, beers and frites... what's not to like?). But it wasn't until I was looking up something else on the CA website that I saw that there was an Australian cyclo-cross series starting this year.
In the spirit of the Roadie Project, this looked like fun. And, it must be admitted, I'd been eyeing off the new Apollo Xact (one of CyclingTips' top picks for CX bikes under $2000) for a while. But, most appealing of all, here was a sport that gave a fighting chance for roadie scum to match it with real MTB-ers. And, as luck would have it, entries for the first round hadn't yet closed. It was fate.
CX is so new in Australia that it represents a great leveller in bike racing. Everyone is in the same boat (unless your name is Lewis Rattray). Whether you're a roadie, a MTBer or just enjoy playing in mud, cyclo-cross offers something for you. I love that FUN is the one thing bringing cyclists from all disciplines together.
The first race was in Port Melbourne on Saturday and offered a rare opportunity to sit at threshold for 45 minutes, pausing every so often to fling your bike over a barrier or run through a gravel pit. Thanks to some wet weather during the week, the race course, which had started off relatively firm and Aussie-like, got steadily boggier and more Belgian as the day progressed. By the time the elite men and women's races started in the afternoon, the crowd was practically Flemish. Full Gas Promotions did an awesome job of starting the series off with a bang.
I ran into Tim Decker from SASI at the first race. It was good to see another roadie there. The conversation went something like this:
Me: Hey, um... what PSI are you running?
Tim: Pretty low I reckon.
Me: Like, 75?
Tim: You've got to stop thinking like a roadie. Try 35!
Me: But my tyres are skinny!
Tim: Think like a mountain biker!
The first race hurt a lot. It was like a crit on steroids. But on a fun scale of 1 to 10, it was an 11. The second race, held the next day in the hipster heartland of Darebin Parklands was equally awesome and much muddier. (Thanks to Dirty Deeds CX for all their efforts) The crowds were noisy, the heckling was ripe and the winners got giant loaves of sourdough from Vegan Baker (SO hipster). MTB superstar Mel Ansett put everyone in the box early, just like she did on Saturday, and did it with a smile. I was too far into the box to muster up more than a grimace, until a heckler told me to smile (thank you), after which I remembered to have fun. Thank you heckler. Also thank you to the lovely gentleman trackside who offered a pick up line mid-race. It was very flattering.
The next round is in Adelaide, and I'm really looking forward to it. My parents don't often get to see me race and I'm quite excited. Even better, the tradition of Skinsuit Sunday (unsuccessfully launched earlier this year by VIS mechanic Moody and I) will live on for at least one more weekend.
Note: The cool photos in this post were largely from Facebook - sorry I can't remember who posted them. If you drop me a line I will put your name in! The bad ones are mine.