The Indiana Cyclocross Series holds three of its four events in the month of November, beginning with a much anticipated race this Saturday at the Major Taylor Velodrome.
While the spandex outfits stay pretty much the same as road racing, the sport of cyclocross is a much less mannered and gentlemenly sport. The gloves are off, so to speak, and so is much of the team collaboration.
Cyclocross courses incorporate a series of terrains. From pavement to grass to mud, up and down hills and around hairpin turns, riders are forced to maneuver off the bike, often carrying (or "shouldering") for part of the course until they can climb back on.
Here the challenge is to push through a series of diverse obstacles under often horrible weather conditions on bikes similar to road bikes in weight and gears, but with knobbier, low-pressure tires and cantilever brakes that don't get bogged down in whatever mud and dirt they are bound to plow through.
Agility when riding is just as crucial in cyclocross as road racing, particularly when it comes to handling the bumps, hills and stairs that can make up the course all while trying to avoid the sometimes 100 other riders all jockeying for a place in front of the pack.
One of the most exciting local riders thus far in the season has been NUVO Cultural Trail's Erik Hamilton with three podium finishes in October.
Like track racing, cyclocross races are categorized by the skill and experience of the riders, with Category 1 riders being the most elite. Riding in the Category 2/3 race in Cincinnati on Oct. 10, Hamilton finished first, despite the pouring rain. A week later, the main racing event at Bloomington's Bloomingcross was a combined Cat 1/2/3 riders, and Hamilton finished second.
The most impressive win for Hamilton thus far, however, was his first place finish in the Cat 2/3 race two weeks ago at the US Gran Prix of Cyclocross Derby City Cup in Louisville. Hamilton's decisive victory came over more than 120 of the best riders in the country.
Saturday's race at the Major Taylor Velodrome should bring out the best in local cyclocross competition. With recent clinics by some of the top riders in the country, male and female, many local competitors have been training here since late summer and are eager to compete on what they consider home turf.
SouthEastway Park also sees regular groups of cyclocross riders training at the park. The course here will be a bit more rugged than the Velodrome race, including a good size hill that always ramps up the competition. Expect the race on Saturday, Nov. 21 to be a bit more gritty and a good deal messier particularly if the weather has turned more winter-like by then.
But it's the 10th annual Brookside Cyclocross Cup, Sunday, Nov. 22, that represents the cornerstone of the Indiana Cyclocross Series. Challenging both novice and experienced riders with its mix of road, grass, mud, stairs, steep inclines and tight turns, Brookside is the consummate cyclocross venue. Look for over 200 riders from Indiana, Kentucky, Illinois and Ohio to transform this neighborhood park into one of the country's premier cyclocross events.
This race is the anchor of the Indiana Double Cross weekend. There will be over $1,500 in cash and prizes awarded! In addition to being the Indiana State Championships, the race will serve as the final event of four-race Indiana Cyclocross Series.