"It’s that time of year for the only cycling competition that attracts roadies and mountain bikers alike. Cyclocross, a spectator-friendly hybrid of cross-country biking, motocross and steeplechase, sets cyclists on a roughly 2-mile circuit that runs over pavement and grass and is strewn with obstacles like stairs and boards. As in a duathalon, cyclists must be in good running shape; they often have to jump off their bike to clear obstacles that can’t be surmounted with a bunny hop.
The Brookside Cyclocross Cup, the only cyclocross event in Indianapolis, will be held Sunday, Nov. 11 at Brookside Park, and will decide the Indiana State Cyclocross Champion for the year. Bikers can compete in beginner, intermediate and advanced classes for both sexes, and this will be the first year for a junior competition, subdivided into ages 10-14 and 15-18. On the other end, there are competitions for “masters” at 35-plus and 45-plus. Over $1,500 in cash is up for grabs, split between winners in the advanced and masters categories.
The Brookside course takes cyclists right up the front steps of the limestone Family Center, built in 1928 with nary a thought of cyclocross. The course then runs across the terrace of the Family Center before descending to grassier areas of the park, rolling over hills and forcing riders into tight curves with few straightaways. Unlike most spots around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, spectators can see half the course from the top of the stands.
Cyclocross has quite a history in the old country: France held its first national championship in winter 1902, just before the first Tour de France got underway in spring 1903. The first international race, Le Critérium International de Cross-Country Cyclo-Pédestre, was held to the west of Paris in 1924, signaling the spread of cyclocross across Western Europe; Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg and Switzerland fielded national teams. Le Critérium’s course included le Trou de Diable, or the “devil’s hole,” a steep drop around which spectators eager to see a crash gathered so tightly that riders had to ride through in single-file. Cyclocross tracks often exploit extremes in weather and landscape, forcing riders to, for instance, hoist bikes over their shoulders while struggling up a steep, muddy hill.
In 1975, the U.S. finally got into the act when Berkeley, Calif., hosted the first national championship, and the sport has quickly taken hold since, moving into the Midwest after an initial growth in interest on the West Coast.
This is the season for cyclocross: Events are typically held in the autumn and winter, giving road and mountain bikers a chance to work out during their off-seasons.
Advanced cyclists will leave the gate at 1 p.m.; women will compete in a 45-minute race, while men will stay out on the course for an hour. Registration begins at 9:30 a.m., with all other competitive categories taking the course before 1 p.m. You can ride your mountain bike in the competitions, but lay off the bar-ends. For more information call 317-753-8219.