The cyclocross season is well underway, but that doesn't mean I can't write about it. Sometimes I think my motto for life is "minutes behind when seconds count", maybe that is why I am discussing cyclocross(CX) now. When you add in the fact that I have been announcing the Bay Area Super Prestige Series since it's first race on October 4th....well, you get the picture.
The sport of cyclocross is growing in popularity in a big way. It's not the fixie craze (you know, one of those conforming non-conforming fads). This is a real sport and you don't have to change your rear tire every 10 minutes because you have to skid to stop. CX probably requires the most technical skill of any of the skinny-tired cycling disciplines. Forget the perils of mounting and dismounting, it's the sand pit, common to many CX courses, where dreams come to die.
If you are leading a road bike race you can bonk or get tired and not win, but what makes CX racing so interesting is that there are so many ways to lose a race that the victory isn't sealed until you cross the line. Crashes are commonplace. If you aren't crashing you aren't trying hard enough. Flats are also very common even with wider tires. And equipment breakage, especially chains, happen at least several times during an event.
With all the negativity why is CX so popular? I think the core reason is that the races are relatively short (30 minutes to one hour depending on category) so there is very little strategy. When the gun goes off it is full gas until the race is over or you just can't pedal the bike anymore. On race day, you either have it or you don't.
If you have it and finish well, you can retire back to your team's pit and enjoy a brat and a beer. If you didn't have it and finished poorly, you can retire back to your team's pit and enjoy a brat and a beer. Get it? Everyone has fun at a 'cross race regardless of how they do.