Do Cyclocross Races Happen Rain or Shine? — Cyclocross 101

Pin It
at Baystate Cyclocross Day 2 2013. © Russ Campbell

At Baystate Cyclocross Day 2 2013, riders were able to find their inner child in the rough weather. © Russ Campbell

Cyclocross is essentially the Post Office of the cycling world, and just as is written on the New York City USPS building, we have our own motto: “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night prevents these ′crossers from the sloppy completion of their appointed laps.”

No matter the weather, the cyclocross race will likely go on. Last year during the UCI Baystate Cyclocross weekend, every corner was a sheet of ice and the snow churned the course into a mud pile, effectively turning one everyday descent into a literal slip-n-slide. In Austin, TX, where the 2015 Nationals will be held, it is not unusual for the annual Six Shooter race to hit temperatures of 103°F.  The Midnight Ride of Cyclocross, the kickoff event of New England’s Holy Week, is aptly named as half the races take place at night under stadium lights.  In 2013, Nationals was freezing, and the Masters Worlds course needed to be drained to make it ride-able, but still, the races happened.

Race promoters might delay the race or even cancel it in the event of large snowfalls, but that doesn’t stop other promoters from sticking to the original plan even if it means the first riders of the day are wading through four feet of snow. Some might even be sadistic enough to cross their fingers for that kind of weather so they can bring all of their nephews and nieces along to throw snowballs at anyone foolish enough to actually race on the course.

Snowman versus singlespeeder. © Heather Gilbert

Cyclocross is known for its man-made obstacles. © Heather Gilbert

Ask most pro racers which kind of conditions they prefer and they will tell you they love the mud. Cyclocross culture even has its own names for different types of mud. There’s the slippery grease-mud, the traction-aiding peanut-butter-mud, and there’s even cement-mud, but that last one could also be called the frozen ground. These all come with the timing of the rainfall and with different temperatures.

Moral of the story? Be prepared for the worst. Riding cross-eyed with your legs full of pain is tough enough—you don’t want to be forced out of your race from being too cold. If it’s raining, an extra set of clothes for the pre-ride and warm-up is highly recommended. A waterproof jacket and pants is also helpful in keeping you warm until you head to the start line. Don’t take off those layers until you have to. Most elite racers roll to the start line bundled up like ice fishermen at a slumber party.

Sand master Brent Prenzlow (Celo Pacific) considers this his home course. He did design it, after all. © Phil Beckman/PB Creative

Not all days can be a day at the beach, but don’t count it out, either. © Phil Beckman/PB Creative

Don’t forget to bring a warm set of clothes to change into after the race. You’ll want to watch others suffer through the same conditions, and a nice warm jacket will let you enjoy a nice cold beer and some food while you watch the show.

In the wet and cold, consider using embrocation to keep your legs warm instead of legwarmers that will soak through in seconds—we have a full set of embro reviews here—but apply carefully. The full effect of embrocation usually takes 20 minutes to kick in, so the slight tingle of heat you initially feel will fire up, especially when wet. Don’t speed up the process by putting embrocation on before your chamois cream, though. It won’t take 20 minutes for you to regret that mistake. Also remember that embrocation is not a substitute for a pre-race warm up, and assuming that your legs are good to go while you’ve been waiting in your warm car is a recipe for pulling a muscle.

In extreme conditions like the 2013 USAC Cyclocross National Championships, plain water by itself couldn’t be used to clean bikes because it would ice up. If you’re committed to racing in those types of conditions, you get a big pat on the back, but you’ll also need to incorporate some type of antifreeze to keep the gears turning.

Cyclocross in any weather requires a lot of spare clothes and a dedication to maintaining your bike: It doesn’t have to be super expensive, but it does take some serious forethought and planning.

Get schooled in cyclocross with our Cyclocross Academy class list here, and make sure you’re subscribed to Cyclocross Magazine, your guide for getting into the sport, and upping your ’cross knowledge. Not subscribed yet? For the newbies, our Issue 21 has a great feature on buying your first cyclocross bike, and Issue 22 has a story on how to get into racing and what to expect at your first race.

 

 

Cyclocross Magazine, Issue 22, Print and digital subscriptionsHave you subscribed yet? You're missing out if not. Get all-original content and your cyclocross fix throughout the year with a subscription and Issue 23 back copy, with features on Lars van der Haar, Jonathan Page, Elle Anderson and more!
Tagged as: , , , , ,
28 comments
Jason Wayne Pike
Jason Wayne Pike

Why don't they start shooting dye into the air too??? Or have people wear ugly sweaters??? Seriously, if you need the race to be a social event or gimmicky, you shouldn't be racing.ride for the love of the sport!

Carl Ring
Carl Ring

in a word, no. Cycling as a sport has always taken whatever weather nature provides, no need to "enhance" it.

Rob Parbery
Rob Parbery

No way, cx should be about racing in the conditions what ever they are -15C and snowing to 40C and dusty and everything in between

Seth Graham
Seth Graham

Completely up to the mad-scientist, race course elves. They do the work. They choose the mayhem.

Sean Mealey
Sean Mealey

Please no!! This isn't the Woodstock reunion.

Farias Mark
Farias Mark

I love mud. So yes. Maybe promote it on the advert so everyone knows what to expect.

Dennis Smith
Dennis Smith

Please, let's not make everything into a Circus.

Ariel Flores
Ariel Flores

What is Mud and Muddy?!! Sincerely, SoCal Racer...

Todd Harple
Todd Harple

So it looks like I'm aligned with the general consensus: artificially wetting the track to reduce dust is okay, but not to fabricate mud pits. Of course here in Oregon the question is usually moot.

Sam Park
Sam Park

Up to the promoter. If you don't like the course, don't race.

Frederick J Rose
Frederick J Rose

No. Not, unless promoters want to subsidize racers for the extra equipment wear and tear.

beerbikesbacon
beerbikesbacon

@cyclocross Only if you start out hosing down the race. Muddy corners suddenly appearing on lap 3 aren't much fun. Especially from the ER.

Collin James Guy
Collin James Guy

If it's warm enough. If you tried to hose down a CX course in Kansas mid or late season you'd end up with hard, frozen ground after 30 minutes.

Bill Sprengnether
Bill Sprengnether

Yep if its too dry and dusty a little water can make it tacky and better.... but tuning courses into artificial mud pits seems tacky in the sense of it being a gimmick.

Jon Wienandt
Jon Wienandt

yes, some super dry dusty courses should be hosed down. not every course needs mud, but it can be a fun added challenge.

cyclocross
cyclocross

@AdamMyerson @jverheul But it is a question that derives from the article, no? Some Cross 101 fun ending with giving readers the microphone.

Stay up to date:

Search for a product, review, race or racer:

Visit these cx-loving companies:





Support CXM at no extra cost to you:

About Us | Jobs | Subscribe | Contact Us


Copyright © 2007-2014 Cyclocross Magazine - Cyclocross News, Races, Bikes, Photos, Videos All rights reserved.