In January, we ran an article asking, “Just How Healthy is Junior Cyclocross in the US?” If Western Massachusetts is any indication, the answer is: “Very.” In Issue 13 of Cyclocross Magazine, we explored Kiddie Cross in Northampton, Massachusetts, a program teaching the cyclocross ropes to youngsters ranging from 7 years old to 12 years old. It makes sense: the Pioneer Valley is a major hub for cyclocross in New England, so get ‘em started young. This year, they’re running the program again, and we checked in to see what they were up to.
There are quite a few helpers attending practice each week, many of them elite racers in their own rights. Members of Jeremy Powers’ JAM Fund team, including Frances Morrison, can be found shouting encouragement as the children scramble up the run-up, or showing a struggling 9-year-old how to hit a rut at just the right angle. And the kids need no encouragement to go faster: they’re already superstars, showing no fear as they learn to hop logs, race down descents, and hit roots at full speed. Sure, there are tears, but more often than not, crashes lead to giggling fits instead.
The 25 kids in attendance at the second practice of the season were happy to try their luck on the run-up, with mixed results. We couldn’t resist putting together a video of some of the better attempts:
As one of the kids hit the run-up, racer Mike Busa and I stood at the top, cheering him on. “This would be easier if I could go 100 miles an hour,” the 7-year-old solemnly told us as he struggled to push his bike over the root at the top of the hill. When he got to the top and remounted, he looked back at us. “Maybe 200 miles an hour would be better,” he said, and pushed off to rail the next descent.
Tell us in the comments: is there a junior cyclocross program near you?
QCW Kids on Bikes (www.kidsonbikes.org) in Cincinnati. Entering 13th year. 30 to 60 kids per night on Fridays. Playing games on bikes and learning basic CX skills. We're up to about 100 now, and we'll have 500 kids in Cincinnati racing cross within the next 5 years.