Thursday, October 13, 2011

Wednesday Night Cylco-Cross Series in Missoula, Montana

Jen jumping barrier during race.
All photos taken by Alex Bardsley

Riders jumping obstacles.
What is Cyclo-cross you say? (Sometimes referred to as 'cross') It is a form of bike racing! This sport typically take place in the fall and winter. The courses usually feature of many laps that are short(2.5–3 a.5  km or 1.5–2  mile), so spectators get to witness much of the action.

The courses are often in town, and usually in open rolling areas. The terrain is varied, featuring pavement, trails, grass, steep hills and obstacles requiring the rider to quickly dismount, carry the bike while navigating the obstruction. Of course the rider needs to remount the bike quickly. I am not very good at this part yet. There is an art to unclipping, jumping off bike while it is moving. The skilled riders seem to make it look pretty and effortless and don't lose any time. Also, there are a few guys like Sam Schultz that jump the barriers on their bikes. Impressive.

We are pretty lucky in Missoula, Montana to have a strong cross series in the fall on Wednesday nights.
This series leads up to one of my favorite races of the year, "Rolling Thunder" - which always proves to be an awesome spectator and racing event with live music, huge crowds, and the occasional flash mob performance. (Thiller dance 2009).
Air Time
Now you will notice that everyone in my images have Cyclo-cross bikes but me, these sweet rides are a lighter weight bike as compared to a mountain bike. They also sport knobby tread tires that are a much skinner and drop handlebars. Check out Sam Schultz below, our local Pro and Hero. He works his bike magic on a Single Speed and usually with a slight smile as well.
Sam cruising fast on Single Speed.

See below, my husband John just got a sweet "new-used" cross bike that is making him fly. Some day I will get one too, must save pennies. Although, I must say after tonight's race (which was SUPER bumby) I was happy to be on my sturdy Kona Lisa Mnt-bike. (Except when i get past on the fast pavement areas.) Everyone in my family has gotten a new bike this year, so I am next in line.
John pushing the gap on his new BFF.

In Missoula, we have a great spectators.
Just go to any Rollergirl Bout, Griz Game or Cyclo-Cross Race, and you will notice that we will cheer, ring cow bells in the rain and snow. I am amazed by all the folks that come out for the series, it really makes the effort worth all the pain. Also, it cracks me up that John and I both notice the smell of beer during the race from the spectators yelling at the top of a hill. (Mnt-bike races are usually in the morning unlike Cross in the evening, so I people usually are not drinking yet.....sometimes.)
Another nice thing about cross is that the race is only 45 minuets, so when the first fast dudes and women racers cross the finish line, the rest of the riders complete their lap. (unlike Mnt-biking with set laps).
The Big Boys Racing.
Compared with other forms of  bike racing, tactics are fairly straightforward. I often feel lucky to have my mountain bike skills come in handy with Cross. Little things like feeling comfortable in the occasional 2 wheel drift, marking a new line to corner, or using no brakes to bomb a short decent. I think these things add up when your racing, and for me they are important since I don't have "road bike lungs" that most Cross riders have.
However, aerobic endurance will win you a race in Cross. All my  mountain biking handling skills can not save me in Cross. I was not surprised that the girls that I was beating this season at technical mnt- bike races are now kicking my butt with their road-bike lungs on the flat race course of Cross.

Jen rounding corner on Fat Tires. Tights and glasses by Bettys Divine. Always try to be stylin while sweating is my motto.

 The courses out at Fort Missoula and the Horse Equestrian have been the usual bumby grass fest, with a bit of single track, a little hill to bomb and climb, a bit of pavement and some nice barriers to jump over. I did not enjoy the sand spots, or the mad hornets that attacked me. The last race at Fort Missoula was raining and muddy, so it was awesome to photograph. My favorite bike photographer is Tom Robertson; Check out his images!
 Click here for Tom's Website

Beginning of race before spread.
 Another great thing about Wednesday night cross is that it only costs $6 to race and they provide a free Beer after. Good way to build community. Mud, pain and Beer.

John and his "Nemesis" are on good terms.

Jen and Eric. Old Buddies from High School in Helena.
Below is happy Steve after racing.

After the lung burn.

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