When I was in Utah at OR (Outdoor Retailer) back in August of this year, I stayed with a former teammate of mine Mindy. It didn’t take me long to realize, after being picked up from the Sault Lake City International Airport that this girl was into cycling. She used to be a skier and runner for Northern Michigan University, which is where I ran my freshman year. She had recently finished grad school and like everyone else at that point had to get a big girl job. For Mindy skiing turned into running marathons and she started dropping time which encouraged her to push it even harder. It wasn’t until Mindy had a stress fracture in her back and knee surgery in 2005, that she began cycling.
Mindy’s boyfriend Ben was also a former skier and cyclist as well, but he had entered into the competitive sport called cyclocross a few years earlier. For those of you who don’t know cyclocross, it is a 45 minute race where the athletes cycle in a circular course and much like track it is great for spectators. During the race athletes try to see how many laps they can get in the allotted time, while jumping off their bike, picking it up, and running over barriers (sometimes double barriers). The course is always different and it depends on the creator how it will look. Sometimes they incorporate picnic tables and foam pits.
Mindy says, “Ben and his friends kept bagging on me to try cyclocross”. Mindy’s first race was also the first time she had ever went over barriers. This would be like just showing up for the hurtles. She said, “The only practice I had with barriers was right before the race, gingerly stepping off my bike picking it up and jumping over”. The gun goes off and not 15 seconds in Mindy approaches the first barrier, she unclips and somehow gets her handle bar inserted into the spokes of the women’s bike next to hers. Then the women began to drag her bike along with Mindy’s through the barrier. Side note: Mindy actually won that race.
I asked Mindy what made this fun for her? She said, “Cyclocross is like road biking and mountain biking combined. Some cyclocrossers come from a mountain biking background and are really good at technical riding. Others come from road biking and are great at straight-aways. Cyclocross is the best of both worlds, with a crowd that brings great energy. The cyclocross season starts at the end of summer and finishes December 8th so you get all the elements: rain, snow and wind.” She also loves how fun of an event it is. For example, on Halloween competitors wear costumes. In addition to this every race has a gourmet Belgium waffle maker, last week it was pumpkin praline.
Mindy says, “Just go for it! It’s fun and full of surprises. It is easy to get involved and you don’t need a team. Some states are sanctioned and require you to get a license, but you can always get a per day pass”. Utah is not sanctioned, but it may be one day as the sport seems to be growing. She has noticed an increase of women racers in her A group going from 8 to 16. Men have always had a larger following, but their event is growing as well.
Mindy has improved a lot since she started, she has joined a team and does a clinic every week that works on practicing getting on and off the bike and over the barriers. The step to get back on the bike is almost like a hurtle over the bike. Good technique is something that can save you tons of time. She says, “That every time I finish that clinic my hip flexors and delts are burning.” That is a workout that makes her feel more confident about her racing. Mindy is currently ranked third with several pro women in her group. She was moved up to the A team this year. This allows her to get into bigger races which will also help her improve, but she is right on the pro’s heels as it is.