Guide To Junior Cyclocross Racing
Cyclocross (or CX) is the UK’s fastest growing Cycling discipline and popular with families as most events cater for all ages, so the whole family can have a go! It’s a crossover sport between Road & Mountain Biking, using elements of both to race on fields or woods. The season begins in September (when Road/Triathlon seasons are over) and ends in February.
There are a few very useful benefits of Junior Cyclocross to bear in mind, particularly if you are a regular Junior Triathlete;
- CX is racing on grass just the same as almost all kids Triathlon, so you can use the same CX/MTB bike all year.
- It’s a very safe sport for kids, away from traffic, held on soft ground with lower average speeds.
- Continuing to race through the winter, means you start the Road/Triathlon season with ‘bike ready’ legs.
Races are mass start by age category. Either U9/12/14 & 16 format or U8/10/12/14 & 16 depending on Championship. (Adult categories are available too!). Don’t be put off by mass-start racing, as the pack thins out very quickly in CX as the course narrows as you leave the start. Most events tend to be time restricted races, perhaps 10 or 15 minutes for the kids.
A course comprising of several ‘Laps’ are used mainly on grass, sometimes venturing into woods – but don’t include technical terrain, especially for the little ones. Sometimes (it is rare in the younger categories) CX courses include obstacles such as a hurdle board, sand pit area or steep (short) climb where running with the bike is the favoured technique.
Unlike adult CX, younger kid’s courses don’t include sections requiring you to ‘shoulder’ the bike, so the need for a bike with brake cables on top of the top tube is not relevant. Kids cyclocross bikes look very similar to road bikes, except wider forks (to allow fatter grass tyres) and cantilever brakes to stop mud clogging wheels. Events allow Mountain Bikes too.
Many young triathletes will already have some experience with the skills required for Cyclocross, having competed on grass courses already. Flying mounts/dismounts during Transition are also very useful in CX racing to negotiate course obstacles.
If it’s a sport that you are considering for the first time, a couple of tips for newbies…
- If you come from Road cycling, remember to lower your tyre pressures considerably, particularly in the wet.
- If you come from an MTB background, remember it’s often faster to dismount and run, rather than cycle and conquer.
- If you’re coming from Kids Triathlon, it’s pretty much the same thing – just a few more climbs and a bit more mud!
The big thing about kids Cyclocross (after a few seasons of competing with our own kids) is THEY LOVE IT! Safe, off-road cycling with the need for handling skills in the wet, means a huge amount of fun throughout the season on their bikes.
Finally, events are in Autumn and Winter, so the right clothes play a big part in the kids enjoyment. Some simple items like Arm Warmers, Leg Warmers and a Race Cape make a big difference. Its important to keep them warm, dry and enjoying themselves.