There is little doubt that cyclocross (CX) is sweeping the nation with increasing popularity. After this weekend in Austin at the National CX Championships I now know why. Simply put: Cyclocross is the new “cool” in the cycling world. As cold and rainy as it was for my Arizona blood, I still found people everywhere smiling and loving the chilly weather. No wonder bike shops are fully stocked with a diversity of CX bikes and enthusiasts are found in every city. The culture surrounding cyclocross is contagious. It’s a movement, a rising tide to be dealt with for sure. Every race is filled with loud cheering spectators, and lots of enthusiasm.
It helps that it is a sport within cycling that a road cyclist can participate in, a mountain biker, a triathlete and so on. Everyone can find a local cyclocross race and inexpensively sign up for a short but action packed lactate thresh hold barn burning race. The diversity of courses, riders, and what a cyclist can end up encountering on the course itself just makes it even more enticing.
Below is a video of footage shot this weekend on from the Cyclocross National Championships in Austin Texas. Its a summary video of different clips at just over a minute. But you will get the idea of how harry and exciting a cyclocross race is:
The CX culture has its roots in Belgium and other European areas where winter training became an entire village sort of gathering. Historically CX Racers taking their bikes in muddy, dirty, and rocky terrain. Often these local heroes will ride in all winter weather conditions and take their bikes through just about every imaginable and unimaginable obstacle including tight turns between two house on a narrow cobblestone street, up muddy hills, over large rocks, down sweeping turns and through some farmer’s field. The European locals would literally fill the streets and completely surround what is usually only a short 1-2 mile loop completed in as many laps as possible in a given time frame of roughly 40 minutes.
This was my first experience at a national CX Race and I admit I’m hooked. This year the CX Nats were held in Austin Texas – home to the famous Lance Armstrong owned bike shop “Mellow Johnny’s.” I half expected and hoped to see an appearance by the cycling legend. I wasn’t surprised when I learned that he was no where to be seen at the CX Nats. I understand the pressure he must feel when in public, especially at a USA Cycling Association Sanctioned championship event. He must wonder how many of the cyclists are still loyal fans and how many will heckle him to death. Whatever the reason, he was a now show as far as I could tell.
The other attorneys in Bike Law (a national network of bicycle lawyers) and I found some time to still head over to Mellow Johnny’s which is so keenly situated in the heart of Austin Texas. I didn’t know what to expect when we went inside. I had heard so many stories of how amazing the bicycle shop is and my expectations were steadily growing with every step as we walked our way downtown Austin to his shop. As we approached it didn’t seem like much from the outside, but as I stepped into the shop I quickly realized it was no ordinary shop. How could it be? It is Lance Armstrong’s bike shop, since when does he do anything ordinary? There were two entrances into the shop depending on the street you entered from. The feel of Mellow Johnny’s is amazing. Everywhere you look you see a bicycle hung from the ceiling along the outer walls with a brief description of which famous cyclist used it (such as Armstrong or Hincapie, etc) and which Tour de France (or other world/European tour) it was used in. Very impressive.
Of course, the whole shop had a different feel to it. There was a bike rack inside the store for cyclists to ride over and park their bikes while they sat down in a lounge and enjoyed a cup of coffee. There is a basement downstairs with a very high tech training studio with stationary trainers set up, and screens everywhere. Also downstairs is a professional fit studio.
But what caught me eye most was the robust collection of signed jerseys and actual race bicycles of Lance Armstrong all over. In every sense of the word it was a memorial of sorts and a cool museum of Lance Armstrong bicycles. It appeared as if every Tour de France year was represented with one of his bicycles and a plaque describing it.
However, as cool as Mellow Johhny’s is – nothing was as electrifying and as exciting as the CX National Championships. If you ever get a chance to attend them in the future or sign up for a local CX race near you – DO IT. When you do, make sure your cycling insurance and health insurance is up to date. Its not if you get in a bike crash on the course, but when and how bad. Injuries are common, but fortunately not as severe as getting hit by a car. In a CX race you are almost assured to go over your handle bars sometime in the season or slip on a run up as you try to ride or run up the obstacle ridden trail.
Get out there and have fun. Be safe and ride it like you stole it!