Cyclocross – The Joy Trip Project

Cyclocross – The Joy Trip Project

Fall is clearly a season of transition. As the weather crosses over from long warm days to short brisk ones now is the time to make a similar shift in how you recreate outside. For many in southern Wisconsin, particularly those who love to bike, cyclocross is the ideal changeover sport to bridge the cool autumn months before the first snowfall.
“I am all over this,” said Ryan Griessmeyer, “It’s a whole new breed of sport for me, perfect for this time of year.”
The Madison athlete was among dozens of riders who came out to race at the Badger Prairie Cross, the third event in the Planet Bike Cyclocross series. In his first ever experience at the sport Griessmeyer, an avid triathlete, said it wasdifferent than what he expected.
“I figured I’d bounce in off my Ironman finish. But it’s so fast paced it’s hard to breath and stay aerobic,” he said. “First my lungs went, then my legs went and then it was all over. I loved it!”
Cyclocross is nothing like road riding. Set on a course that’s a combination of grass, asphalt and gravel hiking trails it’s more like mountain biking. But even then the comparison falls short.
“It’s like a time trial on dirt,” said Craig Heywood, the chief referee for the day’s competition. “I guess it all started when riders wanted to get some off season training in. And with different kinds of bikes on mixed terrain it’s a different kind of sport.”
Riders race laps around a complex course of trails for time. Whoever finishes the allotted number of laps first wins. The course is pretty tricky with a lot of natural and manmade obstacles. At least two spots in this race required riders to hop of their bikes and carry them over barricades.
“Some of the better riders don’t get off their bikes at all and bunny hop over the barricades,” said Heywood. “In cyclocross finesse is a big part of making it through the course and shaving minutes off of each lap.”
Cyclocross bikes blend several of the features common to both mountain and road bikes. “It’s a beefier 700 cm frame with much wider, knobbier tires,” said Bob Downs founder and owner of the Madison bicycle accessories company Planet Bike. “The bottom bracket is a bit higher off the ground than on a road bike better clearance.”
Few if any of bikes it this race had shock absorbing forks common to mountain bikes. And most seemed to have clipless pedals. Downs pointed out on his own bike a cantilever breaking system. “They flare out to sides,” he said. “That’s mainly to cut down on mud building up.”
With conditions that can change dramatically from one course to the next cyclocross riders can expect to race on asphalt slick with wet leaves or deep puddles thick with goopy sludge or even rocky trails with loose rocks.
“That’s what makes it so much fun,” said Ryan Griessmeyer’s brother Clay. “I learned a lot about corning and pacing and how to take the down hills. But mainly I knew about slowing it out at the start.”

Ryan and Clay Greissmeyer

Ryan and Clay Griessmeyer

This was Clay’s second cyclocross race. Having run the course at Lapham Peak in Delafield the week before gave him a slight advantage over his brother. “We’re pretty competitive and I lost a wager today,” said Ryan. “He blew me away. So now I owe him a case of Fat Tire.”
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