#crossneverleft: How To Throw a Cyclocross Race
Words by Fergus Tanaka / Illustrations by Brian Biggs
Are you missing cyclocross? Maybe it’s February and you haven’t reached your quota of mud in your eye, or maybe it’s June and doing a gravel race is just 7 hours too long - do they even know what a cowbell is in Kansas? Why rely on your local promoter to line the local park with caution tape when you can easily do the same yourself? Organizing your own race is not only more simple than you think, but a great way to get people together and build community! With just a few supplies, you can throw a ‘cross race in almost no time at all in just four easy steps. Here’s what you’ll need:
- A location or map
- Landscaping rake
- Bag of flour
- A free afternoon or weekend
Find a spot! A wooded area, local park or empty field with little to no foot traffic is ideal. Bilenkey Cycles even made a course in an old junkyard! A good reference might be a section of dirt you ride regularly with friends or a shortcut on your way to somewhere else - a relatively abandoned location is a good place to start. From there, come up with a course. Start with a basic loop and make it interesting by adding twists and turns, a couple things to jump over and maybe a hairpin for good measure. Laps should be about five minutes long. Assuming a race is 45-60 minutes long, you want to make it as fun for spectators as racers.
Promote your event! Make a flyer and get it out there. Don’t have Photoshop or Illustrator? Never finished that art school degree? Use Instagram Stories create mode to make a simple flyer, add emojis and whatnot. Then save the image for easy sharing. Be sure to include date, reg time, location and fee - if there is one. Got sponsors and supporters? Tag them! Share your flyer with friends and ask them to post on their socials to help get the word out.
Mark your course! It’s day of, and you have a good lap sorted out, get to the location at least an hour in advance. Using a landscaping rake is helpful for “burning in” the course, or at least clearing the way. Using your bag of flour, take a handful and make an arrow in the direction the course should be run. Flour is bio-degradable and easily dispersible - a way better alternative to finding caution tape. Take a minute to ride the course yourself to make sure any hazards are out of the way and everything is appropriately marked.
Run your race! Google Sheets is easy to keep track of sign-ups on your phone - or a good old fashioned pen and paper works. Categories are up to you, but keep in mind, more categories means more work. However you want to define them, two categories is a great place to start for your first race. Pretty sure you know someone who saves all their race numbers, either ask to use those, or make your own. Maybe a cool souvenir for your racers is a silk screened number you made with friends. Though, numbers aren’t that necessary in the long run.
Doing a Le Mans-style start is fun and gets everyone excited right away. Usually it thins the herd a little as well, so people can get up to speed right away. Keep track of the race leader, they will be the one who you gauge everyone else’s places off. Tally everyone's laps with a hash mark until you’re ready to call it.
Once the race is underway, you’re nearly done! When everyone is in, do your podium, say your thank-yous and there you go - you’ve just put on your first cyclocross race! Throwing a race is as much about competition as it is about creating a community and bringing people together. This way, cross never really has to go away, and hanging with friends on bikes doesn’t have to stop when the season is over.