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Ohio Sports & Fitness: Obstacles, Injuries, Jumps, Oh My

The August/September 2011 issue of Ohio Sports & Fitness magazine featured an article about cyclocross racing, which quoted Century Cycles' Kevin Madzia, and promoted our Cyclocross Clinic held on September 8, 2011. Scroll down below the images to read the text of the article.

reporting by STACY RHEA | photography by GREGG BURKE

Explaining the absurdity of cyclocross is entertaining. The responses usually go something like this: "You do what with the bike?" "Obstacles...are you crazy?" "You race in the rain, mud and snow?" Most people don't understand the excitement of cross until they watch it or try it.

What is cyclocross?

Cross is a fusion of bike racing and off-road sports. Gregg Brekke, road, mountain and cross racer, describes the sport as a great combination of skills. "It's a mixture of road riding, montain biking, bike handling, sprinting, climbing, running and steeple-chase," he says.

Cyclocross's origin dates back to early 19th century Europe. Road racers wanted to continue training through the fall and winter months, so they began racing one another from town to town. Taking a no-holds-barred approach, the racers cut through farmer's fields, dismounted their bikes and hopped fences and other obstacles to beat other racers. By 1902, the first cyclocross race was organized.

Cross today

"Cyclocross is the fastest growing cycling discipline in the U.S. right now," Brekke says, "and Northeast Ohio Cyclocross Series is seeing that trend as well." One reason, according to Brekke, is because cyclocross is a great sport for both participants and spectators. "Cross courses are compact and generally set up on a roughly 1-1.5 mile loop," he explains. "Racers pass the start-finish area about every five to 10 minutes. Family, friends and fans of the sport get a great view of the racers.

The best place for spectators to watch a cross event is at the most challenging section. "Course organizers usually put in one really difficult section," Brekke says, "It's a lot of fun to hang out there and watch the racers navigate a muddy ditch, a crazy run-up or finish-line barriers."

Cross racing

Each cross course is unique. The lay of the land and where the obstacles are placed play a role, as well as the weather. Rain and snow add different elements to the course. You just never know what to expect during the fall and winter months.

The duration of a race is consistent. Participants enter according to their experience and skill level.

Kevin Madzia of Century Cycles describes the race as never-ending hard work. "You've gotta keep cranking through the flat sections. There's no escaping the need to jump the barriers and dash over the run-ups. Even on the rare downhills, the terrain is usually sketchy, so you can never let your guard down. There's just no place on a cross course where you can relax and catch your breath."

If you enjoy short bursts of all-out effort in the mud while jumping barriers and taking on the elements, cyclocross could be your sport.

If you're still unsure, follow Madzia's lead. He attended a cross clinic nine years ago. Afterward, he participated in his first cross race in Grove City, Pa., and placed third in the men's beginner division.

Join Century Cycles and Grunt Girl Racing on Thursday, Sept. 8, for a free cyclocross and mountain bike clinic. For details, visit or

Former OSF editor, Stacy is an avid multisport athlete. She began participating in on- and off-road events nine years ago. She is also the founder of Grunt Girl Racing and director of PR for Fitness Together of Cleveland.

Sidebar: Growing Trends in Cyclocross

The following statistics represent participation in the Northeast Ohio Cyclocross (NEOCX) Series:

unique event entries across 10 races

unique racers (up from 200 in 2009)

A 60* minute race-men:
racers in 249 events

B 45* minute race-men:
racers in 451 events

C 30* minute race-men:
racers in 357 events

racers in 78 events

* Race categories
A -- 60-minute race (advanced riders)
B -- 45-minute race
C -- 30-minute race (beginner category)