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What is Cyclocross?

By: Angelina Palermo  June 01, 2020

With so many cycling disciplines and so many more forms of racing in each discipline, things can get a bit confusing. Learn more about how each type of racing works and watch our athletes compete on the biggest stage!

Cyclocross is a unique, non-Olympic discipline of cycling that can best de described as a cross between road cycling, mountain biking and steeplechase. Watching cyclists dismount their bikes to run up stairs and steep embankments often arouses questions about the origin of the sport. Although it is difficult to find the exact reason, many legends have it that cyclists would race from town to town off road to bring a new element to road racing. These off road adventures could have often required dismounting to hop fences and impossible terrain.

While many people refer to type of bike used for cyclocross as a “cx bike”, “cross bike”, or “cyclocross bike”, most competitors actually use modified road bikes. These road bikes are then equipped with skinny, knobby tires, disc brakes and slightly different geometry which allows for better clearance when passing over various obstacles.

Cyclocross races generally take place on a closed circuit in a park or other open land with competitors racing multiple laps. Since the cyclo-cross season generally takes place from September to February, races are often times plagued with adverse weather conditions such as snow, rain, wind and mud – all of which add to the sport’s allure.

Riders begin in mass-start fashion and must navigate through both paved and off-road terrain, often times dismounting their bikes to hurdle barriers, climb steep hills or stairs, or traverse other obstacles.

Weather conditions aside, cyclocross racing is a very spectator-friendly discipline of competitive cycling given the short, closed course, the fast pace, the unique equipment and the interesting obstacles the competitors are faced with. Also, with relatively few cyclo-cross specialists in the world, the discipline lends itself to road and mountain bike athletes alike as riders from both major disciplines compete on the ‘cross circuit each year. Throughout the fall and winter, cyclo-cross racing provides specialists in other disciplines with a competitive outlet during the off-season.

Some of the most prestigious cyclo-cross events in the world include the UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships as well as the USA Cycling Cyclo-cross National Championships and UCI World Cup events.