By Arran Pearson
Now, much as we of the fat-tyred (or should that be fat and tired?) fraternity like to claim we are cycling’s masters of dirt, riding bikes on unpaved surfaces has a history as long as cycling itself (hint look closely at those old TDF photos and note the gravel on the climbs). Sadly, the combination of European winters and unsealed surfaces meant that the cycling season would effectively end as the roads simply became muddy and impassable. Then, as now, if there’s something silly to do then a cyclist will do it and riding through slush to get to work in the colder months eventually blossomed into a sport which is almost as old as road cycling itself – cyclocross.
The traditional cross course is short – 1-2km or so, mostly on grass and contains a number of man-made (think stairs, barriers etc) and natural (mud / sand / snow) obstacles. Riders race flat out and most laps in an hour wins with tactics playing a bit part as the nature of the obstacles means that sometimes its quicker to get off and run rather than trying to grind it out. It. Is. Excruciating. Think racing an uphill crit on grass and you get the idea.
In response to the lack of road racing in Singapore and the dearth of suitable mountain-bike courses, cycosport have put all of that cyclocross (CX) heritage together with mountain biking and hence we have junglecross. Essentially a short off-road track suitable for both mountain and (for those that are stupid enough) CX bikes. With a number of categories on offer and a kids race to finish it off it promised to be a fun morning.
The club was well represented with Massimo fronting up to give the Open category a shake, Phil Routley, Mick Lephamer, Chris Rawlings, Noah Geller, Lisbeth Kannis, Peter McQuaid and I running in the opens and The junior Pearsons, Lehpamers and Routleys churning up paddock for the kids races.
The amazing thing about this race was definitely the spectator involvement. Unlike your typical MTB race, each category went out alone which left plenty of time to grab a cowbell (being handed out by Rapha – one of the co-sponsors), grab a position at the final climb (muddy wall is a more apt description) and yell and cheer the riders coming through – fantastic stuff.
The course itself was good for a first attempt – perhaps a little too mountain-bikey for the cross riding crew (Noah, myself and a couple of Mavs) but then slipping and sliding through the mud is part of the fun and at least when you did fall off the mud made for a soft landing.
Results wise we (ANZA) had a great day with Phil (sandbagger) taking out the Open category with Noah in third (at least we’re claiming third – the end of race timing was somewhat suspect) with Lisbeth taking out the women’s prize and also being awarded most competitive (or was that competitive – hard to tell) rider of the day.
In between the Open and Sport races a small kids race was also put on – these are a regular feature of the Australian race scene but not something that I’ve really seen in Singapore. Aiden (my son) had been talking non-stop about it for weeks and it turned out to be a highlight of the day – lots of post ride discussion as to the ‘uphill grass bit’ and the need to work on more hill training for the next one. I think I may have created a monster!
Cycosports is planning another race in late January / early February and with a separate cyclocross race being run on the green corridor January as well it looks like cyclocross, sorry Junglecross is here to stay so if you’ve got a mountain bike / commuter / even a road bike that’s seen better days then front up for the next one. Best fun on two wheels (and lets face it… you can endure almost anything for an hour!)