Teenager Ellen Garnsworthy loves cyclo-cross and would recommend it to anybody – no matter what their age.
“Cyclo-cross is a great place to start for anyone who wants to get into cycling,” said the 14-year-old.
“It is a very inclusive discipline of cycling as it is open to all ages, can be ridden on a range of bikes and doesn’t require a high skill level when you’re just starting out.
“It doesn’t matter if you’ve not got all the gear yet, as long as you’ve got a helmet and a suitable bike.
“All ages are welcome, with categories ranging from under-eights all the way up to super grand veterans. There is also a novice category for adults who are new to the sport and would rather race for a shorter time.
“Cyclo-cross is a great introductory discipline into cycling as the technical skill level required is nowhere near that of mountain biking and you don’t have to be skilled group rider either.
“The courses consist of grass, mud, gravel, uphill, downhill and flat sections and a set of two hurdles.
“A typical cyclo-cross race is made up of multiple laps, each lap lasting from five to ten minutes. Race times increase with the age categories: from the under-eights who race for 10 minutes up to the adults who race for an hour (novices’ race for 30-40 minutes).
“I love cyclo-cross not only for the racing but for the fresh air, the fun of the sport and the fact I have made so many new friends, so come along and get involved.”
The 14-year-old has written a personal account of competing in the sport in the hope that it will help persuade new people to have a go.
Her account reads: “It is 11:00am, it’s a cold but sunny winter morning and the grass is crisp with a thin layer of frost. I’m stood on the start-line, I take a deep breath, sip my drink and put it back in my bottle cage. There are two people to my left, three to my right, a couple of rows of people in front of me and a few rows behind.
“Another deep breath and then I focus as drop my hands to the bars and ready my pedal.
“Three, two, one, the whistle blows. Almost instantly, I’m stood up on my bike chasing the person in front, bouncing off the people on my left and right as we’re shoulder to shoulder entering the first turn.
“My tyres grip to the grass and mud, bike leaning into the corner, as soon as I’m out of the bend I’m up out of the saddle, as is everyone around me, all sprinting to be first into the next one.
“Later in the race and everyone is spread out across the course, I’m on my fourth lap of five and I can see a rider ahead of me, within catching distance. With this in mind, I push all my remaining power through my pedals. Nearing my target, I’m back into a rhythm. However, this was soon to be interrupted, the hurdles are up ahead – 100 metres, 50 metres, 25 metres, 10 metres, I dismount my bike, run a few steps and lift it over the first hurdle. A few more steps and I jump over the second, bike in hand. After a few more running steps, I leap back on to my bike and clip my feet back into the pedals. The chase is on…”
It starts on Sunday at Dunster in Minehead. There will be two rounds this year in the Plymouth area. Newnham Park will stage round four on October 13, with All-Trax hosting that event. Then on January 19, Plymouth Corinthians will host round 10 at the Plymouth Moto X Park in Ernesettle.
More information on the South West Cyclo-Cross League can be found HERE