I can still remember my first mountain bike ride here on Vancouver Island, a girlfriend of mine took me and another friend on some trails in Cumberland. I remember them being really hard and bumpy, the bike I was using was way too small for me with no suspension at all, and the bike seat was loose so it didn’t stay in the right position, but I loved it!! Pretty soon I was looking into getting a better bike that fit me and had suspension. After that first ride I was hooked.
Then two years ago, another girlfriend told me she was going to do a cross-country bike race in Victoria. I asked if I could join her and try it out. Soon I found myself looking online at the Vancouver Island Cup Race calendar to see what race I could do next. It was so fun, I had no idea there was such a big bike community on Vancouver Island. I dove right into bike racing that year: I tried cross-country races, Enduro races, and Vancouver Island’s only downhill race. It was a really good challenge and I wanted to get better at my biking skills.
I had another older mountain bike with slicks which I used as my ‘getting around town’ bike, but sometimes I would take it on road rides. It wasn’t a super-fast light bike so later that summer I started looking at getting a bike that I could ride on easy trails, but also take on road rides. I was told I should look at cyclocross bikes. Cyclocross! What the heck is that?! Well, I soon found out.
As I walked out of the bike shop with my new awesome bike, the shop owner Jeff says to me, “Well I guess you have to do the cross races now.”
“Sure!” I say. I had no idea what was in store for me.
The first race was a non-serious race in Cumberland, BC and I didn’t know what was involved. The course started on the street and we biked up the road, through a little green space, back down the road, onto an alley—which had gravel on it—into a little park where there were barriers, back onto the road, and then up the hill behind the Waverley Hotel. We then biked in the back door of the hotel’s pub, past the bar, and out the front door to start the lap all over again. Too fun!
For my first cyclocross race, a friend of mine was racing and she wanted us to race the same category and somehow she convinced me to race the Expert Category with her. I got lapped and pulled out after lap 3. I loved it, though. There was even a local guy wearing hockey gear and actually jumping the little berm in the park! This breed of bike racers was something else and I totally wanted to be a part of it.
The next day, the first real race of the Cross on the Rock series began in Cumberland by the lake. I hadn’t planned on racing because I didn’t think I had time to race and get ready for work. But I made it happen and signed up to race in the Intermediate Women category.
The courses are not easy. Usually, there is a straight stretch at the beginning to spread people out a bit before the course gets tight, and they have the course marked out with ribbon. There is an uphill pedal and a downhill pedal. We bike on concrete, gravel, dirt trail, mud, and sand. The course forces you to get off your bike for things like stairs, logs, too much mud, or a massive puddle that grows as more people go through it. They also put up barriers and some amazing riders can actually bunny hop them.
Intermediate races are about 40 minutes long. The race starts and once the fastest woman is finished the first lap, they quickly calculate how many laps she can do in 45 minutes and that’s how many laps we will race. Every time you go by the finish you can look at a lap board to see how many laps you have left. I can’t remember how I did on that first race, but I was hooked!
I had a lot to learn about this crazy bike race. Plus, I was new to clipless pedals and skinny tires and I had to learn how to handle my new bike. In cross racing, all bike skills come into play. There are so many skills to learn and improve your riding – like getting on and off your bike fast. Last year, I finally learned to leap back on my bike. I was so stoked on that. I love it when I see my riding improving.
The Cross on the Rock series is such a great community of people. Anyone can race, there is a race for everyone, even the little kids. If you don’t own a cross bike, that’s okay, the events are open to you using any bike. I was so hooked that I even went to the Lower Mainland for a couple of races and even raced in the BC Provincials last year. I know that sounds pro, but I’m not. Anyone can race Provincials but the rules are a bit more strict: you must use a cross bike and there is a limit to how wide your tires can be.
I guess the reason I love cross racing so much is because it’s a physical and mental challenge. I love how it has all sorts of terrain, and it’s not just mountain biking. I want to be friends with these people: the bike community and all the crazy cross racers. I love it!
Oh, and it’s a great sport to watch! Since it’s a loop, spectators can walk around and watch all parts of the race so you are always getting cheered on. Cowbells and heckling are encouraged, as well as setting up a hand-out station of bacon, donuts, or a shot of some courage inspiring beverage.
It’s great fun, and I can’t wait until cyclocross season begins!