Cyclocross (CX) races are one of the most spectator friendly cycling events. Typically held in the fall after road racing ends, they are an interesting and accessible sport to watch. If you are attending a CX race for the first time, here are some tips for watching the event:
Expect mud: Since CX events are held in the fall and in parks, there is lots of grass, dirt trails and mud. Be prepared to walk through some mud.
Hand-ups: These are an expression describing handing food or money to racers during the race. For USAC (USAcycling.com) sanctioned events, hand-ups may be limited to a designated area; ask the promoter or registration desk if hand-ups are allowed anywhere on the course or only in a designated feed zone. When hand-ups are limited to a feeding zone, the promoter may post a “feed zone” sign.
Hand-ups can be done in the form of food or dollar bills. Promoters will sometimes insert dollar bills on the course or they can be held out randomly for racers to grab. Popular food hand-ups include beer (where permitted) and food items like bacon or even donuts. The goal is for the racer to maintain speed while grabbing the hand-up. This makes for exciting interaction between the spectators and the competitors.
Cow bells: Noise makers are encouraged at cyclocross races! Horns are preferred, since the start/finish area will rely on a regular bell to signify the last lap of the race. Ringing a cow bell as racers pass by is a way to encourage the competitors, since the mud and challenge of the course can be discouraging. When using cow bells or anything else for ringing, the promoter may recommend moving away from the start/finish area so the riders do not confuse the sound with the official bell for the last lap.
Walk the course: Cyclocross courses are a mixture of slow speed sections with turns and obstacles, with a few longer length sections designed for speed and passing. Rather than standing in one place and watching the race go past, cyclo-cross courses are meant to be explored by the spectators. Just remember to avoid crossing the course. While the average speed of most races is under 12mph, there can be fast riders that appear quickly. Remember, a rider going 25mph is moving 50 feet per second; this is not a lot of time to react and get out of the way, so avoid crossing the course for safety.
Dogs on leashes: While CX courses are outdoors and would seem like a nice place for a dog, they can be hazardous and stressful to both dogs and competitors. It is absolutely required that all dogs remain on a leash at all times throughout a CX event. Loose dogs or long leashes can easily end up tangling with a rider yielding disaster.
Kids on bikes: Cyclocross is a great event for children, since there is no risk of car traffic, and the grass ensures a soft landing for any falls. Most cyclocross events make time for a short kids race in between the adult races; where even children with training wheels can participate. Check with the promoter or the registration desk and inform them that you are interested in a kids race. Many promoters will offer an impromptu kids race, giving them a chance to experience a mass start. The only requirement for kids racing is an approved cycling helmet; no special clothing or other protection is necessary.
Race results: For races that are managed with CrossMgr software, race results may be available real-time during the race and visible on any web enabled smart phone when a cellular or wi-fi Internet connection is available. Simply point your phone web browser to the www.Results.WNYcx.com web page folder and select the event. As competitors pass the start/finish line, their bib number gets entered into CrossMgr software and then immediately uploaded to a web page. CrossMgr will show a GPS accurate course map with an estimated location of each racer on the map, based on their average lap speed. Results and standings are re-calculated in real-time as the racers pass the start/finish, so you can keep track of the leader and other competitors.