It’s as easy as falling off your…

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On Sunday, September 16th, 2012, I drove up (and over) to Borden, Indiana to attempt to capture a Cincinnati roadie and cyclocross rider for footage for one of my ongoing video projects. Despite being a longtime roadie and race fan, I was unfamiliar with cyclocross culture outside of what I’d read in the cycling press over the years.

For me, ‘cross was always a European sport. I read of it’s burgeoning growth here in the ‘States, but had never attended a race.

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To say I was surprised at the turnout would be an understatement. It wasn’t just that there was a goodly number of fans, but…the riders! There were tons! Since moving to Cincinnati 2 years ago this December, I’ve been super-pleased with the number and quality of road riders, and had heard many of them talking about the upcoming ‘cross season with a certain hazy gleam in their eye.

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If you’re familiar with diehard roadies, you know that they’re just this side of crazy: the money they spend to lighten their bikes a few grams, or the latest gear just because of the caché. But committed ‘cross riders are all about digging deep into that suitcase of pain and making sure that when they close it, it bulges.

They’re nuts.

In an endearing way, of course.

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Cyclocross is, for many roadies, their last hurrah before they hang up their road cleats for the season, and commit themselves to another kind of pain: winter training. Winter training for the spring season usually involves the mind-numbing drudgery of riding in the garage or basement on a set of rollers or a wind or mag trainer, ear buds firmly inserted and fast-paced music blaring. Weight training, soak-sessions dipped in multiple sets of intervals — it’s psychologically brutal. And what could be better as a prelude to this forced, disciplinary solitude then riding your road bike’s closest cousin: a bike that uses center-pull brakes for mud clearance and slightly wider and knobbier tires — around single track, up and over hills with no pavement, through thick mud, over gravel, and barriers that only the bravest dare to hop without first dismounting.

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With speakers blaring a mix of house, metal, alt, and hip-hop, these riders of every class rip away at the start horn, churning up a cloud of taupe dust to rival a horse race. Kids are ringing cow bells at each lap, and hecklers toss playful insults and smack-talk through amplifiers as the riders suffer through the obstacles.

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It’s a carnival atmosphere, that’s part marathon, part steeplechase, and part whatever that Japanese show is where people are slipping and sliding all over painfully brutal obstacle courses for the 5th grade giggles that you and I offer up at their misfortune.

You should go see one.

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