By Neil Sandler
Want to know why cyclocross is the fastest growing aspect of bike racing in the country, including here in the mid-Atlantic?
Consider the following:
• Most of the event directors of the nearly 40 cyclocross races in the mid-Atlantic try to get a beer distributor as one of their sponsors (i.e. Beer tents!)
• The directors try and host the races at family friendly locations that might include a children’s playground. There is also normally a very short and fun to watch kids ‘cross race, which results in priceless photos for the proud parents.
• Most races last significantly less than one hour (so you can still make it to Costco for your weekly grocery shopping).
Hum? Beer for spectators and those who finish their events, playgrounds for bored kids to play in while mom and dad race, and completion of most races in less that an hour so everyone can get back to the rigors of our hectic every days lives. Sounds like a sporting event ideally suited for today’s busy cycling aficionado.
Cyclocross is both more laid back and yet because of the short time frame more intense than any other form of racing.
‘Cross permits the use of bikes of pretty much any type - road bikes with larger tires, mountain bikes (without bar ends), or even hybrids or comfort bikes. And, when the going gets rough and you cannot continue to push your pedals, you can grab your bike, swing it over your shoulder and run with it, through mud, bogs, over logs, fences, whatever the race director feels like throwing at you.
Mike Birner, 42, of Woodbine, Md., got seriously into ‘cross four years ago when he “sort of burned out” of all the other bike racing he’d been doing since the late 1980s.
“I think I’ve pretty much done it all: road, tandem, track, mountain bike, cross,” he told SPOKES.
Birner and his wife Natalie, a recreational cyclist, have a six-year-old son, Aaron, who has also been “doing ‘cross” since he was two. Originally from Severna Park, Md., Birner headed west for college, graduating from the University of Colorado school of architecture in 1994. Today, he works as an architect doing primarily residential work.
Birner’s other passion is coaching and he heads up the Sportif Coaching Group (www.sportifcoaching.com) as well as the Western Howard County Cycling team, which is supported in part by Patapsco Bike & Sport (www.patapscobikeandsport.com) and NutraSport.
Even though Birner admits attending college in Boulder, Colorado was cyclist’s heaven he looked forward to returning east. “It’s a little greener here and it’s a little too laid back there for me,” he confessed.
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