Two new events have been added to the CX sportive series calendar as cyclocross season gets underway, and more and more new events are announced.
The CX sportive series is expanding its number of events to feature two new rides this season. One took place in the Cotswolds on October 12, and the other is set to roll out in April 2015 in an as-yet-unrevealed location in the south of England. These rides will take pride of place alongside series-regular events on Salisbury Plain, the South Downs and the Chilterns.
Another event worth keeping an eye out for is the Welsh Cross Mountain cyclocross and mountain bike event readying itself for a November 9 roll-out.
CX sportives – that’s cyclocross sportives – have been around for a few years now, and seem to be growing in popularity, if the two new events added to this coming winter's CX sportive series, and the growing number of new rides announced, are anything to go by.
The whole CX series is promoted by the Cycle Events Organisation, the same people behind the Southern Sportive road rides and Trail Break mountain bike events, and they define CX sportives as “mixed-surface events that combine the thrills of on and off-road riding into one awesome experience”. For you and me that means riding your ‘cross bike in a sportive with all the usual accoutrements – signage, timing, feed stations – but instead of sticking to roads the route also takes in country lanes, woodland trails, drove-roads and byways, with a few stretches of technical singletrack thrown in for good measure.
The increased interest in CX sportives is partly thanks to the growing preference among cyclists to use ‘cross bikes for commuting, touring and general winter riding, as well as – wait for it – cyclocross. And that new-fangled trend of gravel racing from across the pond may have something to do with it as well. But mainly it’s because CX sportives are just good old fashioned fun: they're a great excuse to ride around for a few hours in the fellowship of other like-minded fools, get a bit muddy, enjoy a good workout or just a scenic pootle, and still be finished by lunchtime.
In previous years we’ve ridden the long-standing Salisbury, Chilterns and South Downs CX sportives, and this year rode the inaugural Cotswold event, based out of Hillersley near Wooton-under-Edge. The route was a relatively short 50km (on other CX sportives the longest option is around 80km) but technical in places, and very hilly with the route going up – and down – the Cotswold Edge on several occasions, with smaller undulations pretty much non-stop the rest of the time.
You don’t have to do CX sportives on a ‘cross bike, of course. Most events see a big contingent of mountain bikes of both the hardtail and full-suss variety, plus 29ers and even a few fat-bikes. Meanwhile, at the other end of the scale, some people ride on hybrids or just old winter road bikes with the mudguards removed to give some mud-clearance.
There’s some debate over which type of bike is best but, if our experience is anything to go by, it has to be 'cross bikes. What they may lose on the very muddy sections, they more than make up on the lanes and dirt tracks.
The Cross Mountain event is a good example of the huge scope for objective bike choice that goes into these type of events. The Welsh event, which is titled Cross Mountain because it's marketed equally at mountain bikers and cross riders, offers two rides to entrants - a 35km short route, and a tougher 55km number. Both routes can be looked at in more detail here.
Choice of bike is just-as open in the CX sportive series rides, as is the choice of distance; if the full monty isn't for you, there are short and medium options.
Another great thing about CX sportives is that, although their popularity is growing, they’re not so popular that you can’t get in. Not yet anyway. In contrast, the venerable Hell of the North Cotswolds usually sells out very quickly, often reaching its 1200-rider limit in a matter of hours.
Currently, there’s availability on all remaining events in the 2014/15 CX Sportive series, as well as the Cross Mountain ride taking place on the same day as the Salisbury Saxon CX:
9 Nov 2014 – Salisbury Saxon CX - www.cxsportive.com/events/salisbury-saxon-cx
9 Nov 2014 - Cross Mountain - www.crossmountain.co.uk/info/
25 Jan 2015 – Chilterns Wildwood CX - www.cxsportive.com/events/woodcote-wildwood-cx
8 March 2015 – South Downs Sting CX - www.cxsportive.com/events/south-downs-sting-cx
12 April 2015 – New Event – location to be confirmed
For general information see www.cxsportive.com