ABOVE the pool of filth, but still within the shadow of the ditch, my bike skidded sideways in muck. “Heads up!” yelled a fellow racer, elbow out, body a blur.
It was lap No. 5 at Grumpy’s CX, a cyclocross bike race in Blaine, Minn., and I was fighting for position in a deep gulch of mud.
“On your left!” a rider yelled, tires squishing through the ooze.
The race had kicked off 20 minutes before, a crush of cyclists squeezing through a start gate to the two-kilometer course beyond. What would come included a gravel track, pavement, grass, switchback climbs and multiple knee-high barriers that forced riders to dismount, shoulder their rigs and hurdle on foot before hopping back on their bikes to race away.
Cyclocross, a growing off-road discipline, appears at first to be an amalgam of BMX bike racing and road riding. The sport’s short, looped courses include obstacles, ramps, bumps, sand pits, sharp turns and lots of the aforementioned mud — all navigated on a road-bike-like cycle that has drop-bar handles, skinny tires and no suspension.