This weekend, dozens of cyclists will arrive at Aldergrove Regional Park, where they will plunge through mud, over gravel, and across grass in one of the season’s biggest local cyclocross races.
Dan Sivertson will be one of them. The Langley resident has spent his last several autumns competing in the growing cycling discipline.
“For me, it’s new, four years ago,” said Sivertson, a physiotherapist.
Growing up in Victoria, Sivertson was a cross-country track runner and cyclist. He was drawn to cycling after Greg LeMond became the first North American to win the Tour de France in the 1980s, followed by strong performances from some Canadian riders.
In his university days, he competed in Iron Man triathlons in Canada and Australia, combining cycling with swimming and running.
As cycling became more popular and mainstream in North America, Sivertson said many triathletes and runners were drawn to the sport due to its camraderie and social aspects.
But cyclocross, the autumn cousin to road racing, was slower to catch on.
“I’d see races in the parks on weekends,” Sivertson said.
“At first, I was mildly intimidated by it,” Sivertson admitted.
Cyclocross races began as a form of tough winter training for European road racers.
It includes cross-country aspects, climbs up hills, sections on paved roads, and obstacles that force riders to dismount and carry their bikes short distances.
“It’s hard, it’s fast, it’s like a sprint or a time trial with people throwing buckets of mud on you,” said Matt Hornland, one of the organizers of the Vancouver Cyclocross Coalition.
The coalition is the organizer of a series of local races, including one in Aldor Acres and this weekend’s race in Aldergrove Regional Park.
Hornland said the very first cyclocross races in B.C. seem to have taken place in the 1980s or possibly late 1970s. But they were relatively infrequent, and relied on volunteers from local clubs.
The Vancouver Cyclocross Coalition was formed in 2012 to create a reliable racing series around the Lower Mainland.
This year they organized eight races, of which Aldergrove’s will be the seventh.
The sport has become popular partly because it doesn’t take up as much time as a lengthy road race, and partly because the public venues allow friends and family to come and watch, said Hornland.
The crowds will ring cowbells and make some good-natured jokes at riders who fall in the mud. Afterwards, there will often be a Belgian waffle truck parked nearby, said Sivertson.
Sivertson appreciates the quick nature of the events.
“The races are 45 or 50 minutes long,” he said.
His first cyclocross race took place in a Vancouver park and included riding through six inch deep mud and 20 metres along a sandy beach.
“It was exhausting and really fun,” he said.
It’s also a good sport to get into without spending too much, at least for beginners.
“All you need is a mountain bike or a hybrid bike with some knobs on the tires,” Sivertson said.
While he preps for his next race, Sivertson is doing some training around Langley, on the roads and in local parks.
The Aldergrove race sees registration open at 9:30 a.m., with the beginners racing at 10:30 a.m., the elite riders at 11:30 a.m. and the intermediates at 1:15 p.m.