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Traffic jam on top of Heckle Hill. (PHOTO: Palamino American Cyclocross)

8 reasons to check out a cyclocross race

Cyclocross leads bike racers around short laps over mixed terrain – pavement, grass, mud, and snow – and throw in extra challenges like off-camber turns, barriers, and steep hills. Each course is designed differently to challenge all kinds of participants.

It's also very accessible. Races are geared towards all age-groups and are part serious competition, part rolling party. Some competitors aim toward the podium while other less-serious riders are on the lookout for the next beer hand-up. The effort is short, but intense, with most races lasting between a mere 30 and 45 minutes.

The 2016 cross season is well under way, but there is still time to spectate, cheer, heckle, and race before the season ends. Here are eight good reasons to get there now. Need one for this weekend? OnMilwaukee is a proud sponsor of Saturday's (Nov. 5) Estabrook Park Beer Garden Classic.

There is a race for everyone

(PHOTO LEFT, RIGHT: Palomino American Cyclocross)

Competition is separated into tons of categories to make sure you're not chewed up and spit out the back (unless you want to be). Races are separated by gender, age group (from junior all the way up to 65+), skill, and number of gears. And you don't need a fancy bike, just "run what you brung."

There's plenty of time to figure out the rest … next time.

It's an intense workout over a very short period of time

(PHOTO:Palomino American Cyclocross)

Races are only a half-hour long, but the amount of energy you burn in that brief moment is incredible. It helps build strength, endurance, balance, willpower, and tactics.

The heckle hills

(PHOTO: Kelly Lambeth)

Spectators can get right up close to the action to ring their cowbells and offer cheers to their friends and favorites and heckles to the rest. Heckling is at its peak when it's meant in good spirits. The goal is to let your cheers stand out — not be personally insulting. Sometimes cheers blend together, but a good heckle will be memorable, tells the rider you are paying attention, will take the edge off a race, and remind competitors that this is supposed to be fun.

Unsanctioned hand-ups

(PHOTO LEFT, RIGHT: Palomino American Cyclocross)

Providing bottles and food or other "performance enhancing" support is forbidden during a race and serious competitors will likely pass on your offer, but if you hold out a cup, those who have deemed their race to be a lost cause may take the beer or whiskey from your hands as they ride by.

Some riders might also tempted by dollar bill planted on the course, or fishing lines with gummy worms at the end.

Free beer and brats

(PHOTO: OnMilwaukee)

Free coffee is a common feature at races, but the Estabrook Park Beer Garden Cyclocross Classic on November 5 will have a free mug of beer and brat for every participating rider. That's a participation ribbon almost anybody can get behind.

Feats of strength

(PHOTO LEFT, RIGHT: Palomino American Cyclocross)

Steep hills, sand pits, barriers, and off-camber mud-slides are spread out around the course and provide unique challenges to every rider. Depending on skills, strength, speed and grace, it's always a treat to watch how each rider solves each problem. Hint: These spots are prime for good heckling.

(PHOTO:Palomino American Cyclocross)

Spend time outdoors

(PHOTO LEFT, RIGHT: Jason McDowell)

To avoid early-onset cabin fever it's important to find good reasons to get outside. Cyclocross season rolls on even as the seasons evolve and the temperature drops. Competition happens rain, shine, or snow and everything in between. Each unique weather feature also changes the way competitors break in and wear out the course. Challenges evolve over the course of each lap and each race.

Crashes you can enjoy

(VIDEO: Palomino American Cyclocross)

You can usually enjoy the crashes without guilt. They rarely involve serious injury because they tend to happen in the slower and softer spots on the course. At worst, most crashes in cyclocross require a saddle or handlebar re-adjustment, but most can be shrugged off instead of hobbling out.


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