Many of us who have taken to the sport of bike racing, be it in the discipline of road, track or any of the various mountain bike variations now available will likely always remember their first ever race. For most of us; from Julien Absalon to your regular club B grade racer this was likely a local club race. Run by volunteers who often have nothing driving them but a sheer love of our sport and the community that it engenders, the humble club race plays a crucial role in the development of many of the protagonists of the cycling world. Cadel Evans began at a BMX race in Katherine in the Northern Territory. Robbie McEwen likewise began at a local BMX race in Queensland. It is at these stepping stones to success that the virtues that generally lend themselves to success in cycling are recognised, rewarded and encouraged.
Mateship: At club racing, your competitors are generally friendly folk who are willing to get to know you and say G’day before a race. Without the pressure/nerves usually associated with higher profile races you will find across all grades your competitors will generally be there to have a good time. Also the volunteers who run the races will usually be open to getting to know new people keen on getting into the sport. These people; the club officials and your fellow competitors will often be the people who can make or break a young shredders career in the sport. Also, it is a great opportunity to make lifelong mate’s who share a similar passion.
Honesty: One of the most beautiful things about MTB racing I believe is the ‘no BS’ nature of our sport.. If you are the strongest, fittest and most skilled bike rider on the start line- you WILL win the race (barring mechanical issues). There is not much room for tactics or skullduggery in XCO racing, you have to be an authentic ‘hard arse’ to do well.
Drive/Dealing with pain: Common across all disciplines of cycling and a polite introduction to the difficulty of our sport is usually encountered at a club XCO event. You WILL feel pain at these races if you want to do well. Quickly you will learn the more pain I can handle the better result I accomplish in the race. A trait/virtue that can traverse and lead to success in all aspects of a person’s life and is vitally important to anyone who want’s a long career in cycling. The club XCO race will likely not be overly enjoyable during the actual race… But the happiness that can be achieved when high fiveing your mates or competitors after the finish line can only be felt if you have endured some form of pain during the race.
The humble XCO race is where our sport began and is the only MTB discipline recognised by the International Olympic Committee. For many of our top XCM athletes an XCO race offers an opportunity to hone some super high intensity training and skills drilling. Many of Australia’s top XCM athletes you would have recently seen on the start line at our national XCO championship. Subaru-MarathonMTB.com team member even finished in 7th place here! An XCO race is an opportunity for any cycling athlete to drill not only their intensity but serves as a reminder of what our sport is all about.
My history of XCO club racing
My time racing a bike began 16 years ago at a club XCO race in Yarramundi, Western Sydney. Over the weekend I re-visited my roots at a club XCO race here again. I was stoked to see such big numbers across the senior grades and a large, well drilled junior race series occurring simultaneously. All run by the good people volunteering for the Western Sydney MTB club. These races are most people’s introduction to the sport and provide the most crucial stepping stone to someone who may have a dream or goal of having a future in our sport. So don’t forget the amazing things your club is always doing often without thanks or with very little recognition. These MTB clubs and the club XCO races they run are the backbone and beating heart of our sport. Get to know them, say thanks and even lend a hand. You will be contributing to the growth of our sport and strengthening a crucial rung in the ladder to the dreams of our younger athletes.