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Guide to racing cyclocross after competing in the SEVEN Gravel Race

Come for the Gravel, stay for the ‘Cross

Did you know Perth is hosting the opening two rounds of the 2023 AusCycling National Cyclocross Series? And what’s better, it’s taking place the weekend after the SEVEN Gravel Race. So why not make the most of the stellar fitness you’ll have after finishing SEVEN and get involved in the biggest ever weekend of cyclocross in Perth!

The National Cyclocross Series (NCXS) will kick off at Garvey Park in Perth for a double-header weekend of racing. Round 1 will take place on Saturday 20 May and Round 2 will take place on Sunday 21 May.

There’s racing for everyone, including Kids, Juniors, Masters and Elite.

Don’t worry if you don’t have a cyclocross-specific bike – there are categories for mountain bikes and gravel bikes too. Read on to find out which category is right for you.

And a cyclocross race isn’t complete without a great race atmosphere, so we’ve got that covered too! We’ll have expert commentary by Jethro Nagle from The Press Room podcast, a licenced bar from the team at Nowhereman Brewing Co and food from our friends at Driftwood Mobile Café and Oishii Modern Japanese Street Food. Invite the family and friends down to get involved in the atmosphere and cheer on the riders as they compete for NCXS medals across two days.

Read more about the AusCycling National Cyclocross Series coming to Perth

What is cyclocross?

If you’re new to cyclocross, let’s get you up to speed. Cyclocross racing is held on short (2.5km – 3.5km) off-road circuits, where competitors complete multiple laps in races that are typically 30 – 60 minutes in length. Course terrain can include grass, dirt, mud, sand, and everything in between. It’s an exciting cycling discipline that tests a rider’s fitness, as well as their technical skill.

Highly skilled riders will be able to ride most features on a circuit, which can include tight turns, steep banks, hurdles, sand, tree roots and other obstacles. In some situations, it may be faster to complete some sections of the course by getting off your bike and running with it. Whatever you elect to do, the aim is to complete the circuit faster that your fellow competitors.

What bike do I need for cyclocross?

Cyclocross is a welcoming and inclusive sport. So while many riders race on dedicated cyclocross bikes, you’ll find plenty of newcomers entering the sport on gravel bikes and mountain bikes.

While cyclocross bikes often look similar to road bikes, they incorporate unique features that stand them apart from their two-wheeled cousins. The most obvious difference between a road bike and a cyclocross bike can be seen in the frame and tyres. Cyclocross frames tend to have greater clearance in areas where the tyres pass through the frame; notably the forks, seatstays and chainstays. This serves two purposes. Firstly it allows for wider tyres to be fitted to be bike (in elite cyclocross racing, maximum permitted tyre width is 33mm. Non-elite categories sometimes allow up to 35mm). Secondly, it means that if course conditions are wet and muddy, the frame is less likely to get clogged with mud as there is plenty of room for the tyres to pass the frame.

Because gravel bikes are often designed to accommodate very wide tyres, they can often be used for cyclocross racing by changing to narrower tyres. And if you don’t want to go down the path of changing tyres on your gravel bike, you can enter the Open cyclocross category (which is a race category specifically for non-cyclocross bikes such as mountain bikes and gravel bikes).

What membership or licence do I need to race in the NCXS in Perth?

If you’re racing in SEVEN, you might already hold an AusCycling All Disciplines or Off-Road racing membership. If you do, you’re all set to race cyclocross!

If you don’t hold one of the AusCycling racing memberships listed above, or you entered SEVEN on a day licence, you’ve got a few options. The first is to purchase an AusCycling membership – which you can do here. The other option is to get an AusCycling 4-week trial membership. On the trial membership you can enter the Open category (but you cannot enter the official NCXS categories).

If you’re an international rider who has come to Western Australia to compete in SEVEN, you can enter the NCXS races if you can demonstrate appropriate insurance by either your national cycling federation, an international racing licence or by purchasing an AusCycling membership.

Which categories can I race in if I have a mountain bike?

Riding a mountain bike is a great way to dip your toe into cyclocross. In the upcoming NCXS races in Perth, you can participate in the Men’s Open or Women’s Open category. The Open category is available for anyone riding a bike that is not permitted to ride in the official NCXS race categories. Both of these races will be 45 minutes in length.

Which categories can I race in if I have a gravel bike?

There are a few options available to you, depending on the setup of your bike.

If your bike has flat handlebars or tyres with a branded width of over 35mm (ie. 700 x 36 or greater), you are only eligible to ride the Men’s Open or Women’s Open categories.

If your bike has drop handlebars of any width and tyres with a branded width of 35mm or less, you’re eligible to compete in the following NCXS age-group races – Junior U13, U15 & U17, Expert (19-29 years) and Masters (30+ years). See this page to calculate your age-group.

It’s worth highlighting that many gravel bikes fitted with tyres wider than 35mm can be fitted with cyclocross tyres (commonly 33mm in width). So, if you’ve got a gravel bike and you’d like to be in the running to pick up medals in AusCycling’s official NCXS races, visit our friends at Wembley Cycles (or your favourite local bike shop) to get some new rubber fitted.

If your bike has drop handlebars 500mm or less in width (measured outside-to-outside at the drops) and tyres with a measured width of 33mm or less (when inflated), you’re eligible to enter any of the races being held in the NCXS that fall within your age-group. This includes Junior U13, U15, U17 & U19, Expert (19-29 years), Masters (30+ years) or Elite (19+ years).


Ready to enter the National Cyclocross Series?

You’ve made a great decision! You can find an overview of the weekend’s racing on the WACX website.

To enter Round 1 (Saturday 20 May) – click here

To enter Round 2 (Sunday 21 May) – click here

Still got questions?

If you’ve got any questions about cyclocross or even just have some feedback for us, we’d love to hear from you. Get in touch with us here and we’ll get back to you.

Article feature image from Mark Uzii.