Thomas Doohan / Lantern reporter
Bicyclists racing in the mud and weaving between flags is just an average Tuesday night for some Ohio State cyclists.
In a water drainage ditch on Fred Taylor Drive by Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium, DitchCross enthusiasts practice and perfect their form.
Cap City Cycling, an area bicycling club, maintains the group they call DitchCross, which meets on OSU’s campus Tuesdays at 6 p.m. to provide Columbus cyclists with an opportunity to practice cyclocross.
Cyclocross is a hybrid between mountain biking and road biking. Riders use a bike equipped with a road bike frame and thicker mountain bike tires. Riders race on a closed course that includes steep hills, switch backs and barriers.
“It is really demanding, very high intensity, kind of go as hard as you can right from the get go and just suffer,” said cyclist Peter Dy. “They call it one hour of suffering.”
Christopher Metzler, a founding member of Cap City Cycling, explained that the Tuesday night practices are meant to help people ease into the intense sport.
“It is low key, it is fun and we teach people,” Metzler said. “We do not just throw them in and say, ‘OK, go.’ We are here to teach them and acclimate them, and then … we race.”
The group, comprised of cyclocross teams and independent riders alike, spends practice time working on their turns and even doing a few mock races on the course.
The course the riders follow is outlined by small red and yellow flags. Red signifies the right boundary and yellow the left. Up and down hills, slaloming, or moving, right and left, the course is one way the riders improve their skills, though there are other ways to practice.
“At the earlier practices in the season we did … one or even two hours of skills practice to familiarize people with the skills of cyclocross,” Metzler said.
The kind of turning the riders do, as well as how the riders must complete obstacles, demands a different skill set from traditional cycling.
Many of the courses are designed so that riders have to dismount their bikes and run over obstacles, Metzler said.
“Barriers are one of the most memorable aspect(s) of cyclocross because they are man-made features designed to get you off your bike,” Metzler said.