The sportive scene has grown massively in recent years, while cyclo-cross is also currently enjoying a resurgence. So it was only a matter of time before the two were mixed to form cyclo-cross (or CX) sportives.
The Saxon CX Sportive promised 60 per cent on tarmac roads and the rest on unsurfaced byways, plus some technical singletrack thrown in for good measure. So there was an impressive selection of machines lined up at the start: from specialist cross bikes to full-suss mtbs, along with hardtails, hybrids, winter hacks and basic commuters.
Within the first mile we were in at the deep end, struggling along a muddy track with big potholes full of water. The recent rain had made the chalky landscape a slippery morass, so fat knobblies were a definite advantage. Round one to the mountain bikers. Further into the ride, we were onto country lanes, where narrow tyres were more suitable. Round two to the cross-riders. Then as soon as we went onto thick mud or wet grass, the mountain bikes were pulling ahead again.
So, which bike is best for a CX sportive? It depends on the route and the weather. But while there’s always going to be rivalry between the two disciplines, everyone was enjoying the novelty of the mixed route, and the atmosphere was jovial throughout. At the finish, organiser Martin Harrison told us: “With a CX sportive, we’re offering something different. Some people ask us who it’s for, and we sum it up as ‘All bikes, all riders, all terrain’. Once people get that idea, they love it.” We reckon he’s right. If you’re looking for a new diversion this winter, you might want to try a CX sportive. Kit takes a hammering though, so don’t do it on your best road bike!
Total ascent: 44km – 634m | 65km – 946m | 78km – 1,171m
Terrain: rolling downland, lots of small hills, but no major climbs
Participants: 191 (Male = 171 | Female = 20)
Best: the novelty of a mixed terrain sportive
Worse: tar sections (for mtbs), thick mud (for road bikes)
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For more CX sportives in 2012, try Woodcote (Chilterns) January 29th, Duncton (South Downs) March 10, and The Joker (Salisbury) April 1. www.cxsportive.com