We interview one of the masterminds of Australia’s newest cyclocross series, the Dirty Rat CX.
The sport of cyclocross has been going from strength to strength in Australia in the last couple of years, and the newest addition to the calendar is Dirty Rat CX, organised by the Ballarat-Sebastopol Cycling Club.
With the second race of their five-race series coming up this Saturday, Tom McQuillan sat down for a chat with Paul Crack, the Race Director of the Dirty Rat series.
Words - Tom McQuillan
Tom McQuillan: For those who aren’t aware, what is Dirty Rat CX?
Paul Crack: The Dirty Rat series is a five-race series of cyclocross races in and around Ballarat. A group of us were trying to come up with a name and someone noted that Ballarat is often nicknamed ‘The Rat’, and because CX is dirty, Dirty Rat was the obvious choice. The first round wasn’t dirty at all – it was very dusty – but there’s a bit of water this time, so that should make this week pretty interesting.
TM: You’re part of the Ballarat-Sebastopol Cycling Club’s organising committee for the Dirty Rat race series. What made you decide to organise a cyclocross series?
PC: I’m involved with the track cycling side of the club, and we organise track events throughout the summer. We have an outdoor velodrome, so obviously once winter sets in track takes a back seat. We were looking at options to keep our club members involved in the club and to bring riders from outside the region to Ballarat. Cyclocross seems to be really popular at the minute, so we thought we’d have a crack at that.
TM: You guys had your first race in Ballarat last month. What sort of effort did it take to organise that?
PC: Last month’s race was the club’s first ever go at planning a CX course, so it took a fair bit of work. I was there [Ballarat’s North Gardens] with another fellow on the Friday before until about 8 o’clock at night trying to work out where the course was going to go in the pitch black, then there in the dark the next morning putting out about 4 kilometres of tape and posts, and after the race we were there until dark again trying to pull it all down. Once the race was underway it was quite simple and easy to run, but there was a lot of work before and after the race, it was a big group effort.
TM: So how many people did it take to pull it all together?
PC: I think we had six people all up – putting in posts, running out tape, adding obstacles, setting up registrations and timing and that sort of stuff. Between the six of us we worked it out and just got it all organized before the first race started.
TM: What did you learn from that experience organizing a CX race? How did it differ from other events you’ve run in the past?
PC: The logistics behind it up were the main thing. If it were a road race or a track race, there’s very little prep work involved because it’s on a closed track or an open road – we only need to set up the lap counters and timers and sort out registration. There was a lot more work involved in planning the course for CX. I spent a bit of time looking on Google Maps to try and work out where features would go to create a course that was hard without being impossible, and safe to boot.
Once the race is underway it’s probably easier than organising a track race because the races are longer than track events.
TM: What was the feedback like?
PC: The feedback I’ve received so far is that everyone had a great time, and nearly everyone said they’d be back, which reflects well on the course and the organidation.
TM: The next race of the Dirty Rat CX series is coming up this Saturday May 14th. Where is it and how can you enter?
The next round will be this weekend in Creswick, a historic little town in the Goldfields about 15km from Ballarat - lots of cafés and bakeries. We’ll be set up on the old footy oval, so we’ll have access to the changerooms and the canteen as well as the oval itself.
People can enter by going to the EntryZone website and filling out their details. You can buy entry to this weekend’s race for $25, or all four remaining rounds of the Dirty Rat series for $80. If you don’t hold a Cycling Australia or Mountain Bike Australia licence, you can also buy a one-day MTBA licence using the same entry form.
TM: And you don’t need a cyclocross bike to enter, right?
PC: Absolutely. We’ve got an open category early in the day, so if people want to have a try and see what CX is all about, they can try on their mountain bike and see if they like it without needing to shell out for a CX bike.
TM: Can you give us a sneak preview of what we can expect from the course?
PC: We’ve just got word today that we’ll be allowed to use the beer garden of the American Hotel in Creswick as part of the course - they’ll be serving frites and Belgian beer throughout the day. We’ve also got a creek crossing that should have some water flowing thanks to the recent rains. It should be okay early in the day, but by the end it could be a bit of a quagmire. We’ve also got a couple of short, sharp pinches uphill where people might have to dismount and run if it gets too muddy - pretty different to our first race, which was completely flat. There’ll also be a portion on the footy oval which will be pretty hard and fast, so we’ll put some hurdles in there.
TM: Lastly, what would you say to anyone who’s considering trying cyclocross?
PC: Come along, bring your mountain bike, have fun, get muddy, then stick around for a beer and some fries afterwards. Cyclocross has a real community feel, so it’s definitely worth sticking around for.
Want to give it a try? You can enter this weekend’s edition of Dirty Rat CX here.
And you can find out more about Ballarat-Sebastopol Cycling Club’s events here.