Twice a week in the fall, Frank Loversky and company supervise about 30 kids who ride through Norwood Local Park, hopping over tree branches and zig-zagging around playing fields.
Loversky and the Rock Creek Velo junior cycling program have embraced cyclocross, a form of bicycle racing that mixes mountain biking and road racing and has gained in popularity among area cycling clubs.
A decade ago, there were fewer than 20 kids racing in the Mid-Atlantic Bicycle Racing Association, or MABRA, the association of 41 D.C., Maryland and Virginia cycling clubs and teams that includes Rock Creek Velo. Now there are hundreds, Loversky said, and much of it is due to the introduction of a cyclocross season.
Cyclocross has its origins in Europe. The main origion story is that road racers in the early 1900′s would race each other to the next town over. The difference was they were allowed to take a more direct route — through farmer’s fields, over fences or up and down hills.
The races mix trails, grass fields, hills and obstacles that require riders to get off their bike and lift it up before getting back on as if they were hurdling.
Norwood Local Park provides a good setting. On Tuesday, kids age 9 through 17 of all different experience levels rode around the lower field. Many race during Rock Creek Velo’s road season and do indoor exercises during the winter.
Cyclocross has quickly become one of the favorite annual activities — it gets kids outdoors and provides some variety.
The most experienced riders do races around the region. Each Tuesday and Thursday, the team is at the park, working on skills and doing endurance training.
It’s very much a team and one that many of the older riders take as seriously as one might take to football, basketball or baseball.
“People aren’t getting locked into the traditional sports,” Loversky said. “There are people spreading out and participating more. You go to these races, and there’s the 55-plus, the 65-plus categories, it’s something you can do your whole life. Most people aren’t going to play football, strap on pads at 55. That’s the whole notion of how it should be.”