Penny Hosken is one of those naturally gifted athletes that the rest of us envy. Penny has conquered triathlon, mountain biking, adventure racing and has recently turned her hand to Cyclocross.
We caught up with her for a chat to find out how she got involved with this emerging form of cycling.
What's your sporting background and how did you get into Cyclocross?
When I was younger I started out kayaking, and did a bit of swimming. At about 17 I got into triathlons, which was just a bit of fun to begin with. In the final year of uni I got a coach and started training seriously, which paid off, winning the 2012/2013 Gatorade Women's Elite series.
After competing in triathlons for a number of years I needed a change as I wasn't improving and getting a bit stale. I was looking for something different that had a bit of adventure mixed in so I started mountain biking. Combining my triathlon background and MTB'ing I did a few Anaconda and Xterra races, did pretty well and went to the World Champs. MTB opened up a lot of doors and one happy little by-product was Cx racing.
How long have you been racing Cyclocross?
I started last year. I was focusing on Xterra racing, but needed to do more off road racing practice, the only problem is for MTB, that means 3-6 hour races, which was just too long. I was keen to do something shorter and more intense, and Cx was perfect for that.
So I bought my first Cx bike as a commuter and went from there.
Give us a run down of your Cx bike
I have a Specialized Crux. It has wider forks for greater clearance, bigger tyres, disc brakes and deeper wheels. I have a traditional drive train on mine but I have been fortunate enough to get my hands on a pretty swish new Crux with the 1* drive train and I love it.
What do people need to get into Cyclocross?
I ride with MTB shoes and cleats. They work really well as you have to clip in and out frequently, you also need to be able to run in your bike shoes. I just have them on a looser setting to make the whole process easier.
Obviously having a bike specific to Cx racing helps as well.
How does it differ from road riding?
Cx is far more technical than road riding. There is a lot of twisting and turning so your bike handling skills need to be good. After a few races though your handling, cornering and overall feel for the bike will be much greater.
The fitness required is also very different. Races are pretty short, for me it's a 45 minute race that is FULL GAS! Given the tight and technical courses, it requires a lot of strength because you have to kick out of corners, and get over sharp hills. It's impossible to find a rhythm or tempo, so it requires more power and strength. It also blows your lungs through the roof!
What is great about Cyclocross?
It is heaps of fun and easy to get into. There's a great atmosphere with lots of banter. Everyone is super inclusive whether its people winning or first timers. Its a great activity for families; they have family days and kids events.
At my local Fields of Joy race there is also a women's training day on the Saturday before the Sunday race.
It's also a great way to kept riding through winter. The season starts in May and runs through until September, and because most of the races are in fields or parks, there's no danger from cars, or difficulties with road closures.
Another big plus is using your Cx bike allows you to do all the awesome gravel roads out the back of Christmas Hills / Kinglake.
Whereabouts can you ride specifically for Cx?
I ride a bit on the Yarra Trails, they are great for training. There are some great tracks around Bright. There's also a few groups rides during the week that people can get involved with.
Final word of advice?
Find your local event and have a go. It's so much fun, you'll love it.
Thanks Peter Hepworth of Topgear Cycles for the great action shots.