Hi, @xcxc. I don’t think it’s taboo on here. Singletracks is one of the best online cycling community I ever seen and many guys riding gravel/cx bikes when trails are wet.
I’m not a big racer but from my personal experience will advise you to pace yourself, don’t push too hard at the very beginning. Also, properly hydrate yourself and eat, before and during race. Be ready for flat tires and other mechanical issues.
Number 1 tip is to cross the finish line first. Do that, and you’ll be OK.
Like in mountain biking, brake on the straights rather than in the turns. Go clipless instead of flats, and practice clipping in/out as quick as you can. Most all cross races have plenty of mud, maybe some sand, and you’ll need to get off your bike and run like hell sometimes. So practice a smooth clip out, carrying your bike, and a smooth clip in. Practice pouring on speed as fast as you can. Drink 3 beers after each race. 4 is better, but at least 3.
Cross is Boss. Tons of fun, and it’s great if your local cycling club puts it on with different disciplines. Mine back where I used to live had one for fat bikes, one for competitive cross bikes, and even one for rec mtb bikes. It really let everyone give it a try. As long as you have two wheels and pedals, you could race!
As for tips, it’s not much different than mountain biking other than the skinny tires. So brake before a corner, and don’t lean as much. I also find that running is sometimes way faster than riding, especially those muddy climbs.
As far as tips, it depends on what your goals are. If you just want to have fun, do that. If you want to take it a bit more seriously, you’ll need to train. Cross is a much different discipline than XC or endurance racing. Stumpy said to pace yourself, but that’s not a thing in CX. The whole point of CX is to go ape shit from the beginning. And keep going ape shit for the duration of the race. If you’re “doing it right” it’s going to hurt like a mother.
Take some skills clinics. Here in Atlanta, there are regular CX practices at parks around the city. See if there’s something similar near you.
My advice for race day is to warm up thoroughly. I don’t mean just spinning around for 5 minutes before your race. Your motor needs to be hot and ready. The races are too short to find your pace. You’ve got to show up HOT!
I used to race a lot of cross but I don’t do much anymore. Most of the year I ride and race endurance stuff on my mountain bike which is a totally different skill set and mindset. It’s hard to transition to such a short and intense racing format. I’m too competitive to be happy being mid-pack fodder, so now I just go and yell at my friends that do race.
In my home town we have a few very generous fast guys who come out about 6 weeks before the season starts and do a weekly clinic. I’m learning things I didn’t even know I needed to know. I highly recommend finding something similar if you can.
As far as the race goes? Get warmed up, like breathing hard and starting to sweat warmed up. As soon as the race starts you hit redline… and hold it at redline to the finish. It’s the most grueling and painful 45 or 60 minutes of your life… But as soon as you cross that finish line you will understand why you do it. Then hang out and recap the race over a few cold ones with friends and fellow racers. It’s like no other racing I’ve done. The attitudes, the fun, the new friends… It’s all at cross races.