Don't be scared of cyclocross.
That's the message organizers of the Homegrown Cyclocross Series would like to pass along as the series heads into its ninth year.
While the series has established a loyal following -- a turnout of 80 riders at Woodward Park is typical -- Rob Kranovich believes many more are shying away.
"We're making a bigger push this year toward beginners," said Kranovich, vice president of Central California Off-Road Cyclists. "There's a typical crew who come out ... but I think some other people are afraid of it. They're afraid to race the series."
To lessen that fear factor, organizers joined forces with Tri-This!, the local youth triathlon and mountain biking club, to put on a series of clinics the morning before each race. The first is 10 a.m. Saturday. Meet at the BMX park.
Topics will range from the basics such as shifting and braking to more advanced skills such as cornering and dismounting.
Separate clinics will be held for youths and adults. Both are free, and there's no obligation to race. (Some bikes and helmets are available for youths. Sign up at cyclocross.tri-this.org.)
"The Homegrown Series is a cheap, fun and easy thing to come out and do," Kranovich said. "I just think some people are intimidated by it. 'I don't want to go out and race with those people. They're too good.' So we're hoping to get them out for free the day before and let them know it's not that big a deal."
Considered a European forerunner to mountain biking, cyclocross has surged in popularity on this side of the Atlantic in recent years.
Cyclocross bikes combine the frame geometry, handlebars and gearing of road bikes with the knobby tires and brakes of mountain bikes. Many in the Homegrown Series ride mountain bikes, particularly beginners.
Races are held on a 1.5-mile course that snakes around the western edge of Woodward Park. Besides dirt, riders must contend with mud, sand and wooden barriers that force most to dismount and carry their bikes before continuing.
Beginners will race for 30 minutes, intermediates for 45 and experts for an hour. To entice more to race, fees for women were slashed to $10. Men pay $20 and junior boys $15.
"We've got some gross, irritating mud," Kranovich said. "We've got some off-camber soft turns. We've got some barriers. All the enjoyable stuff is there."
So, too, is the cooler, wetter weather. Following Sunday's first race, the series continues Nov. 11, Dec. 2 and Dec. 9.
The annual Lou Night Race on Nov. 3, also held at Woodward Park but on a different course, is not officially part of the series, but points count toward the final standings. Go to sickpromotions.net for details.
Homegrown Cyclocross Series
-- When: Sunday (Oct. 28), Nov. 11, Dec. 2 and Dec. 9
-- Where: Woodward Park; park in Sunset View lot
-- Start times: 10 a.m. (expert), 11:15 (intermediate), 12:45 p.m. (beginner)
-- Race fees: $20 for men, $15 for junior boys, $10 for women and junior girls
-- Details: ccorc.org
-- Lou Night Race: Nov. 3 (sickpromotions.net)