David Lombardo’s finish Feb. 1 at the Cyclo-Cross Masters World Championship in Louisville, Ky., may not have been memorable, but the experience of being there was unforgettable.
Crystal Lake’s Lombardo, a senior at Prairie Ridge, was selected to compete with the national team and said that was a thrill.
“That was the biggest thing I’ve ever done with the sport,” Lombardo said. “Being on Team USA was the best part for me. I had no expectations of being selected.”
The sport combines speed and a rider’s ability to maneuver around obstacles and barriers on a 1.5- to 2-mile track that features steep hills, grass and wooded trails. The races are timed, with the rider completing the most number of laps winning.
Lombardo, who has been competing for six years, finished 27th of 33 athletes at the world championships.
“My main goals was not to come in last,” Lombardo said. “I was really happy with my riding.”
Cyclo-cross is popular in Europe and is gaining traction in the United States. Lombardo said the crowd numbered about 13,000 in Louisville.
“The crowd there was just crazy,” Lombardo said. “That’s huge for the U.S.”
Lombardo said a big reason for the rising popularity of cyclo-cross is that it’s a great spectator sport.
“I think it’s the best cycling form to watch,” Lombardo said.
Riders often are required to get off and carry their bikes around obstacles that can be 2 feet tall. Lombardo said some of the better riders hop the obstacles, but he feels that’s a high-risk and low-reward endeavor. Still, being able to hop your bike has some appeal.
“I’ve always wanted to bunny hop barriers,” Lombardo said. “It adds a lot of risk. I don’t really try it that much.”
One of the critical skill aspects of cyclo-cross is being able to get up to speed quickly while having control of the bike in quick turns.
“I do a lot of sprinting,” Lombardo said. “In the courses, there’s a lot corners.”
Cyclo-cross competitions take place in the fall and winter months, which makes bad weather an intregal part of the sport.
“The sport is known to be really muddy,” Lombardo said. “We’ll race in a snowstorm or rain storm. It’s part of the sport.”
Lombardo is training for road racing and also checking out colleges.
“Personnaly, I like cyclo-cross better, but I love road racing, too,” Lombardo said. “All the colleges I’ve been looking at I’ve made sure they have teams.”
• Rob Smith is a Northwest Herald sports writer. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.