Kate Northcott, a 30-year-old teacher, reading tutor, and high school cross-country varsity coach from Walpole, New Hampshire, finished second in the elite women’s category of the West Hill Cyclocross Race. The course is a 45-minute trek around a 1.5-mile loop that includes dirt, grass, woods, a cornfield, and a small portion of pavement. The course is mostly flat but has a drop of 30 feet that can be quite slippery, and a run-up of roughly 45 feet which has a slope of at least 30 degrees.
VS: Was this your first time doing this race?
KN: I’ve been doing this race for about 10 years. We live 20 minutes from the West Hill Shop, and we attend their Wednesday night practices as well.
VS: Have the numbers of competitors increased in that time?
KN: Cyclocross in general has been growing in popularity. The fields are blooming. The women’s field has really grown, and the level of competition has magnified tenfold. The fastest girls now race cyclocross and many of them focus on it, rather than mountain bike or road races. Competition has gotten pretty stout.
VS: Why do you think cyclocross is growing in popularity?
KN: It’s the hardest sport to explain to somebody who has no idea what it’s like. You’re going around in circles and dragging yourself through barriers and mud, going as hard as you possibly can for 45 minutes. It’s really intense. From a competitive standpoint, there’s a huge sense of accomplishment to even be in the race. Aside from the actual riding, the events themselves are just really fun. For that 45 minutes or an hour, everything is visual. You can see where everyone is and what they’re doing. Cyclocross is very family friendly. The social scene is really great. It’s an appealing way to spend a day, and to race is a bonus. All of us are addicted immediately.
VS: What do you like about this particular race?
KN: This is a really fun course. A lot of the courses have become wider and faster and less detailed, and this is more old school. There is more twisting and turning, and more features, which make it more enjoyable. This year was a lot of fun because it was dry and fast. The ground has a lot of clay and sometimes it can be quite wet.
VS: How does this race compare to other cyclocross races?
KN: It has a much bigger run-up where you have to shoulder your bike and run up the hill. That’s another challenge to face. There are some sections in the woods that twist and turn around and use cornering skills, rather than straight open sprinting.
VS: If you were in charge of the race, would you do anything differently?
KN: Nothing. It’s been great. They do such a wonderful job. This year they added a little kids’ race, which is really cool. You’re fostering new bike riders and that’s good for the sport. Your kids feel like they’re doing the same thing as mom and dad, strapping on a race bib and getting on a bike. One neat thing about this race is the women’s purse is bigger than the men’s. There’s a couple named Bruce and Audrey Carlson who donate money for the women’s elite field. Their daughter Elizabeth Ann passed away years ago, and the family believes in supporting women’s sports in her honor. In many races, the men’s and women’s purses are equal now, but this is one where the women’s purse is higher. West Hill does a really good job of keeping this race going. I hear nothing but good comments from all the racers about how much they enjoy being there.