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Cyclocross is alive in New York

Do you think that Tour de France riders have it tough when they ride up the French Alps?

At least they can navigate a road up the mountain, and there aren't any obstacles that would force them to dismount their bikes.

Cyclocross riders don't have it so easy. They're trying to conquer off-road courses with sharp turns, steep hills and man-made obstacles with a modified street course racing bike that uses a wider tire.

The hardest part about cyclocross is keeping your focus and maintaining your composure, said Chris Doyle of Albany. "The race is so [visually] stimulating that if you lose your focus for a moment, you can wipe out."

Doyle and approximately 250 other cyclocross riders descended upon Troy's Prospect Park last weekend for the New York State Championships and Uncle Sam Grand Prix. The course was laid out over a hillside with plenty of hairpin turns and a pair of areas where riders had to dismount so they could navigate obstacles on foot.

"You need a lot of fitness, but you also need a certain set of skills because you have to mount and dismount quickly [at the obstacles]," said race co-organizer Pete Avitable of Albany.

The goal in cyclocross is to complete as many laps as you can in the time allotted. During last Saturday's state championship race, elite riders had to circle the course for an hour, while riders in the junior, masters and citizens divisions navigated the course for between 30 to 45 minutes.

"I've never raced a bicycle before in my life," said Doyle, who finished second in the citizens division. "I'd say [participating in a race] is the best way [to get acclimated]."

Riders also need a sense of humor to navigate the course. Spectators have a tendency to heckle the riders at the obstacles, though it's always a good-natured heckling since the spectators are usually fellow riders and friends.

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