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Cyclocross is alive in New York

"That's part of the whole community thing," said Doyle, who works at Serotta Bicycles in Saratoga Springs. "It's all about having fun."

"It's like a subculture of a subculture," added Gavi Epstein, an elite division rider from Englewood, N.J. "You definitely have your cyclocross fanatics."

For some riders like Epstein, cyclocross helps them train for the road course season, which takes place in the spring and summer.

"The thing is in the fall, there's no road racing," said Epstein, who competed in the elite men's division. "This is a good way to change things up and practice my balancing skills."

For others like Dwain Walters of Brooklyn, it's a break from the ordinary.

"I've done some cross country-style mountain bike racing before, so it was nice to get dirty again," said Walters, who was participating in his first cyclocross race.

Cyclocross is not a new sport. It was developed in the early half of the 20th century in Europe as a fall and winter sport, and it gained popularity in parts of the United States in the 1970s.

The New York racing series started five years ago when Avitable and his bike racing friend, Eric Schillinger, started NYCross.

"Me and Eric were sitting around one day and said, 'We should do this,'" said Avitable, a former bike racer.

Avitable and Schillinger found several town parks willing to let them hold their events including Prospect Park and Bethlehem's Elm Avenue Park, which will host the annual Bethlehem Cup Nov. 15. Saratoga Spa State Park joins the list this year when it hosts the Saratoga Cyclocross on Sunday, Oct. 25.

"It's cold enough [when the races are held] where the grass hopefully doesn't get chewed up [by the bikes]," said Avitable.

The course may not get chewed up, but the riders often feel as if they've been chewed up when they're done.

"It was hard to keep my rhythm through [the course], but otherwise it was all right," said Walters.

But the challenge of competing in cyclocross doesn't dampen these riders' spirits. If anything, it makes them want to do it again.

"I think that cyclocross is the ultimate evolution of bicycling," said Doyle. "I think it's what bicycling is meant to be.""

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