MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Minnesota is home to many cyclists who compete in road bike or mountain bike races throughout the year.

Now that fall is here, we’re in the heart of cyclocross season. It’s an intense off-road sport that combines high speeds and rugged terrain into one grueling event.

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Chris Fisher, 36, is a former pro mountain bike rider from Inver Grove Heights who is now an elite cyclocross racer.

“Here in Minnesota, it’s kind of the last hurrah,” he said, “getting outside and having fun and being active.”

Cyclocross is all about transition and change. How the racers adapt and maneuver through changing surfaces determines how they finish.

“Some people may be good at riding on grass and pavement,” said Fischer, “maybe hard-packed gravel. Later in the year, it gets real muddy.”

Crews assemble the temporary courses in parks and fields, often adding ramps and barriers for the cyclists to contend with. The racers modify their bikes to fit the conditions.

Carrie Seipp Sansome, 39, is an elite cyclocross racer from Eagan.

“You’re getting off your bike, jumping over something and getting back on,” she said. “Before the races, you see a lot of people talking about what tire they’re going to put on their bike that day, what wheels they’re going to choose, and what tire pressure they’re going to use.”

Minneapolis cyclist Chris Fischer, 38, competes in mountain bike and road racing throughout the year, and has been doing cyclocross for about four years.

“Depending on the length of your race, it’s 30, 45 or 60 minutes of pain,” he said.

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Minnesota’s cyclocross season typically goes from the end of September to late November.

Jennifer Nowlin, 39, is a mother of three boys who has been competing in cyclocross for two years.

“What I like about cyclocross is, it’s here in the metro,” she said. “It’s in parks, it’s at people’s farms and properties. And you have the change in colors, the seasons. It’s not as hot for this high-intensity racing. It’s actually a relief.”

It’s different for the spectators, too. In many races, they might see the competitors fly by once.

“But in cyclocross, because it’s multiple short laps, you’re seeing the riders come through every five to six minutes,” said Chris Smith, the president of the Minnesota Cycling Federation. “And you can see them come through five to 12 times during the course of the individual race.”

It’s a demanding test of strength and agility, a matter of being ready for changes that are just ahead.

“Everybody wants to get outside and have fun before winter sets in,” Fisher said. “There’s nothing better than that.”

The state championship of cyclocross is Nov. 22 – 23 in Crystal.

Last year’s championship featured temperatures below zero but they raced anyway.

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