This summer our hometown of Madison, Wisconsin, played host to the 11th annual CrossFit Games. Billed as a competition to find the Fittest on Earth, 640 athletes from 31 countries converged on Madison for four days of competition.
Athletes underwent qualifying rounds leading up to the Games to make the cut, similar to World Championships seen in other sports. Working either as individuals or on teams of six, these elite athletes are put through the ringer on a wide variety of athletic escapades including an obstacle course and a strongman competition, along with more traditional CrossFit workouts with barbells and gymnastic-based movements.
This year, the CrossFit Games took a page out of their new host city's tradition for the first day of competition: a cyclocross event.
The announcement came to the surprise of many. Yet as it turns out, the connection between CrossFit and cycling are as old as the organization itself.
Founded by former gymnast and bike enthusiast Greg Glassman in 2000, bikes found their way into CrossFit alongside a variety of sports. The CrossFit-famous "World-Class Fitness in 100 Words" mentions bikes outright, and in 2006 another CrossFit Journal article sings the praises of bike benefits,
"There are few subjects that match bicycles and bicycling for inspiring a broad range of interest, controversy, and passion. Physics, physiology, law, culture, sport, history and engineering all come to play for the tribe of cyclists…No means of locomotion, mechanical or animal, can match the thermodynamic efficiency of the bicycle."
And while pedaling often shows up in WODs (workout-of-the-days) across the globe, these workouts are typically performed on stationary bicycles that became popular in the 70s (another Madison company, Schwinn, introduced their Airdyne in 1978) – with few exceptions.
Björgvin Karl Guðmundsson and Frederik Aegidius were neck-and-neck during Lap 1 of their heat.
The first exception was at the 2012 CrossFit Games in which a triathlon opened that year's competition. The second was five years later, with a cyclocross course here in Madison for Event 2 of the 2017 Games.
Part of the 2017 CrossFit Games Cyclocross course.
With only one day to prepare for competition on the global stage, athletes were fitted on a Trek bike, briefed with some tips and sent off for a practice loop before a time trial that would seed them for the big event. Of the 80 individual competitors, very few had spent time riding off road – much less time on a course with barriers, logs and a sand pit.
Athletes and their bikes in the Athlete Area before the Cyclocross event at the 2017 CrossFit Games.
On the day of the Cyclocross event, early rain had dampened the ground but not the spirits of the competitors nor the crowd. Cheers erupted along the course as athletes completed their three laps. For newcomers to the sport, some of the "fittest in the world" embraced the fly mounts and confidently rolled over logs.
The 2017 CrossFit Games Fittest Woman on Earth, Tia-Clare Toomey (in white) and Jamie Greene demonstrate their newest skill: the fly mount.
According to an interview with CX Magazine, the event was a nod to Madison's long-standing love of the bike and cyclocross. In fact, Trek is set to host the Waterloo World Cup this September.
Frederik Aegidius shows his pain face coming out of the sand pit.
For those of us in the bike industry, to see an event we love featured for a new and eager audience was exciting. We saw fans of the sport turn up on their ‘cross bikes, cowbells in hand to show the CrossFit crowd how it's done.
And while the 2017 CrossFit Games athletes weren't riding officially dubbed "cyclocross" bikes, they still made quick work of the course on Trek's X-Caliber 7. In fact, each of the bikes used in the event were sold for $700 to interested spectators and all bikes were sold by the next day.
The Trek CrossFit Games Athlete Trek Bike, the X-Caliber 7.
Bike fever was sweeping the 2017 CrossFit Games, and we were lucky enough to experience it first-hand at our booth. For four days, you could find someone challenging a friend in a virtual race or in our 1000 Watt Challenge.
CrossFit Games attendees testing their legs on our smart trainers.
To top it off, the Saris provided bike parking was filled every day.
Free bike parking = Happy crossfitters (who get to avoid traffic)
While no one knows what next year's CrossFit Games will bring, we're crossing our fingers that we'll get to watch more cycling events here in our hometown.