48 hours, 9 bars, 3 races: how much can you actually go through in one weekend? Before we even parked up in Munich, we knew that the Rapha Super Cross was going to be much more than just your average cyclocross race – but even we hadn’t anticipated this much madness. Forget Oktoberfest…

The weekend gets off to a good start as Felix pins on the start number to beat all start numbers!
The weekend gets off to a good start as Felix pins on the start number to beat all start numbers!

Preconceptions, beginners & house-husbands.

Kids perceive things differently to grown men. And while I wouldn’t necessarily class myself as a child – more of a beginner when it comes to cyclocross – my experiences have been limited thus far to spectating in Magstadt over a decade ago and once more last year at the UCI World Cup race in Las Vegas.

rapha-supercross-2016-gran-fondo-cb-48

Preconceptions of a mountain biker

Honestly speaking, I had struggled to see where the fun lay in cyclocross. During my years as a fairly hardcore mountain bike racer doing enduro and downhill competitions, and even with the luxury of racing albeit fairly unsuccessfully on the World Cup scene, I found that the fun only really began once the gaps were at least a metre wide, and there were gnarly rock gardens to throw myself down. But ploughing a narrow track across a field? Running with the bike over my shoulder? Wind and weather-beaten muddy faces? Was this really going to be the case?

No excuses with this machine between your legs – the Focus Mares Force 1 is any cross rider’s dream.
No excuses with this machine between your legs – the Focus Mares Force 1 is any cross rider’s dream.

#AllTheGearNoIdea

These, I would later find out, were obviously questions you could only answer once you’ve tried cyclocross. So it was decided: off to Munich to pop our cyclocross cherry. With cross legend Mike Kluge and cyclocross underdog Daniel Häberle, the marketing manager for Focus Bikes, by my side and only the most top-end bits of kit from Focus and Rapha, I was relatively confident that it couldn’t go too wrong. The team from SRAM also happened to be on site in Munich and offered to check over the state of my bike before the race. Clearly I had no room for excuses with such strong support. Damn!

Would I be one of the top 30 in my qualifying heat and make it through to the Supercross final? Where should I position myself in the field? Questions whizzed around my head as I nervously warmed up. The gun went and I started pedaling, the methodic movement finally stirring up some tranquility in my head. I found myself actually enjoying the wet and muddy course and the short, fast bursts to accelerate. My grin was plastered onto my face as I kept tight to the wheel in front of me. Not prepared to be overtaken, I took it upon myself to push the pace and overtook rider after rider. I barely believed the commentator as I crossed the line: second? I’d just bagged a second position in my first ever cyclocross race?

A recuperative stadium beer …[
A recuperative stadium beer …[
… whose nutritional content and Olympic mud team to create a great product for your skin. However, it did little to help the nasty spot on my forehead that’s been lurking since Monday.
… whose nutritional content and Olympic mud team to create a great product for your skin. However, it did little to help the nasty spot on my forehead that’s been lurking since Monday.
Daniel Häberle stole the qualifying win as a complete underdog.“
Daniel Häberle stole the qualifying win as a complete underdog.

House men

“The right preparation is everything” – to calm our nerves before the next day’s final, Daniel and I did a little ‘spring-cleaning’ in our hotel apartment before heading into town for a cheeky beer with some buddies.

With the final taking place on Sunday afternoon, we’d calculated ample time for a generous ‘regeneration’ brunch and acts that we couldn’t let slide. (Uncensored images of Saturday night cannot be published due to youth protection reasons).

Oktoberfest: Sunday style

When Sunday morning rolled around, there was an organized Rapha Ride on the cards for those who relished the morning hours after a lengthy sleep (or a long night). This was an opportunity to see more of Munich, straying outside of the admittedly super cool and flowing cyclocross course in the Olympic Park. For those who had forsaken the ride, there were the following alternatives in which to indulge:

rapha-supercross-2016-gran-fondo-cb-73

Waffles with Nutella and whipped cream (Cannondale), coffee (Rapha, Enve), healthfood snack bars (Lucho Dillitos bocadillo, Chimpanzee), or paninis, pineapple and lemons (Focus) – the weekend’s expo went beyond the confines of purely bikes and parts to test, but also displayed the full wares that would render any Sunday worthwhile. Of course, being the weekend that the clocks went back, the additional hour worked to our advantage. Once you’d exhausted the culinary delights and browsed the technology-crammed products on offer, then you could cast your gaze over the battlefield as the same cross circuit saw a round of the German Cross Cup taking place with licensed riders.

A day shirt, training world champ or true skills?

The best outfit is no good if you only have one of it. And while the Rapha Cross Long Race Jersey is unrivalled, the lingering aroma of the previous day’s beer shower was hanging around like a… well, like a bad smell. Next time, the key is to bring two suitable outfits – especially when the start number is so sartorially matched to the jersey.

rapha-supercross-2016-gran-fondo-cb-13

My emergency solution: drag out the party shirt from the washing and team it casually with some baggy shorts. Given my prominent front starting position, this laissez-faire get-up dampened my nerves somewhat.

The party shirt: Friday nights in FOX, sundays in the Olympic Park.
The party shirt: Friday nights in FOX, sundays in the Olympic Park.

Come Sunday’s final and the sun was beating down on the now bone-dry loop, which was motivation enough for some riders to pull out their Sunday-best and collect maximum style points.

The pace is searing again with 90 riders in the final stirring up excitement, a few crashes and some daring stunts to overtake. Unlike yesterday’s qualies, the final had an additional loop, which hit many riders (including myself) like a bit of a slap in the face.

And the results? For most riders (unlike the German Cup races), it was two-fold: naturally, positions were discussed straight after the Super Cross final, but then talk moved over beer and coffee to the brilliant event, nasty falls and unforgettable overtakes. Some riders had to take off immediately in a bid to avoid a classic case of southern Germany’s Sunday traffic hell. Other than the ones listed at the top of the rankings, the real winners were those who’d spent an amazing weekend with new and old friends.

rapha-supercross-munich-2016-9-von-9 rapha-supercross-munich-2016-8-von-9

The race gave the weekend a purpose, but it was by no means its sole purpose. So, on that note: keep cool, and see you next year. If you’re interested in the results, you can download them here.

What’s special about the Rapha Super Cross?

Cyclocross bridges the gap of the seasons, unites riders of various disciplines who bring diverse strengths to the race, and it offers the industry an opportunity to extend the season. The Super Cross doesn’t just mark a brilliant end to the season (or start, if you’re purely a cyclocross racer), but also a great excuse to spend a weekend in the Bavarian capital.

Not your average Oktoberfest, but in fact, miles better – the beer in the Super Cross tent with brass band music too!
Not your average Oktoberfest, but in fact, miles better – the beer in the Super Cross tent with brass band music too!

And even though Oktoberfest was already over, the Rapha Super Cross weekend stood out as one of the wildest weekends of the year – both on the field, in the Olympic Park, on the expo grounds (SRAM party!) and in the city’s coolest clubs. So if you’re after cool hangout tips for Munich’s bars and clubs, then drop us a line at hello@granfondo-cycling.com

If this has all been too much party for you, then hang on for our article listing the 9 most important things to know, avoid, or bring to your first cyclocross race.

p1220975-2

And the third race? It hurt the most – even though the Autobahn was surprisingly quiet on that Sunday evening. Still full of adrenalin, we sped from Munich to Stuttgart in just 90 minutes. Bye for now, Munich. Tschüss, tschau, tschüssle and adele – as the presenter in the Olympic Park put so nicely!

Huge thanks to RC “Die Schwalben” München 1894 and Ricky Buckenlei from Rapha for the excellent organisation!

PS: Readers' Survey 2017 - Give feedback, win awesome prizes: We're giving away prizes worth €10,000 among all participants of our reader's survey! Win prizes from Open, Focus and Shimano! Click here to take part now!

Words: Robin Schmitt Photos: Christoph Bayer, Dirk Belling, Daniel Häberle, Sebastian Schels, Stefan Rachow