Cyclocross athlete describes her unique sport

MILWAUKEE -- A few years ago, Corrie Osborne got into serious cycling because her father couldn't keep up with her when they would go riding for fun. Now, no one can keep up with her, and she is finding a new way to ride.

Osborne comes home from school and goes to class in her backyard. She is studying and training to get better at something called cyclocross - a mix between road biking and mountain biking, contested on a looping course that includes barriers, steps and piles of sand. You can bike the course all the way, or get off your bike and carry it, if that's faster.

"(I'm working on) mostly speed, speed around the turns, speed getting on and off the bike. You need to keep enough momentum that you are not drastically slowed down when you go over the barriers. You have to have a very fluid transition from biking to running, and from running to biking, and you have to make sure you pick up your bike high enough so that you can get it over the barriers," Osborne said.

Osborne does road biking and mountain biking as well, and is building her endurance for a shot at the nationals in each discipline this summer. She admits to preferring cyclocross, which is in season from September to January. That means tackling all the elements that usually accompany Wisconsin winters.

"Snow is a lot harder to go through. It's a lot like sand, because you don't have a lot of control, and ice is almost impossible to bike on," Osborne said.

Osborne is basically a normal high school student - she goes to classes and hangs out with her brothers and sisters, even though a lot of that time is on bikes. She just so happens to be a national champion in cyclocross, two years running, winning last year in Bend, Oregon and this year in Madison.

"The courses were extremely different. I liked Bend's course much better. I thought it was a lot more fun, and had all these little hills and bends that you had to get up and over. You had to go down one, and up the next one right away," Osborne said.

Regardless of how a course is laid out, Osborne says that cyclocross is the fastest growing type of racing in the United States, and one of the appeals is that the riders, whether they are the fastest in the race or the slowest in the race, are continually coming past spectators.

"In a road race, if you are last, everyone knows you are last. In a cyclocross race, everyone will cheer for you because they have no idea where you are in the track," Osborne said.

Cyclocross is not an Olympic sport, although given its rapid growth in popularity, that could change sometime in the near future.