As the sun set Tuesday evening, taking with it all semblances of its lukewarm heat and leaving traces of the weekend's ice in hiding, Nate Zukas and a few of his buddies were gearing up for a nice bike ride around Lake Olmstead.
Well, maybe not nice.
Zukas, 32, races Cyclocross, a winter sport that is like cross country on a bicycle.
Cyclocross was developed years ago in Europe as a way for biking teams to stay in shape during the winter months, which is a major draw for Zukas.
"It's probably the hardest one (of the cycling disciplines)," he said.
He believes that Cyclocross has helped him come back to the road-racing season stronger than the cyclists who take a break during the winter.
He won the Men's B Division this season (October through December) in the Georgia Cross Series after winning five of the seven races as team member of Colavita CSRA.
Cyclocross racers must navigate a 1 to 11-kilometer course within a 45 minute span. The course often runs through fields, sand, mud as well as on roads.
And the race is on no matter the weather.
Just to keep things interesting, 12-14 inch barriers are strewn through the course. The racer must dismount, lift his bike, and run over them, without slowing down.
Zukas got involved in Cyclocross racing in 2001, when road-racing buddy, Ross Douglas, persuaded him to try it. The challenge is what has kept him.
"There is a lot of strategy involved," he said, adding that each racer tries to exhaust the competition before the last lap while reserving his own energy to get through the last lap quickest.
Zukas would like to see more interest in the sport, but he understands why it hasn't caught on faster.
"From the time the guy says go until the last bell, for 45 minutes its 110 percent the whole way. There are very few points in a race where it might slow down for a second," he said.
Aside from the that, the sport has been described as painful.
"You definitely have to have the right mind-set to do this sport," he said.
When he's not racing, Zukas works for Andy Jordan's Bicycle Shop, who will co-sponsor his bicycle team next season. The Andy Jordan/Colavita racing team will be the only racing team out of Augusta featuring road and Cyclocross racing.
In his free time, Zukas works on the house he bought with his wife, Candace.
"My wife is very supportive (of my racing), which is pretty unusual," he said.
"She came to every single race. If I needed water, she would hand it to me. Just very supportive."
Zukas hopes to continue to compete at the local level.
"The main thing is having fun," he said.
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