One of the few universal truths among cyclists is the importance of hydration before, during, and after rides and races. Although we may disagree on the best type of frame material, training methods, or the on the definition of a "sandbagger" in races, most everyone agrees (expert and non-expert alike) that your ability to ride well is directly related to your hydration level. In fact, one of the best ways to let someone else know that you are superior to them in cycling knowledge and training is to tell them, while on a ride, to remember to drink before they get thirsty. That usually does the trick.
All of this knowledge about hydration, however, is completely thrown out of the window when cyclocross season rolls around. For some reason, racers miraculously do not need water for the 60+ minutes of all out riding we do in cyclocross races, despite the fact that we usually finish the race in a pile of sweat, regardless of the weather conditions (with some exceptions).
To place a water bottle cage on a cyclocross bike is akin to wearing a pocket protector to a high school dance. Not cool. Most cyclocross racers say that bottle cages interfere with their ability to shoulder the bike when running up hills. That makes perfect sense...compromise your hydration and performance for the entire race over a few seconds to be gained when running up the hill that half of the races around here do not even have.
Others keep a bottle in their back jersey pocket. This is a fine idea in theory, but even a smaller sized water bottle in your back jersey pocket feels annoying in a race. Plus, it is rather inconvenient to access the bottle from the jersey pocket, at least compared to grabbing a bottle from the way uncool traditional bottle cage.
Actually, it seems as if the only acceptable way of keeping hydrated at a cyclocross race is to rope your family member/spouse/significant other/friend into giving you a bottle handoff about halfway through the race. By giving them a job to do (that is relatively stressful for someone not familiar with racing), you will ensure that they will mysteriously always have some other "plans" on the dates and times of all future cyclocross races.
As for me, I've found my solution. I am a simple man with a giant cheapbone, so simple things for free cause me great excitement. At the Danville road race this weekend, racers were treated to free miniature water bottles:
These are the smallest bottles I've ever seen. As soon as I laid eyes on them, I thought, "The perfect cyclocross bottle!!" So I took three. Small enough to fit in the jersey pocket without being terribly annoying, but large enough to carry enough liquid for a 60 minute race in the fall. Nice.
Hopefully this season's cross results fare a bit better than the results of Saturday's road race.