You may be wondering how you as a dedicated roadie can benefit from the sport of cyclocross. There are many reasons, some compelling, and some just fun!
The first great reason for a roadie like yourself to test out the cyclocross waters is simply because cyclocross is a great change of pace from the day to day road riding scene. Tired of hanging out with the same guys, meeting at the same coffee shop, and riding the same old road routes over and over? Cyclocross allows you to take a break from all that, and get to know a whole new group of cycling fanatics. It may also allow you to beat up on some of the strong men on the road who may not be quite as strong when the rubber leaves the asphalt. Cyclocross will also give you a new appreciation for those parks that you fly by in the peloton and barely even notice. Who'd have known that such a little patch of grass could cause such a world of pain?
A second great way that roadies will benefit from cyclocross is most noticeable for those of us who live in areas that have a distinct winter season. To a pure roadie, the approach of winter often causes a reduction in road miles and intensity and a move into hibernation mode. This is often due to decrease in daylight, and the inclement weather conditions often associated with the winter months. However, having a fall/early winter cyclocross race series to train for is extra motivation to keep pounding those pedals well after the temperature drops and the nights get longer. In fact, it's so inspiring that you have to be careful of overtraining and not getting proper rest between the seasons! For those who don't have a distinct winter season, cyclocross provides a nice break from year-round road riding, even if the weather allows for it.
Improved Bike Handling Skills
As a roadie, I think it's safe to say that many of us like to stay within our comfort level when it comes to technical bike handling. Of course there's generally a good reason for this, as pushing your limits at high speeds on the road can result in a painful learning experience! However, cyclocross provides a fun and encouraging environment in which to push your comfort level a bit at a time. Because cyclocross is performed on softer surfaces than road races, and because speeds are considerably lower in most cases, it's easier to push up against (and sometimes beyond) your bike-handling limits in a safer environment. A season of riding slippery off-camber grass corners will certainly help you find the limits of bike and body, and this learning experience will be directly transferable to the road once summer comes around. Those of you who race crits (or are considering it) will definitely benefit from this increase in bike-handling skill. One advantage of being a beginner in cyclocross is that it's no problem to take things easy in your first few races, and then slowly push your limits as the season progresses. If you start off easy and gradually push your comfort level, it's guaranteed that you'll see a marked difference in your bike handling after a season of cyclocross!
Maintain Existing Fitness
You've worked hard all spring and summer to get your fitness to the highest level. However, many people lose much of this hard-earned fitness once fall/winter rolls around, and find themselves back where they started come spring. By racing cyclocross even at a non-competitive "easy" level, you'll do wonders in maintaining your fitness so you can start off the next season stronger and faster than ever before.
Not only will racing cyclocross help you maintain your fitness, it can help you improve your fitness. Since cyclocross involves very intense effort and some serious muscling on some of the steeper climbs or through mud pits, you'll develop more power, strength, speed and intensity, which is certainly going to be evident when you're back on the road. After all, power meters are now almost "standard issue" for serious roadies, so a fun way to increase power in the off season should be too! If you're a time trial rider, you'll have a good feel for the short, intense effort that's required in cyclocross. However, one main difference is that you won't be putting out a constant effort as you do in a time trial; instead, your effort level will be ever-changing as you mount/dismount, run up hills, slog through mud, and hammer on the grass.