Drinking during a cyclocross race IS NOT BANNED.
I've found this to be a common misperception. I believe the source of the confusion comes from the ban of hand ups (taking a bottle from a helper on the side of the course) except for when "feeding" is permitted.
The picture above is Christopher Blevins' bike from the 2018 U23 National Championships. Didn't slow him down any!
When cyclocross was "normally" held in the colder months, this was rarely a discussion or an issue. But now that the mercury may hit 90+ degrees during an extremely intense type of bike rassin', there has certainly been many a conversation about this topic. While there's certainly different schools of thought if hydration is necessary during an event that is 60 minutes or less, some studies show it is beneficial. Additionally, it can be real mental boost to just get some cold water in your mouth even if you spit it out. And then there's the whole notion of the carbohydrate rinse but we'll let that lay for another time.
Many purists may scoff at the idea of having a bottle cage on your 'cross bike. However, if you don't need to shoulder your bike, or if your frame so small that you can't shoulder it, it is certainly permissible to leave a cage on and race with a bottle.
You can also get grab a bike out of the pit that has a cage and a bottle, and a helper may certainly put a new, cold bottle on your bike in the pit.
Remember that the bottle doesn't need to be full. If your race is one of the shorter ones, maybe you start with half of a bottle and even toss it to your helpers during the race.
With this all said, coming into the race properly hydrated is way more important that any sort of hydrating you could do during the event. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't take a drink if you think it would be beneficial. Try it out during a hot practice session and see what you think.
I think the biggest take-aways are that drinking during a 'cross race is permitted, and it's OK to to have a bottle cage on your bike.
Check out this article from VeloNews:
Until next time, drink your water and rest as hard as you train!
Coach B.L. is the head coach at BJL Coaching and an avid racer and cycling enthusiast himself.