These days anyone planning to race State or Nationals is struggling to find daylight for training and races to hone their fitness and skills. The weekend of November 17 & 18 eastern Iowa types have several choices. There are state championships in Omaha, Nebraska and Minneapolis, Minnesota, but closer still are Valley Cross in West Des Moines and Pheasant Run Resort CX in Chicago.
Valley Cross, West Des Moines
Valley Cross, Saturday at the permanent cyclocross course at the Valley Community Center in West Des Moines, is your last chance to race in Iowa before the State Championship December 1. Now in its third year of hosting races, the event's organizers are working to make the course better than ever.
"The course has had a face lift. Now it’s as smooth as blacktop," said U-ME COMPETE's Jeff Osborn. "The course layout is pretty much the same, maybe a couple of changes from last year. If it’s dry, it will be very fast."
The course is fast with sweeping turns, a berm with off-camber sections, a steep hill run up, and a fast 1/2 mile section around the Global Greens Farm. "Last year we donated $500 to Global Greens Farm, with a good turnout we hope to do the same again this year."
Registration will be at the Valley Community Center, which also means indoor plumbing and a warm place to hang out -- important details this time of year. The total purse for Valley Cross is $1,960, with equal payout of $600 to the men’s and women’s top races. This year there will be cash payouts to all categories except juniors, who will win prizes.
Valley Cross is just under two hours of driving from Iowa City, and just over from Cedar Rapids. Not quite twice as far away (3-3:30 hours), but with two days of cross racing, is Pheasant Run Resort CX in Chicago, stops 10 & 11 of the Chicago Cross Cup.
Pheasant Run Resort CX, Chicago
"The course was really fun last year," said Rule #5's Jim Cochran, "There were some long fast straights, tricky off-camber turns, a few barriers, and a tough muddy run along a flat section. Throw in and an off-camber section that if you messed up you could slide into a nearly frozen pond and you have a good time."
2018 is only the second year for Pheasant Run, but it's part of a long tradition of a late season two-day race in Chicago. For years Indian Lakes Resort CX offered top level cyclocross at a posh venue, and riding from hotel lobby to starting grid proved almost as popular as a weekend with cyclocross friends and family. When Indian Lakes was no longer available the South Chicago Wheelmen moved their race weekend ten miles down the road to Pheasant Run Resort in St. Charles, Illinois.
"It's fun to get over to Chicago at least once a season," said Cochran. "You can usually grab a hotel for around $100, have two good days of racing, race some new people in bigger fields, and explore some new restaurants." Is it worth the long drive? He thinks so: "It's only about 3 hrs 15 minutes and I'm heading to Le Mars (5 hrs)!
"The race announcers usually do a nice job with shout outs to Iowa riders, and the fans are fun too," said Cochran. It was super cold and muddy last year. I think I came the closest I ever have to crying after a CX race as my fingers regained feeling!"
Hopefully it won't be quite that cold this year. But even if it is, expect 500+ racers to line up at Pheasant Run Resort. Discounted rooms are just $92/night (630-584-6300, code "cyclocross").