With the Iowa State Cyclocross Championship just around the corner you might assume that the 2019 cyclocross season is all but over. But before 'Cross Words signs off for the season we want to point out some fun yet to come this year and maybe even get you thinking about CX2020.
Late Saturday afternoon, right after State, the Iowa Cyclocross Series will do podiums for the series just down the street at Brightside Aleworks in Altoona. If the series included Women Masters we'd be there for sure. If you're in contention or want to cheer on those who are make your way to Brightside Aleworks.
If you're jonesing to race the weekend after Thanksgiving you won't have too many choices. That Sunday, Region Riot CX in Crown Point, Indiana is the only race within 300 miles of Eastern Iowa. For a full weekend of racing – UCI C2 no less – check out the 10th edition of Ruts-n-Guts in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. That's over 500 miles away, probably 8 or so hours of driving. On the bright side, it's likely to be warmer there.
photos courtesy of SnowyMountain Photography
Of course, if money is no object (nor time, nor travel) why not head out to Tacoma, Washington December 10-15 for the 2019 National Championship? There is no better competition, and every serious 'cross racer should make it to Nationals one year or another. If not now, when? (More on that below, actually...)
If you can't make it to Nationals but you still haven't had enough, consider joining the Chicago Cuttin Crew Sunday, December 15 for Afterglow – A Cyclocross Race at Douglas Park in Chicago. This one last taste of cyclocross is not part of the ChiCrossCup (so warning: no Women Masters field!) but since 2010 has offered a fast, friendly, fun finale to the season.
CX2020 is only 8 months away
Despite our best efforts, the 2019 cyclocross season will eventually come to a close. Before it does, let's be clear: it's not too soon to be thinking about CX2020. Why?
For starters, the end of the season is the perfect time to reflect on your ride and make plans for next year. Could your bike handling be better? Grab the mountain bike and hit the trails. CX skills lacking? Drill your starts, dismounts, and carries. Fitness an issue? The "off-season" is the perfect time to shed some pounds, if you're properly motivated.
In large part that motivation comes from planning, so think it through and set some goals. Same thing with bike maintenance and travel plans: once 'cross season hits you won't have much time to spare, so get on it now.
There's a lot of uncertainty brewing about our CX2020, stirred by controversy way over in Northern Europe. A radical redefinition of the UCI's World Cup would involve 16 races running every Sunday from October 11 to January 24. What does that mean for us?
Most likely the new World Cup schedule would preclude World Cup races in the US. Without WC status Jingle Cross and Trek CXC will continue, but may move around the calendar, meaning every schedule in the Midwest is now up in the air.
To make matters worse, that schedule for the World Cup interferes with US Nationals in December. It may even mean that all national championships will eventually be pushed way back to February. Brrr!
Keep an eye out, or better yet check back here or on the CRANDIC Calendar. When we know more you'll know more.
We may not know dates for months to come, but we do know of some truly exciting races for CX2020. Jingle Cross and Trek CXC will be back at some point. FayetteCross will be better than ever as its organizers prepare to host Cyclocross Worlds in 2022. And Ruts-n-Guts down in Oklahoma will return, just in case you need to work on your late season form...
and Best of all
Next year the 2020 Cyclocross Nationals will take place December 8-13 in DuPage County outside of Chicago. That's just three hours from Eastern Iowa, the closest Nats have come since a two-year stint near Madison in 2012 and 2013.
Start shaving your points, cyclocross fans – we're going to Nationals!
"State is a really balanced course," said Steve Tygrett of CRANDIC Racing. "There are some long grindy uphills that reward you with nice flowy descents. The technical sections are always challenging: off camber 180s that get sketchy when muddy, a rough cut single track section which often has stray logs and a slippery hill at the end, sharp turns at the bottom of descents, and fast sweeping off camber turns. The wildcard is the paved start/finish hill. It really sucks the energy out of you, and can be decisive in races. I've seen some slow, painful climbs up that hill on the last lap.
"The hill also provides a great place to watch the races, as much of the course can be viewed from the top. Overall I'd say the course for State really hits all the skill sets required of a cyclocross racer. While a lighter rider who can climb well will have a slight advantage, you still need to have good bike handling skills to be successful here.
"Two years ago the course was changed slightly. Instead of climbing the entire paved hill, riders had to climb or run the steep grass hill below the shelter house. After riding across the top of the hill, riders encountered a tight off camber 180, which saw a lot of crashes. After a slight decent riders would come out onto the steepest part of the paved hill to the finish. It rained all day last year, so that feature was taken out. Hopefully it will be back since it adds some great technical elements, which makes riders have to decide to ride or run."
"Last year we had to take out some features due to the rain," explained Race Director Justin Guiter (Zealous Racing), "but hopefully the weather will cooperate this year and we'll be able to reinstate those sections. Generally the course layout at Lion's Park has remained similar throughout its time as a State Championship, with some different additions year to year. The everlasting theme is great flow throughout and a few challenging sections but nothing outlandish."
"We are so thankful for the City of Altoona and their continued support of cyclocross in Central Iowa. We've had events in Altoona for over 10 years now and we hope to continue this great relationship. Weather this time of year is always a crap shoot. I recall one of my first races at Lion's for State CX. There was about an inch of snow on the ground, just enough to have a nice white coating and plenty cold. Another year, I started my race and it was -11 only to jump right back in my car following my race to see it had climbed to a balmy -8.
"Up until last year it has primarily been dry and we were a little nervous what the city would say when they saw the park after the 25 degree downpour we raced in. I suppose it's a good sign when the City workers are joking with you that's it's going to be a wet one.
"Immediately following the race last year, Paul Jensen and I reached out to the City and let them know of the condition of the park after the race. We offered up any service our team could provide to help keep the park looking great. They simply told us they'd re-evaluate in the spring. We discussed it during our Parks Board Meeting and they even mentioned they couldn't tell we'd even been there last year. Again, so happy we have a great community to work with.
"With Nite Hawk being our host for Gents Race, a spring gravel event we do annually, it was a no-brainer to collaborate with them on a cross race. The course will utilize Grimm Park to the south of the bar and the green space to the north."
Teammate Janan Hicks explained, "Basically, MIDSTATE likes to play bikes and have a good time. "Anyone that enjoys these two things needs to race MIDSTATE CX as there will most likely be shenanigans of some sort. It's going to be just what you would expect from this crew."
Slater, Iowa is north of Des Moines, so right around two hours drive from either Iowa City or Cedar Rapids. Registration for MIDSTATE CX is on BikeReg.com.
Usually I love my trainer, but for MIDSTATE CX I might just leave it at home. The perfect warm-up for MIDSTATE CX is out and back along the High Trestle Trail.
SPecial Thanks to all of MIDSTATE'S Sponsors
Janan Hicks: "We’d like to thank all of our sponsors that stepped up to support this race and our new team. It means a lot to us to have that much support with new adventures."
After Creekside and Bobbers this weekend we have just three more weeks until the Iowa State Championship in Des Moines and five more until the Midwest Championship in Chicago. Days are getting shorter and colder, but there's still some great cyclocross racing ahead, starting November 9 & 10 with either Frosty Cross in Le Mars or a weekend of racing at the Chicago Cross Cup.
Frosty Cross Lives Up to Its Name
"It was so cold last year that I wore all the clothes I brought," said Jacqueline Palfy (Parallel 44 Racing) when asked about Frosty Cross 2018. "And I may or may not have cried a little on my second lap because I couldn't feel my hands. But racing will warm you up quickly.
"As for the course, the stairs never seem to get easier, but they're one of the best features. That along with the little off-camber ridge after the hill make for fun challenges to do better each year and each lap.
"Best of all is the camaraderie inside the lodge, with the fire going, and running into old and new friends. Frosty Cross has a really welcoming atmosphere, and, of course, then you can go into town and have ice cream. Bikes and ice cream in November -- what more do you need?"
Iowa City Cycling Club's Jim Bethea raced Frosty Cross last year too, to take the lead in the 45+ field of the Iowa CX Series. "They call it Frosty Cross for a reason. It was in the 20s and windy last year. I wore every article of clothing I brought and was still cold. Turnout wasn't great, but it was a fun course: some good off-camber, a flyover, and some sand. Masters all raced together and they split it apart for series points after. They need to move that race to September."
Bonus Race at the Chicago Cross Cup
As cold as Frosty Cross can be, that's not the race's only drawback: Le Mars is in the northwestern part of Iowa. That's not too far for Palfy coming from Sioux Falls, but for us Eastern Iowans it's 4½ to 6 hours away. Unless you're especially motivated – like Bethea proving more stubborn than his IACX competition – you might want to look closer to home. Lucky for us November 9 & 10 is also a big weekend for the Chicago Cross Cup.
The Chicago Cross Cup is easily the biggest series in the Midwest. Races are usually just one day, on Sundays. But this year CCC#7, the Groundhog PSI-clocross Sunday November 10, is paired with the Illinois State Championship the day before. To make the weekend all the more attractive, Emricson Park in Woodstock, Illinois, the site of both races, is north and west of Chicago proper, so around 30 minutes closer. From Iowa City that's just over three hours.
"I love Chicago Cross Cup races," said Alijah Beatty of Marian University Cycling. "The courses aren’t as hard as some UCI race courses, but they are great to get some experience under your belt. The CCC series helped me a lot when I was younger. Since the course weren’t too technical I was able to focus on speed and power.
"Last year the Groundhog PSI race was so much fun. It was super muddy, so a great experience in those conditions. One feature was an off-camber downhill into a turn and then a run-up to the top of the hill. I don’t know if this was my favorite feature, but it definitely could make or break your race. The downhill was slippery and if you fell you might have gone off course. Also, the run-up was long enough that you had to have had some running in your training to be prepared for that.
"Last year I rode most of the race off the front, though on the last lap 2nd place was gaining on me. I hadn’t crashed too bad so far and I knew one mistake and she would be right on me. At the end of the course there were some big sweeping turns. Due to them being muddy I slipped and went down. Luckily I had just enough of a gap that she was unable to catch me, but I hustled to the line as fast as I could.
"All in all the Chicago Cross Cup races are great starter races and great for advanced riders to push their bodies and skills to their absolute limit. I would recommend the races to any racer who has a cx bike and loves the mud!"
CCC races are friendly and fun and draw good sized fields. Last year's race in Woodstock, even cold and rainy, saw nearly 500 racers compete. Ten time slots allow for fifteen fields a day, meaning five women's races not counting juniors, finally this year including a Masters Women's category.
"I've only done Bobbers once," explained Jim Bethea of Iowa City Cycling Club. "I don't remember much other than a massive sand pit and the possibility of riding into the lake if you weren't paying attention. It is a big contrast to Creekside in that there isn't much elevation gain.
"I like the hills at Creekside. It is the hilliest course in Iowa outside of Jingle and that helps me a bit. The sand pit can be dicey if it doesn't rain. The ability to ride the sand and hills can be a difference maker on that course."
"In general, the course at Creekside is very difficult," said Brooke Bailey, Caelyn's mom and Spin Devo coach. "It may be too hard for juniors. Maybe an abbreviated course for juniors is a good idea, cutting out the top of the climb. As a coach, I like to see the technical features for the kids. How else are they going to learn, and who wants a grass criterium, really? Any junior that wants to do a full course could race category."
"For Bobbers we are just excited to be back after cancelling last year due to flooding. The course will remain pretty much the same as years past." Both races are part of the Iowa Cyclocross Series.
"I've helped set up Bobbers for the past seven years," said Chad Mittelstadt of Corridor Devo. "I like Bobbers since it is a smaller venue with all the amenities one would want, like good food and drinks provided by a friendly staff. Not to mention the scenic view of the reservoir, assuming the weather is nice.
"Last but not least are the folks who make the race happen every year. Geoff's Bike and Ski staff are great folks. Their kid's race with lots of candy is a family favorite. Who else has some sort of goofy race like tandem skis? Those features plus the end-of-the-day raffle drawing make it better than any other race day. Their logo is 'the best little cross race in Johnson County,' and I don't disagree."
Again, two very different races, but with another common thread: lately both have been lightening rods for bad weather. As Bethea recalled, "My biggest memory of Creekside is that it is usually the coldest cross race not called Frosty Cross."
Floods ended any hope of racing Bobbers Cross last year, instead leading to two days of muddy racing at Creekside. In years past Bobbers has been muddly as well. Race either or both, but be prepared.
"Bobbers was my first cross race ever," said Olivia Croskey of Johnson County Flyers. "It was pouring rain and muddy as hell. Everyone said, 'this is ‘cross.' I was thinking, whaaaa??? It was so hard! I came in last and I hate/loved it. But here we are, season three of cyclocross, and I think it is probably the race I am most excited about doing!"
Wait . . . No Masters Women ? ! ? !
This year Creekside Cross and Bobbers Cross became the second and third races in the Iowa Cyclocross Series to drop Masters Women from their race schedules. (Dirty Wooden Shoe quit offering Masters Women races in 2016.)
This is especially unfortunate as Masters Women have had a great year in Iowa so far, even outnumbering Women 1/2/3 at most races. Rather than ignore that momentum, the IACX Series should embrace and reflect it.
Growing the sport we love means making spaces for others who love it too. Beyond any argument about numbers or fairness, remember that in addition to the women already racing Masters, over half of Iowa's 1/2/3s and many 4/5s are age 35 or above. In years to come the option to race Masters may be key to keeping those women in the sport.
I'm a 55-year-old man. Ask me how I know.
-John Stonebarger, CRANDIC Racing Club
Nothing Says Cyclocross like a Halloween Costume
Save some energy if you race Saturday morning, or get a good warm up if you race later, because at 1:30 Saturday it's game on for the third annual Spooky Cross Costume Race.
"The Costume Race will have the same format as last year with a shortened course and two laps," explained Guiter. "There are three criteria our judges will be looking at in crowning the winner: 1) Your finishing position in the race, 2) Your costume, and 3) Theatrics (your character).
"This will be the third year of the Costume Race and I'm anxious to see if our returning two-time winner will take it again this year. I'm not sure on the algorithm the judges have for determining the winner, but I'm sure it's quite complex."
BIKEIOWA's Jason Scholbrock offered some advice for newcomers to the Costume Race: "Make it fun, make it clever (see Vance Fletcher last year), and make certain you can ride your bike in it.
"Josh Rice from Lincoln won the first two Costume Races and rightfully so... in 2018 he rode a cargo bike disguised as a beer truck a la Smokey and the Bandit, complete with a hefty stash of cold Busch Lights which were consumed on the steep run-up.
"Oh, and I am very much looking forward to it. The Costume Race is the highlight of every Iowa cyclocross season!"
So What's new this year?
This will be the third edition of The Grand, but the first presented by the Phoenix Syndicate. Race Director James Armstead explained: "We are a whole new team this year all from different groups and different experiences. We are really excited about this group coming together to make something really awesome this year. We aren't trying to reinvent the wheel, but we found some new great partners to work with who really want to support the community and grow their brands!
It turns out there is plenty new about the race this year. "There has been some great work going on within the local Juniors scene, and we wanted to do our part. To help grow the next generation of racers as much as we can, we created the Garmen Partners Junior Fund, which will allow anyone racing in our Junior races to race for free.
"Stealing a page from Trek Cup, we are going go try and have a decent party area for people to hang out and experience cyclocross even if they aren't racing. We will have free beer, music, and of course awesome cyclocross.
"The changes to the course will also allow us to open up the middle part where the food trucks were last year. We are going to have a few teams have tents there, some food, music, and will hopefully create a really awesome community compound for everyone to come together and have a great time together.
"We are working through ideas for how the course will change day to day, although we aren't 100% sure we are going to "just flip the course" this year. Nothing is off the table!"
Womens' clinic Friday evening
To start out the weekend of racing the Phoenix Syndicate is offering a free women's clinic Friday afternoon. "This idea came out of conversations with people while I was on the BikeIowa team," explained Armstead. "We just never got around to coordinating it all. One of the Phoenix Syndicate's foundations was to make sure we had 30% of our team be women at all times, and with that more and more of our focus has been around how to grow that group and ensure women have a safe place to come learn and experience the sport of cycling.
"The clinic will be a general walk through the course for anyone who is entirely new and wants to ensure they can ride/run all of the obstacles without getting hurt, or even for those who haven't raced in a few years who just want to have a quick look at the course while getting back into it all. Hopefully we see a good turnout!"
"New for 2019 is the SingleSpeed Brewing Company Single Speed race category that will be run concurrently with the Men's Cat 3/4 race each morning. SingleSpeed Brewing is providing some awesome merchandise for that race.
"Volunteers have been mowing and riding the course for a few weeks now. Assuming we do not face flooding like we did last year, the course will be 1.5 miles long, longer than it's every been, and flat with flowing turns on the south side and a long straight away section on the north side. 2019 will mark the first year that the full sections on the north side and south side of old 4th Ave. will be joined together.
"There is one tricky corner on the south side of the course by the train trestle, but otherwise the course is very much beginner friendly. We've designed a course that flows. There is one sand trap, one mound to be powered up (or jumped on the second day), one set of tall barriers, and one or two smaller more easily hopped barriers.
"Given the length of the course, we do not intend to install the pinwheel that appears in the video. It was a fixture of the course for the first three years but was not used last year due to flooding. For pinwheel lovers, we hope you still come. For pinwheel haters, you are welcome.
"As in past years, Doughy Joey's Pizza Joynt will be providing pizza and pasta at lunch time. SingleSpeed beer will be offered at the race venue. For the potentially chilly mornings, we'll have Sidecar coffee and treats available as well."
Twisted Cross on Facebook has a video and basic information. Registration is on BikeReg.com. If you stay overnight, organizers recommend the Hampton Inn by Hilton directly across the Cedar River from the race venue.
Tondro Pray Bike Park in Cedar Falls, home to Twisted Cross, is only 90 minutes from Iowa City and just over an hour from Cedar Rapids.
"If you like hilly courses as much as I do, you'll definitely like Cornerstone Cross," said Seamus O'Connor-Walker. "Last year the courses took good advantage of the elevation change in the area. Both were mostly grass with one or two gravelly turns. In addition to the hills there were some good technical sections and couple of solid straightaways. "
In 2018 Cornerstone Cross was the very last event of the cyclocross season, a week after the State Championship on December 8. And it was bitterly cold.
The race this Saturday, October 5 will be two months earlier than last year, and part of the Iowa Cyclocross Series, but will stick with its unique format. "We’ve changed the categories and race times to match what everyone else is doing," said Ames Velo's Scott Wall. "So the big difference with our race is the 'short track' cross at the end of the day.
"The course is split by a gravel road and the long races use the whole thing. At the end of the day we’ll stay on the south half of the course and run several 12-15 minute races – think short track mountain biking. Last year the short track races were a lot of fun to watch as they were really intense and you could see the whole thing from one spot. The whole thing is on the side of a hill. It’s no Mount Krumpit, but you’ll know you’re climbing."
"With the race earlier this year there will be a lot more people," said O'Connor-Walker. "Last year was a good trial run, but with it being so late people were scared off by the potential for bad weather. Ames is a fairly central location. The quality of the course being as high as it is, and with the effort they put into making events a blast for spectators and racers, Cornerstone Cross will only continue to grow.
"The long/short race format is definitely unique. I was skeptical last year, but it turned out to be good fun and it ran smoothly. The long course race is just your typical cross race, so don't worry about not getting in your normal racing. Then, for the short course, you get a bonus race on a second course based on results in the first race.
"It may seem odd reading about it," said O'Connor-Walker. "But if you're confused by, or wary of, the format, my recommendation would be to go race and see how you actually like it. What harm can there be in getting a second race for free?"
This coming weekend in Des Moines is perennial favorite Capital City Cross. The course, or something like it, will be very familiar to dozens of Des Moines racers who ride the Renegade Cyclocross Practices each Tuesday night at Stone Park. But this weekend's races there will also attract racers from across Iowa and even from Nebraska, Minnesota, and South Dakota.
"I like to think of Capital City Cross as one of the races that help launched the Central Iowa Cyclocross scene," said BIKEIOWA's Scott Sumpter. "I know it was one of my first local races outside of the Newton races back in the day."
"It's always been a low-key grass-roots race. The course is super spectator friendly as it is fairly compact with all the elevation at the South side, where folks congregate for the best seat in the house to watch the racers on the barrier and hill sections."
The race is also about as welcoming as can be to beginners. The park is mostly flat and fast, but the BIKEIOWA crew do a great job of using what elevation they have. They tape off a course that is twisty and flowing, often changing but always fun. And if they can arrange some mud this weekend, all the better.
This Capital City Cross will be the tenth in twelve years. It's a two-day event this year as there's no Relay Cross Sunday. New for 2019 are a three-lap Fat Bike Race Saturday and a free Capital Kid's Race for those nine and under, plus a separate mini Capital Kid's Course near the playground that kids can practice on with parental supervision.
Stone Park is a small neighborhood park just a few minutes from downtown Des Moines. There are not many amenities at the park, but there are convenience stores and restaurants just minutes away. Bring what you need, but you'll be close to anything you could want.
Capital City Cross is under two hours from Iowa City, and right about two hours from Cedar Rapids. Registration is on BikeReg.com. The weather forecast currently promises rain Friday and Sunday, so pack some waders and mud treads.