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.
Never enough cyclocross, but you can't make it to Trek? Team Denovo has you covered.
Saturday, September 21st, "Valley Cross will be the best race that's not in Wisconsin."
Now in its fourth year, the Valley Community Center Cyclocross Course in West Des Moines is more than ready for a prime time debut. "We know we will lose racers to the Trek Cup," explains Jeff Osbourn, "but we are excited to host an earlier race this year when it's warmer."
"This will be our first year as part of the Iowa CX Series. We have a great venue and course for the series, but the course is also open seven days a week from sun-up to sun-down. We see people out there all the time."
The course itself is 1.7 miles long, mainly flat, and very fast. With sweeping corners and the course well broken in, it's very beginner friendly. "This course favors riders with a lot of power," said Osborn. "We know of several people who state this is their favorite place to ride."
Valley Cross is Saturday, September 21. Bragging rights and Iowa CX Series points are at stake, as well as cash prizes for all but the Juniors and the Fat Bike category. If you're not in Wisconsin, don't miss it.
Jingle Cross and the Trek CXC are right around the corner and the Juniors racing for Corridor Devo are ready. "My first race was Jingle Cross," said Aidan Jacobsen. "From there I fell in love with cyclocross and immediately wanted to do the next race I possibly could. I bothered my dad to sign me up for Trek the next weekend. It really helped me get into cyclocross."
Jingle Cross and the Trek CXC have been groundbreaking in many ways, not the least of which is offering a full slate of amateur racing alongside the spectacle of the World Cup. Is the racing too hard for Juniors and beginners? Not everyone agrees.
Olivia's father, Ben Caskey, argues that World Cup races would not be the best choice for a first race to compete in, but definitely a race to come watch and learn from. His son Griffin thinks the races are more competitive but not too hard.
Jocelyn says, "Jingle Cross is very welcoming because of the Junior Cup on Saturday. Going up Mount Krumpit is the hardest part, especially in the mud like last year."
Cam recommends the World Cup races to beginners as they get the full experience of a race that size. He says yes, they are harder, but in that the competition is harder. "There are usually so many more kids racing at these events and the abilities are all across the board. If you are a new racer there is a great chance that there are other new racers in your category."
There's also more to these events than racing. "I have definitely made friends at bigger races such as Jingle Cross and Trek and even nationals," said Aidan. "It's a great place to meet people because just walking around the course you can run into someone from another country or all the way across the country and get to talk to them and learn about where they're from and how they live. It's a great way to meet people."
"The Compton/ Keogh camp is one of my personal highlights of Trek," said Caelyn. "I always learn something new. The competition at a world cup event is much different then a local race. The atmosphere and race brings a closer experience to nationals than any local race."
"The kids are on the edge of exploding," said Brooke. "They look forward to these race weekends all year, a great time with the team and a time where they feel 'so close to pro.' To me, that is what it’s all about: fostering a wonderful environment where the kids can bloom."
"In my opinion, these events bring the future of cycling and cyclocross to light. I love when a bystander asks about this 'cycling thing.' It’s clear that opportunities in cycling are spreading in the US, and it's rewarding to be on the brink of that movement!"
There's still time to register for both Jingle Cross and Trek CXC, whether you're a Junior, a Cat 5, a wannabe pro, or a Masters racer. Then again, you can also just come watch and cheer us on.
If you're in the Iowa City area, Jingle Cross is still looking for volunteer help this week and through the race weekend. Come help make it happen!
"Dirty Wooden Shoe is a great event and has something for everyone," said Vanessa Curtis of Iowa City Cycling Club. "There are some challenging technical elements including the Dutch Letters and some long uphill segments that tax the cardiovascular system, which make it a great tune-up for Jingle Cross."
"It is also an unintimidating course for a beginner cyclocross rider," said Curtis, "with friendly people, flowing sections to practice cornering, and multiple barriers to work on mounts and dismounts."
Most years Dirty Wooden Shoe includes a set of standard wood barriers, a couple 4x4s on a hillside climb, a whole drain pipe, and a set of two half pipes. Unless you're good at bunny hopping that can add up to four dismounts each lap. Even more if you mistime the "Dutch Letters."
Waiting for the album to drop? Getting the band back together?
We might need to do a caption contest...
Are you ready for cyclocross? Ready or not, next weekend the fourth edition of Cannonball Cross will open Iowa's season in a big way. No shot across the bow, it's more like the battle is on. "This race is a great Opener to the CX season," said Twisted Spokes' Kathleen Porter, "to get you acclimated to the toughness and fun that is cyclocross!"
Cannonball has always been a tough race. "One of the reasons we decided to put on Cannonball Cross was Jingle Cross becoming a World Cup race and moving to September," explained Race Director Dave Delperdang. "We needed another race to get ready for that and for Waterloo, Wisconsin's Trek CXC Cup." The Mason City race draws talent from across the upper Midwest. The competition is fierce, but Delperdang and Spin Devo make sure it's fun as well.
"It is a very well run event with a challenging course," says Porter, "It has a little bit of everything from off camber switchbacks, wide open flats, steep hillside climbing and a super steep flyover* feature. The venue is very good with ample parking and there has been a food truck on deck. A well laid out course makes it spectator friendly from different viewing points."
Cannonball Cross is August 31 and September 1, 2019 in Mason City's East Park.
Register now at bikereg.com.