Congrats to all of our cyclocross-crazy Iowans on their way to the National Championships in Louisville, Kentucky. Go get it!
This coming weekend features the Iowa State Cyclocross Championship Saturday at Lions Park in Altoona and the Illinois State Championship at Montrose Harbor in Chicago. For eastern Iowa racers Saturday is all but mandatory, of course. But anyone preparing for Nationals or just looking to extend their season should consider making the trip to race Sunday as well.
Iowa State Championship at Lion's Park
"There will be some changes, but mostly administrative. This year will include a Masters 65+ category. In recent years the number of racers beyond the 65 age mark has grown, so it seems fitting to have them duke it out for a State Championship.
"A huge thank you and shout out to Brooke Bailey for organizing the jersey. The design is awesome. It's a great addition to the Iowa Cyclocross scene."
Lion's Park in Altoona is under two hours drive from eastern Iowa. The forecast for Saturday so far is low 40s and a chance of rain. Register online at USAC.
Sunday, December 2, Montrose Harbor is the last event in the Chicago Cross Cup and serves as the Illinois State Championship. No small part of what makes the race a highlight, though, is the venue itself. Mark Zalewski of Spidermonkey Cycling explained: "The sand dunes unique to the area make it different than the rest of the CCC series and many other events in the region. Also, on the lakefront in December the weather is a significant factor — no year is ever similar because of this. In 2014 it was 62 degrees and sunny, while in 2016 snow started after the second category and it became a muddy/sandy wonderland. Plus the city skyline as a backdrop is hard to match!"
Photos and captions thanks to SnowyMountain Photography.
"For this year the course will again feature many of these highlight features, but with a couple of specific items added to mimic the Nationals course in Louisville, since many from our region are planning to attend Nationals two weeks later."
Next year another race will serve as Illinois State Championship, but Montrose Harbor will remain the Chicago Cross Cup Series finale and will still garner plenty of interest. "This year only two categories are locked-up before the race, with some categories separated by only a few points, which will make the race even more exciting. We are also working in a few ideas to make the race even bigger."
Montrose Harbor is 4+ hours driving from eastern Iowa. Current weather forecasts are for temps in the low 40s and light rain. For the latest info check the CCC website. Register online at BikeReg.com.
Does the thought of a four-day weekend without a race have you down? (Aside from the Turkey Trots, I mean.) Do you pine for the old days when Jingle Cross made Thanksgiving a real holiday? Are you concerned about race fitness with State and Nationals just weeks away? Don't worry. Cyclocross is here for you. With a little extra planning and effort you can race this holiday weekend.
Like every other weekend in our cyclocross season, Thanksgiving weekend affords us some options. Maybe you'll visit family in Indiana, so Region Riot CX near Gary will be close. Or if heading south for warmth is more to your liking, you might want to check out Kansas City's Fast and Furriest Cyclocross. Closer still, and as part of the Wisconsin Cycling Associations CX Series a good bet for stiff competition and a lot of fun, is the Battle of Waterloo CX.
Many of you know Waterloo, Wisconsin as home to Trek's CXC World Cup. That's understandable. But many don't realize that the little town hosts two other cyclocross races, the State Championship in December and the Battle of Waterloo this coming Saturday.
"This is the sixth running of the Battle of Waterloo CX," said Team Wheel & Sprocket's John Svanda. "We've changed dates over the years to accommodate other races in our series. We have hosted the State Championships in December and last year we had a mud-fest in October. But the majority of our races have fallen in November, so we feel that’s our sweet spot."
The race course is in Firemen's Park in Waterloo. "If you were up for the Trek World Cup, you may have driven past our hidden little gem. Firemen's Park is set back from the heart of downtown Waterloo and is home to one of the oldest operating carousels in the country. While it's closed for winter now, it really takes you back a few generations when you see it in action."
"We have a heated pavilion with room to set up trainers, indoor restrooms, a bar, and about everything needed for a cold-weather event. The race course has a great mixture of power, technical off-camber, fast descents, and plenty of climbing. If someone is targeting Nationals, this is where they want to be!"
Firemen's Park in Waterloo, Wisconsin is three and a half hours from Iowa City. So far, at least, the forecast for next Saturday is light rain and a high in the mid-40s. Check the Facebook Battle of Waterloo page for the latest info, more photos, and course maps and preview videos from years past.
If you've never raced in Wisconsin, expect a technical course, tough competition, and lots of hospitality. Svanda's Battle of Waterloo is no exception: "I hope to see you and the rest of your crew up here. As an incentive for making the long drive, I can knock $10 off of your entry fee. It’s not a lot, but I hope it helps!" That's only if you pre-register, folks, so get on it. Just use 'WELCOMEIOWA' when registering at USAC, and prepare for battle.
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").
If you have yet to commit to racing the Cyclocross National Championships next month in Louisville, Kentucky, now might be a good time. Early registration ends Friday night, after which the price goes up by around 30%. Besides, with just five weeks to go, it's time to tweak and hone your training and to make some arrangements for housing.
This year's second Cyclocross Championship, "18.2" marks the event's return to December. For several years USAC scheduled Nat's for January, when national championships happen in Europe. But in the colder climates of the northern United States that made for sparse schedules leading up to the event and lower attendance as a result. The first CX Championship of 2018 was January 9-14 in Reno, Nevada. 18.2 will be December 11-16.
Lucky for us, Nationals this time around is in Louisville, Kentucky, an easy 7+ hour drive from eastern Iowa. Many of us visited Louisville for Masters Worlds and the UCI's World Championship in 2013. But Nat's this year isn't at Eva Bandman Park & Cyclocross Venue, the permanent cyclocross course right on the Ohio River. Instead it will be a few miles south in Joe Creason Park, home of last year's Derby City Cup and the 2017 Pan American Cyclocross Championship.
We won't race the exact same course this year, but videos from last year's races can give us some idea of what Joe Creason Park has in store for us.
Come for a race or two, stay for the week. Louisville is a beautiful city with tons of stuff to do. Sadly, the Mega Cavern Bike Park is closed for the season, but you'll find plenty of other ways to keep busy. Score an Airbnb in the Highlands or Germantown neighborhoods and you'll be within biking distance of both the race venue and downtown Louisville.
Five weeks is too far out to predict weather, but on average Louisville is 11-12˚ F warmer than eastern Iowa in December, with an average high in the mid-40s, and an average low hovering right around freezing. With twice the chance for rain -- eight days a month to our four -- Louisville seems the perfect spot for Cyclocross Nationals.
Six more weeks of racing are on offer in eastern Iowa's 2018 cyclocross season. Adding to the challenges of shorter days and falling temperatures, cyclocross races are getting fewer and farther between. Dust off your trainer, pack your warmest kit, and read up. You have choices to make, and travelling to do.
There are some great options for racing next weekend, November 10 & 11. Frosty Cross, the last stop in the Iowa Cyclocross Series, offers two days of racing in Le Mars, Iowa. Alternately, Saturday is the Sun Prairie Cup near Madison, Wisconsin and Sunday the Chicago Cross Cup continues with Wheeling Heritage Park CX.
Did I mention travelling? From Iowa City that's nine hours of driving round trip to Le Mars, six and a half to and from Sun Prairie, just over seven round trip to Wheeling, or a total of nine hours to do both Sun Prairie and Chicago. If you want to race and you're willing to travel, this could be a tough decision.
"Frosty Cross was a lot of fun, I was able to get a couple podiums, and I will definitely go back again this year," said Trevor Roose, Iowa City Cycling Club. "Le Mars is a ways a from Iowa City/Cedar Rapids, but Frosty has a lot to offer. It's a fairly flat course, but includes a great little uphill and downhill that's slightly off-camber, a flyover, a sandpit, stairs, barriers, and it's all linked with plenty of power straight-aways."
Seamus O'Connor-Walker (Ames Velo) agreed: "I did Frosty last year because I was trying to do as many races as possible and it looked fun from pictures I saw online. It ended up being even better than I thought, so I'll definitely head back this year.
"There was a fun little descent and ride in the woods with different lines to choose from, lots of fast fun turns as well as some technical sections, and some nice elevation change which included a run/ride up choice. Last year I would have put Frosty second only to Jingle in terms of my favorite courses. I'm pumped to see what it's like this year."
Regardless of such high praise, Frosty's organizers keep working to improve their event. "The course will be a little different this year," said Ian Richards of Bike Central. "We've added more sand sections and modified the big staircase run up. And we're proud to offer equal payouts for men and women."
Frosty Cross draws plenty of talent from South Dakota, Nebraska, and Minnesota, yet maintains a friendly, almost cozy atmosphere. "We have a food truck and wood-fired pizza on site, and even free beer. For the last several years, we've invited everyone down to the shop (Bike Central) on Saturday night for a little after party and it's been a lot of fun, so we'd encourage everyone to come hang out with us."
"The Sun Prairie Cup is a super fun race," said Greg Ferguson (Trek Midwest Team), "with lots of little elevation changes and tough off cambers. A fan favorite for sure, especially up on the sledding hill."
"I would describe the course as flowy, said Race Director Travis Goodlund of Brazen Dropouts. "It does have quite a bit of climbing each lap and a lot of off camber. It is all on grass or black top."
The course has been voted one of the favorites in the Wisconsin series. "The cool thing about the Sun Prairie Cup is that it is centered around a sledding hill," explained Goodlund. "From the top we have a cheering/heckling location where you can see most of the course. The sledding hill is where our run up is located and is also the basis for Bobsled Run, our flowy down hill section. "
The Sun Prairie Cup is just ten miles north east of Madison and part of the Wisconsin CX Series, meaning it's bound to be fun on several levels. The competition is mostly local, but worth jumping into, especially if you've already faced off against the Wisconsin crowd at Jingle or Trek. Like the Iowa series, Wisconsin also includes a women masters category, a feature oddly missing from the Chicago Cross Cup.
Wheeling Heritage CX - CCC #8
2018 is only the second year for Wheeling Heritage Park CX, as the new venue replaced Melas Basin CX just last year. All reports from 2017 are of a very tough course, but then temps were low and the park was quite muddy. Still, we're confident Northbrook Cycling Club will get it done right, as these folks have been presenting races since the Chicago Cross Cup began in 2004.
According to Race Director Robert Paetsch, "This unique property is flat on the north side and rolling on the south. The course is 95% grass. Last year Mother Nature poured rain the day before and then the temperatures dropped below freezing. This year, seven days out, the rain is happening now and then we'll have temperatures back below freezing for race weekend. It looks like much of the same as last year: cold and muddy.
"We are running clockwise this year instead of anti-clockwise. Flat on one side with an off-camber connection to a hilly side. About 500 yards of pavement leading to a hilltop finish." Chicago Cross Cup races tend to feature wide open, power courses. Attendance is generally huge, but folks are surprisingly inviting.
The Chicago Cross Cup posts pics, videos, and comments:
"Check around the blog and make a mini family vacation out of it. It is a festive atmosphere in any temperature and fun for the whole family."
So several options for racing next weekend. How do you choose? If you're competitive in the Iowa Cyclocross Series, the answer is obvious: Frosty Cross is the last stop in the series, your last chance to conquer your category. If not, family proximity or travel times might allow a preference, or even the weather forecast. And though the competition can be fierce at Frosty, shear numbers favor the Madison and Chicago races: last year Frosty averaged just under 100 for each of its two days, while Sun Prairie drew 250 racers, and Wheeling -- on a cold, muddy day -- drew well over 500.
The big point, then, is that cyclocross hasn't stopped, the races are just a bit further away. Is it worth it? That's up to you to decide, of course, but with only four weeks 'til state and less than six until nationals, you'd better decide quick.