"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.