Spooky Cross has been scaring Iowa bike racers for over a decade now. First in Cumming, then in Urbandale, most recently in Altoona. The location has changed but the formula has remained the same: frightful speed, fierce competition, spooky costumes, and fun.
Again this year Spooky has found a new home, and it might be its best venue yet. Race director Justin Guiter (Zealous Racing) explained, "We have a new venue from years past. The new course has more of a mix of terrain than what we used to have. It is on the side of a hill along a creek, so it offers more elevation, too. There are opportunities for run ups we haven't had in the past. And there are off-camber sections that will challenge your handling skills wet or dry. We've also sprinkled in some fast flat sections for recovery or to open up the stable and let the horses run."
Kerrie Bernstein (Zealous Racing) got to ride the course while checking out the new prospect. "The new course is more challenging technically. It's a super fun and fast ride, but if it's muddy be prepared to run and carry your bike.
"There is a steep run up that could be crazy if it rains. And the off camber section is tough; there is a chance you could slip down into the creek that runs along side it." (Guiter assures us that "we have nylon fencing along that section so – hopefully – no one makes it into the creek." But we'll see...)
The new venue at the Altoona Campus (similar to a YMCA) is just southwest of the Altoona Aquatic Center where the race has been held most recently. According to Guiter, "It's different than [the Aquatic Center] as there we had a small area we were trying to get as creative as possible with, whereas this has a lot of potential to do whatever we want to in the future. In the past we did a good job of adding small sections each year and building on our success from previous courses. At the new venue we hope to still have some of our well known features and touches added to appeal to both roadies and mountain bikers.
"Unfortunately, the decision to change venues was not left to us. The City of Altoona planned to build a new City Hall/Police Station in the area we've used in recent years. We knew this day was coming, we just didn't know when. We found out by riding to the course the week prior to our scheduled course work day; there were construction stakes in the ground labeling where to grade and such. The next Monday ground was broke and we were officially without a venue.
"Altoona has been incredibly supportive of bike racing over the years, especially cyclocross, with both Spooky Cross and the Iowa State Cyclocross Championships only about two miles away. The city worked with us and gave us some options. After a few email exchanges and off-road excursions by foot, bike, and truck, we landed on this new venue as a good fit with a lot of potential, possibly more potential than our previous venue. Again, the City was very supportive of what we presented to them for the new venue."
The course will be quite different Saturday and Sunday "to keep you on your toes." Some parts will run in reverse but new sections will be added to give the two days a very different feel. "There are opportunities for different run-up's for each course, but those are still to be determined. At this point, one course seems a little easier and faster than the other, but I'll let you be the judge of which is which."
Saturday will include the 2-lap costume race again this year, explained Guiter. "That seemed to be a hit last year and will hopefully have another good turnout this year. The course will be condensed from the full Saturday lap to make it more fun for those that have a more ... uncomfortable costume. We're also looking at adding a kid's course that would consist of a small taped off course at the venue for those little ones that are running balance bikes." Juniors and youths race for free both days.
"Parking may be confusing as the meat and potatoes of the course are on the southside of the Altoona Campus," according to Guiter. "Parking will be available at a bar, the Brewhouse No. 25, about 100 yards from the venue, a Church with a large parking lot, and the Altoona Campus. We'll post signs, but it may still be a bit of a challenge as it is a new venue and parking is not in plain site like our old venue."
Spooky Cross' catchet and proximity to Minnesota, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas promise a level of competition not seen in eastern Iowa aside from Jingle Cross. Its new home at the Altoona Campus is under two hours from Cedar Rapids and Iowa City. And remember, Zealous Racing's scary weekend of cyclocross benefits JDRF.
Saturday morning the Altoona Fire Department will host an all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast. At the venue itself food will be available both days from Big Acai Bowls and Willie's BBQ.