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.