"There's certainly an entertainment value," says Dave Adams, a Bend photographer who enjoys shooting cycling events. "Spectators are thinking, 'Well, I might be silly for standing out in the rain and watching this, but at least I'm not trying to ride a bicycle uphill through the mud!' And who hasn't laughed at the sight of someone else falling down in a mud puddle?"
Slapstick aside, cyclocross attracts spectators who are enthusiastic, knowledgeable and a big part of the unique culture surrounding 'cross.
"Spectators can get close to the action, make a lot of noise and feel they're part of the race," says Adams. "The fans may have their favorite riders in a race, but I think they are really rooting for all the participants to overcome the obstacles, which often include bad weather."
Although the sport was borrowed from Belgium - hence ubiquitous beer and frites consumption at the races - America has made 'cross its own. American cyclocross was born in the northwest and is growing more rapidly in our region than anywhere else in the country, according to the current issue of Cyclocross Magazine.
Three years ago, the only local racing was the Thrilla series, according to local race promoter Gina Miller. In the interim, Bend has become one of the prettiest girls at the dance, so to speak. Our community hosted two national cyclocross championships in 2009 and 2010 that set a new standard for the event, and one that will almost certainly be difficult for any other host city to trump.
Meanwhile, Bend 'crossers have taken advantage of more homegrown races added to the schedule each year, simultaneously giving beginners more access and experienced racers the opportunity to sharpen their knives before heading over the hill to compete in larger events. This year, in addition to the local races, Bend has scored two major 'cross weekends: the Halloween Cross Crusade races and the US Gran Prix of Cyclocross in December. Get your cowbell ready.
Last year's 'cross clinics proved so popular, the crew at Rebound Sports Performance Lab is offering multiple clinics this fall tailored to specific abilities. On Monday evenings through September, Women, Juniors and Beginners will have their own clinics, and Tuesday evening clinics are for more advanced riders.
"We start with basics and then build upon them with more intermediate and advanced skills," says Bart Bowen. "It's way better to learn in a clinic than in a race - it's going to be a lot more fun. It's amazing to see how good people get in four weeks."
Clinics for juniors and women are $15 each. All other clinics are $20 each. Monday night clinics are slated for September 12, 19 and 26, and Tuesday night clinics are September 14, 21, 28. Go to www.reboundspl.com for more information.
Also in response to overwhelming participation last year, the folks at WebCyclery are staging two groups of races during their popular Thrilla race series instead of one. The first races, beginning at 5:25 p.m., are for juniors and the beginners. The second races, at about 6:15 p.m., are for more experienced racers (men and women A's and B's).
"People told us they wanted to try 'cross racing, but were scared because of the large fields," says WebCyclery owner Kevin Gorman. "Cyclocross is all about having fun, not being scared of faster riders. So we created a beginner and junior race so they can go off on their own without feeling pressured."
The Thrilla races use the dusty trails next to Summit High School in Northwest Crossing. Races will take place Thursday evenings, September 8, 15, 22 and 29. Entry fee is $15 per race for adults, and $8 per race for juniors. Series discount available prior to September 8. Go to webcyclery.com for more information.
Another fixture on the Bend cyclocross calendar returns with the weekend Crossaflixion Cup races. Less condensed than weeknight races, the Crossaflixion Cup accommodates 15 categories, and also includes a free Kiddie Cross race for little 'crossers.
"I love the Crossaflixion races," says race promoter Gina Miller. "They're good prep for the bigger races, like Cross Crusades, and they have a great local feel."
The first Crossaflixion race, on Sept. 24, will take place at Bend Distillery, and the course was designed for spectators as well as racers with food vendors, Boneyard Beer and access to the distillery's tasting room. A Cruiser Cross race will pay out at least $100 to the first man and woman over the finish line.
All racers during the three-race series will be entered into the "Really Awesome Raffle" with prizes like two nights at Seventh Mountain Resort and a set of Easton tubular 'cross wheels. Winners will be drawn at the last race, Oct. 9. The other two Crossaflixion races take place Oct. 9 and Nov. 12 at the Seventh Mountain Resort. For more information, go to www.crossaflixioncup.com
Cross at the College
New for this year are weeknight races to be held at COCC on October 6, 13 and 20. Race promoter Matt Plummer says the course will include trails, walkways and stairs. Plummer promotes training races during the summer as a way for locals to improve fitness and skill for larger weekend races, and his 'cross races will be modeled similarly.
Go to www.centraloregonracing.net for more info.
Day of the Dead Cyclocross Festival
The centerpiece of the festival will be the notorious Halloween Cross Crusades, which will be held in Bend for the first time. Races will take place Saturday, Oct. 29 and Sunday, Oct. 30 on the national championship course at Deschutes Brewery.
In addition to the expected pandemonium at the races, the festival also includes the Oregon Handmade Bicycle Show, the Cross Culture art show, the Clydesdale (riders over 200 pounds) Cyclocross Championship of the Universe, a warehouse party on Saturday night at Deschutes Brewery and the first-ever Cyclocross Super D Championship. It may not be a national championship, but with the peripheral entertainment - and the element of watching people race in costumes - you can bet that the Halloween Cross Crusades in Bend will be off the hook.
For more information on the Cross Crusades races go to www.crosscrusade.com, and for more on the Day of the Dead Cyclocross Festival go to www.visitbend.com.
Bend's cyclocross season will culminate with the Deschutes Brewery Cup, the season finale of the four-weekend, eight-race US Gran Prix of Cyclocross on December 10 and 11. The USGP will use the Deschutes Brewery nationals' course, and be the last big race for the elite men and women prior to national and world championship races. Races for other categories, including juniors, masters and singlespeed are scheduled. For more information go to www.usgpcyclocross.com.