Bend's Julie Cutts was the 2013 road bike and time trail national master's champion, so she can't be faulted for registering as a pro for any bike race, as she did at a race at Mt. Rainer that same year.
The only problem? It was a cyclocross race.
"I had just met Scott Peterson [owner of Cyclesoles in Bend] and he was racing, so I registered for the pro class," explained Cutts. "I quickly discovered that I couldn't run, never knew what place I was in, and found myself off the bike and walking through mud!"
Mary Dallas is chief medical information officer at St. Charles and recently won the Oregon Masters championship in her age group at the Alsea Falls Mountain Trail Bike Festival and Oregon Bicycle Racing Association State XC Championships this year.
She'd never heard of cyclocross before moving to Bend in 2010, but she soon signed up for a race.
"I treated it as another great opportunity to ride," she said. "After a few races I was hooked and was eager to come back the next season."
But an ACL injury kept her off the course that year, coming back the following year to race at the nationals in Austin, Texas, where she found herself starting dead last due to lack of points.
"Part of the fun is seeing if you can ride certain sections without wiping out," she said, "Or, not getting run over by someone else wiping out."
For Peterson, mountain biking was a way to get back into shape after multiple surgeries.
"I went to the Cyclocross Nationals in 2009 when it came to the Old Mill," he said. "It was so cold I couldn't believe people were racing bikes."
So he did the only reasonable thing and immediately bought a cyclocross bike, entering the stage as an admitted beginner.
To satisfy the urges of these and hundreds of other bikers, Molly Cogswell-Kelley, financial development and events director with the Mt. Bachelor Sports Education Foundation (MBSEF), has worked hard to keep cyclocross local in the form of the Thrilla Cyclocross series held in September at the Athletic Club of Bend.
Resembling the Tower of Babel of biking—drawing riders from all disciplines to a course full of obstacles, sand, mud and stairs, and most important of all, a crowd of spectators whose sole purpose is to heckle riders as they pass by—the event is a natural fundraiser for Cogswell-Kelly.
"Everyone knows how passionate I am about cyclocross, as I race all the time," said Cogswell-Kelly, adding that the race helps fund youth race programs at MBSEF. "With the Cross Crusade Series in Portland and the Halloween Crusade in Bend, the sport has really gotten a lot of locals interested and, because they don't have to travel as much, the Thrilla series has exploded."
The number of participants has increased every year, with Cogswell-Kelly confident that last year's average attendance of 200 riders on any given night will grow this year.
Races will be held on September 2, 9, 16, 23, and 30, hosting a "C" level and junior race at 5:15 pm and an "A" and "B" level race at 6.
"We are limited to those over the age of 12 as we do not have enough daylight to run three races," explained Cogswell-Kelly. "The rules of the sanctioning body allow juniors over the age of 12 on the same course at the same time as adults."
As one of those adults, Dallas finds cyclocross to be more intense than mountain biking.
"I am not used to hard, all-out sprinting, as mountain biking requires me to worry more about climbing," she noted. "Cyclocross has made me learn how to be more aggressive, jockey for position, pass in tricky areas, and be able to gun it for 30 minutes."
And, she is still learning.
"My flaw is I do not go all out at the start," she admitted.
For first-timers, Cogswell-Kelly simply suggests they come out and try.
"We open up the course at 3:45, so riders can pre-ride with someone who knows the course and can help them understand how to dismount their bike and carry their bike over obstacles," she explained, suggesting that they start out in the beginner class. "These skills do not come naturally to people and are very technique heavy."
She also warns that the sport is addicting.
"I have talked to so many people that started last year for the first time and it is the only thing they can think about it," she said. "The just want to come back and do better the next week."
As physically challenging as cyclocross is, Cogswell-Kelly cautions people not to take it too seriously.
"Spectators are making fun of you the whole time," she said. "Take it too seriously and you will only get heckled more and more."
For more information about the race series visit www.mbsef.org/events/mbsef-thrilla-cyclocross-series.