Ever wonder what cyclocross races were like in the 70s and 80s? Before holeshots and hand-up rules mattered, and long before race websites and online registration existed? When $10 would get you three races, not two-thirds of a one-day license?
Rockville Bike is putting on a seven-week, late-season cyclocross series held in the NorCal’s “North Bay” that will give you a taste of cyclocross from that era. Show up the morning of the race, pay promoter John Silva $10 total to race one, two or three races that day, and you’re all set.
There’s no license or pre-registration required. No call-ups, ever (unless you bribe him). Does the sprint to get the holeshot stress you out? Relax, as most A, B, or C fields average under 10 riders. And there’s no minimum course width here, which means you’ll get to sample the sweet singletrack through the woods once you easily make it to the front while sandbagging the C race, because, well, you can.
It’s not like John Silva, the series promoter, is trying to be old-fashioned, and needless to say, his race series is not completely period-correct. The series doesn’t require Suntour Barcons and toe clips; Silva actually welcomes index shifting, brifters, clipless pedals, and anyone with disc brakes or even a mountain bike. And even though there’s no online registration, the series does have a website, albeit one that looks like it could be from the 80s (okay, fine, 1991).
The series kicked off its second season with its first race last Sunday (December 29, 2013). That’s right, the series just started, and will continue well into February. Think that’s late? Last year it started on January 20, and went for eight weeks.
Silva’s series is the perfect chance for all the racers who think the cyclocross season is too short, or would rather trade September for February because they believe the cyclocross season doesn’t take advantage of NorCal’s “true cyclocross conditions” weather.
Held at Solano Community College in Fairfield, the little-known series seems to be in the middle of nowhere, but is actually closer to most of the Bay Area and Sacramento’s population than the popular regional Central Coast and Santa Rosa series, and has this time of year mostly to itself.
Why such a late start to the series? Silva isn’t necessarily trying to mimic the European season or provide Nationals or Worlds prep, but rather is sensitive to other promoters, explaining, “There is the big series in Sacramento and the one in Santa Rosa, and I don’t think competing with those would be a good idea, and we are hoping there are enough racers who may want to extend their seasons.”
Silva’s ultra-affordable entry fees should make the series attractive to racers, even complete newbies, provided they discover the little-known races, and the low fee is partially possible because Silva doesn’t have to pay USA Cycling sanctioning fees. However, Silva is not anti-USA Cycling. “We had not looked into any sanctioning, but this year we have been talking to USAC, since we are thinking of making the last four races of the series into a North Bay Championship,” Silva revealed. “That would hopefully bring out all the locals and maybe pull from some of the other areas also. But lack of sanctioning had more to do with just getting it together and getting it going, time-wise, than any sort of formal decision making process.”
Silva, through the Rockville Bike shop, also puts on a summer time trial and team time trial that starts and ends with Daylight Saving Time.
By attending such a low-key cyclocross series, should you expect a jungle cross-style course, with ravine crossings and cliffs to scale? Hardly. It’s not an East Coast grass track, but Silva says, “We hope that everyone feels the course is fun…it’s a sort of a bike handler’s course with at least three dismounts and about a quarter mile of forest single-track.”
Cyclocross has certainly progressed over the last thirty years, and in many ways, for the better. We have professional, UCI-level events throughout the States with expos, power washers, announcers, concessions, big names, big prize purses and at times, live video coverage, and it’s awesome when the big show comes to town.
Racers shouldn’t come to Rockville expecting all of these amenities. Yet when we asked why people started racing cyclocross yesterday on Facebook, nobody cited these as reasons they gave cyclocross a try. Perhaps Silva is providing the perfect, low-key method for more people to discover cyclocross.
They just need to discover his race series first.
More info: Rockville 2014 Cyclocross Series Website (the website is old school too — you were warned)