by Ken Getchell

Washington DC has seen its share of cultural battles over the years, but nothing quite like what’s developing at the October 26 “City Bikes DCCX” BikeReg.com MABRAcross race. The organizers of the only cyclocross race held within the city limits of the U.S. Capital, have announced that their “Lil’ Belgians” Free Kids Race will actually be sponsored by the Belgian Embassy. “Lil’ Belgians” racing, a traditional part of every BikeReg.com MABRAcross event, is a free fun-race for young children that occurs just prior to the Elite races, and it’s not unusual to see Elite and Amateur racers “assisting” their training-wheel-equipped youngsters by pushing them around their own special course.

Until now, the Lil’ Belgians moniker had been just a cute tribute to the homeland of cyclocross. But at the City Bikes DCCX, Belgium will be involved in an official capacity as the Belgian Embassy will be offering all participating kids a special (and tasty) prize. The kids won’t be the only ones getting a tasty Belgian prize, however, because the City Bikes DCCX organizers will keep the Belgian ambience rolling by serving free Frites to riders and spectators alike.
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Not to be outdone by their lowlander Benluxian counterparts, the DC Dutch club has announced that they too will be attending the race to cook “poffertjes” for the racers. Poffertjes are a type of pancakes served with butter and powdered sugar. And, in a further effort of trying to upstage their European neighbors, the Dutch plan to show up in traditional clothing with their flags waving.

Ironically, the venue for the race served as an important part of another Civil War and now serves as a retirement community for former military veterans, many of whom fought in Holland and Belgium during WWII. The Armed Forces Retirement Home in Washington DC is the site of no fewer than four National Historic Landmarks, including the Lincoln Cottage. By some estimates, President Abraham Lincoln spent nearly a quarter of his presidency at the cottage during the time of America’s Civil War.

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Of all the historic landmarks in Washington DC, none is so seldom visited by tourists as the Armed Forces Retirement Home; the site of no fewer than four National Historic Landmarks, including the Lincoln Cottage. These grounds and historic landmarks are normally accessible to tourists by appointment only. But on October 26, BikeReg.com MABRAcross racers can not only participate in the City Bikes DCCX cyclocross race, they can bring their families. And, if they schedule a tour of the Lincoln Cottage, they can have what may be the most timely historic tour of their lives.

President Abraham Lincoln withdrew frequently to what’s now known as the Lincoln Cottage. It was here, in 1862, that he wrote the first drafts of the Emancipation Proclamation which ended slavery in the United States. Racers and spectators will have the rare privilege of not only racing on historic property, but of providing the opportunity for their children to be the first in their school (including their teachers!) to see the actual site where the first formative steps toward racial equality were taken in America. Those baby steps could culminate just nine days after the race with the possible election of America’s first African-American President.

Fittingly for a venue so historically linked to equality, the Elite Women at the City Bikes DCCX will have their own equality. With the help of Whole Foods grocery on Washington’s P Street, the race’s organizers have announced they are paying equal prize money for both the Elite Women and Elite Men. All classes will be racing on a cyclocross course with lots of transitions from grass to pavement to gravel and back – including the Paris-Roubaix-style cobbled path that has become DCCX’s signature feature.

Fields will be limited to 100 riders for this exclusive event. One class, the Category 4 Novice Men has already sold out, and other classes are expected to follow suit shortly. To register for the City Bikes DCCX cyclocross race, see BikeReg.com http://www.bikereg.com/events/register.asp?eventid=7143

Those also interested in touring Lincoln Cottage should immediately click on http://www.lincolncottage.org/ to schedule a tour as there are limited slots available.

One final reminder: The venue still functions as a retirement residence for military veterans. Racers and their guests are asked to be respectful of the grounds and resident’s homes. Racers are further asked to stay within the vicinity of the race venue and not explore the grounds unattended. A photo ID will be required prior to entering the Armed Forces Retirement Home.