Does cyclocross stage racing have a future? Some remember that the very first mountain bike races were stage races, typically including a hill climb, downhill, cross-country race, and sometimes, observed trials. More than 20 years later, we’re seeing fat tires return to the stage race format, although now in multi-day marathon “epics.” But cyclocross, with its short events, is perfectly suited for several stages all in one day. Is this the future?
This past Labor Day weekend, Eugene, Ore. played host to the first Cross-Over Stage Race. Sal Collura, the race organizer (who rode to a 5th place GC position in the singlespeed category), said that he wanted “to kick off the season with something different, something that would lure the riders down from Portland.”
He didn’t disappoint, and Sunday greeted spectators with an odd vision: riders on cyclocross bikes lined up for a traditional time trial start. After a grueling 3km effort (almost every rider said, “That was harder than I thought it would be”), racers got a short break before gathering at the start line for a ‘Cross Criterium, conducted on one kilometer of gravel and pavement.
Less straightforward than a traditional crit, the course combined a climb that broke up fields and a descent that brought them back together. As expected, a Cyclocross Crit proved much harder than its normal cousin. Labor Day brought a more recognizable ‘cross course, with Molly Cameron and Sunny Gilbert soloing off the front of the pack to take their wins by around a minute.
Those gaps provided them with some cushion in the GC, as Cameron won the overall title in a time of two hours, three minutes, and fifteen seconds (1:53 ahead of the closest rider, Ethan Stehley of Wheelworks) and Gilbert won in one hour, twenty-eight minutes and thiry-three seconds, 1:33 ahead of her competition, Jacqueline Cohen of Sagebrush Cycles.
Cyclocross stage racing seems to be catching on here in the U.S., with the ZIPP OVCX series also adding a stage race to its calendar. Could we be looking at the future of ‘cross? Let us know what you think about this idea, and look for an in-depth article in an upcoming issue.