This is American Cyclocross: The Local Race
by Molly Hurford and John Proppe
At it’s core, cyclocross in the US is a participant-based sport. Family and friends can come out, spectate, race, learn, eat, drink and heckle to their hearts content, often paying little or nothing for the pleasure of doing so. In Europe, it’s a spectator sport, where there aren’t family and friends so much as groupies and fans. Both are good, just different, and that makes sense. Europe has the big league racers in a location the size of Wisconsin, whereas the US has our stellar but spread-out-over-50-states pro scene. That means that the scene developed more through the grassroots races than the bigger UCI races. And this weekend, one such small Ohio series was out to prove just how great cyclocross is for the whole family. John Proppe and I were both at the race, and I was leading a women’s ride on Saturday. To say we had a great time would be an understatement. I relearned just how much I love this sport, and exactly why.
From John Proppe:
While in its first year, the North Coast Grand Prix of Cyclocross was polished beyond its years. Marshall Leininger and the Stark Velo crew went out of their way to create a challenging course, along with some fun (and delicious) options that aren’t normally seen at a local cross race – a skills clinic by Scott Mares, book signing by Molly Hurford, food trucks and beer prizes. As someone who is known to enjoy food and drink a bit too much, I was pleased as punch.
The racing was fast and exciting, as is par for the course for the Northeast Ohio scene. The team races on Saturday were a neat concept, as racers of all ages and abilities took to the course en masse. Sunday was the big show which I had the good fortune of going 1-2 with my teammate in the men’s A race.
The highlight of the weekend for me was seeing how laid back the local racers and teams are. The weather was perfect, which is a rarity this late in the year in this part of the country. Racers were in good spirits, and were able to kick back, have a brew and enjoy the racing.
From Molly Hurford:
John and I debated whether we should write super serious race reports, or if we should wax philosophical about the importance of grassroots racing in the US. Both were equally important to us, as far as why we elected to be in Ohio this past weekend. We wouldn’t enjoy the race without the community, or the community without the race.
The race promoters brought me out, along with Scott Mares, to help with Saturday’s festivities. Mares ran a clinic, and later in the day, I led a women’s ride around the course, spending a good amount of time with a brilliant and talented 13-year-old, Kennedy Adams. We also had a team race, where I was incredibly flattered to be asked to be on the women’s team. We had a blast, taking out as many men as possible, and I might have tried to throw a few elbows John’s way in the start since they put us next to each other on the front.
Then, we raced on Sunday, around the incredibly professionally designed course. For me, my race report is simple: the P-1-2-3 women started just behind the 3/4 men and the 35+ men. This meant that as we went onto the course, we weren’t just racing each other, we were racing to pass as many men as we could. Mainly for fun, admittedly. It may have gotten a tad aggressive, as I raced past a guy that I’d been out with the night before and yelled, “Get out of my way or I’ll take you out!” But that’s bike racing, and it’s awesome.
During the race, Sally Price took a dominant lead on the field after a half lap. I dropped a chain at the same time she broke away, and lost a minute on Price and Emily Ponti. I was never able to make up the time I lost, but I did claw my way back past most of the women’s field that had passed me when I dropped the chain. Price continued to open her lead and while I closed on Ponti, she held me off into the finish. Still, it was my first podium of the year, and more importantly, the relaxed attitude post-race was so impressive, and the fact that there was such a serious, intense, thriving cyclocross community somewhere other than New England or the Northwest, was so exciting for me to realize. I knew that grassroots cycling was alive and well, but I’m even happier to conclude this report by saying that it isn’t just alive and well. It’s doing amazing.