104 Juniors line up for the Hillsboro round of the Oregon Junior and High School Cyclocross Series. Photo by Brent Adams.

by John Wilson: director, Oregon Junior & High School Cyclocross Series

The 2010 Oregon Junior and High School Cyclocross Series has been a huge success. Only in its second year, participation numbers have more than doubled, and it looks likely to be the most attended Junior Cyclocross Series in the country this year.

Cyclocross is the fastest growing form of bike racing in the USA, and Oregon has one of the largest adult cyclocross scenes in the country. Not so for Oregon Juniors, at least until this year. Regularly over 1,000 Beginners, Masters, and skill category racers turn out at Oregon races. This is great for the sport but has created some challenges for Juniors. Race day schedules were so busy that Oregon Juniors needed to share the race course with sometimes-overzealous adults. Safety rules in Oregon prevent Juniors below 12 racing from with adults. This left no room for the youngest Juniors who are the future of our sport.

This situation created the motivation for the Oregon Junior Cyclocross Series: A series of Junior-only events to help invest in the future of the sport. The series was born in 2009 with a simple goal of encouraging participation, making it fun and generously distributing sponsor donations broadly across the field. We wanted every kid who participated to walk away with something from the series.

Haley Wilson and Grayson Szczukowski top the stairs. Photo by Lori Wilson.

I was inspired by the great program up in Washington. Dale Knapp, the Rad Racing Team and the Seattle cyclocross scene have been doing it right for several years and had some impressive Junior attendance numbers. Oregon races are often two or three times larger in total participation numbers, but Washington’s Junior numbers were nearly twice as large as Oregon’s. Washington had made the investment in Junior development teams and Junior-only race schedules. The system was obviously working. In 2009 their average participation numbers were around 50 Juniors per race. Nice job Washington! Colorado, New Jersey and the Central region of the USA also have solid and growing Junior numbers.

In 2009 the Oregon Junior Cyclocross Series averaged only 27 kids per race. This year we are averaging 67 and broke the 100 mark (104) November 7th, at the Hillsboro Cross Crusade. Washington numbers are up this year and averaging around 60*. Colorado (Boulder) is averaging about 53*. The Central, Mid-Atlantic, and New Jersey regions are just a little lower. (* Numbers determined from Crossresults.com.)

John Wilson doing the Call Up! Photo by Brent Adams.

Finding the passion to start the series was easy for me. In 2009 my 10 year-old daughter Haley had nowhere to race. With Nationals in Bend, I thought we should create an opportunity for Oregon Juniors. I pitched the idea to my cycling team, Willamette Valley Cycling, and our title sponsor, Pacific Power – they immediately understood the benefits and were eager to support the race budget. I was amazed at the excitement and interest from the bicycle industry. I quickly found out almost everyone shares a passion for Junior development. Redline, Castelli , Rolf Prima, Hammer Nutrition and Northwest Multisports were glad to join in and support the effort. I also received great advice, planning and merchandise support from Kona factory racer, owner of Sellwood Cycle Repair and super nice guy Erik Tonkin. Erik and Sellwood Cycle Repair were jazzed about creating and supporting this series. Oregon race promoters Sal Collura, Jeff McNamee, Jeff Lorenzen and Brad Ross also stepped up, giving me the prime mid-day Junior-only race slot (so parents don’t have to get up too early) and agreed to only charge a $5 entry for Juniors. The Oregon Bicycle Racing Association discounted Junior fees to these race promoters to help defer their costs.

New this year for Oregon is the addition of a high school series run in companion with the age-graded Junior series. We have 10 regional high school teams this year: Corvallis, Bend, Hood River, Eugene, Roseburg, Salem, Mapleton and three Portland teams. It is a fantastic start. Our long term aspirations are to make cyclocross an official high school club sport. Could this be the key to the growth this year?

The series wraps up on November 20th with a double-points race that is sure to make for an exciting finish. Eight Junior age category Series Championships are on the line. Also, awards will be given to the top three high school men, women and teams. The series awards payout is impressive with our great sponsorship going five deep in each of the eight categories. Champion Jerseys for all category winners are provided by Castelli. Plus we have some awesome lottery-based grand prizes: 24” Redline Conquest bike, and Conquest Frame/Fork from Redline, a Kona Jake bike from Sellwood Cycle Repair and a VCX wheelset from Rolf Prima. There will be some happy Juniors on the 2oth! We’d also like to recognize the parents who do such a great job supporting their kids. We will have a special lottery give away for them as well.

Thanks again to all our great sponsors. We couldn’t do this without you.

Top 15 most attended Junior races in 2010 so far. The Oregon Junior & High School Series has 4 out of the top 5!

Data from Colin Reuter at http://www.crossresults.com/

1              11/7/2010            Oregon Junior Cyclocross Series: Washington County Fair Complex Crusade         98

2              10/24/2010         Oregon Junior Cyclocross Series: Portland International Raceway Crusade            96

3              10/31/2010         Boulder Cup       80

4              9/19/2010            Oregon Junior Cyclocross Series: Hood River Double Cross 2        68

5              10/9/2010            Oregon Junior Cyclocross Series: Heiser Farm Cyclocross               66

6              1/31/2010            World Championships    61

7              10/24/2010         USGP Derby City Cup     60

8              10/31/2010         Steilacoom          59

9              10/24/2010         Boulder CX#3     59

10           10/9/2010            Boulder CX#2 Interlocken            59

11           10/30/2010         Colorado Cross  58

12           10/23/2010         USGP Derby City Cup     56

13           10/10/2010         Harbin Park CX  54

14           9/19/2010            GMSV#1 Lookout Cross                53

15           10/3/2010            Cross Crusade: Alpenrose Dairy 51

For more information on Oregon Junior racing, or racing in Oregon:
Junior Cyclocross Series Web Page: http://www.obra.org/junior_Cyclocross_series/
The Oregon Bicycle Racing Association Web Page: http://obra.org/