Undated historical photo: Aviation pioneer Harold Pitcairn flying a Cierva C8W “autogiro” above the site of this weekend’s WhirlyBird ‘Cross.

Round 4 of Champion System MAC Series

Champion System MAC competitors will experience a fully modern, and historic, venue at this weekend’s WhirlyBird ’Cross at Bryn Athyn College near Philadelphia. Taking place near the college’s Asplundh Field athletic facility, racers will have access to the athlete locker rooms and showers.  The race will also feature the modern notion of fully equally prize lists for the Elite Men and Women. Yet the venue has historic overtones as well, especially to those with a fascination for aviation technology history. And that history leads directly to one of the more unusual race names in cyclocross.

In addition to the neighboring and architecturally-famous Bryn Athyn (pronounced “Brin Athen”) Cathedral, the college property is the site of what is regarded as the birthplace of rotary wing flight in the United States.

It was first used as an aircraft landing field in 1916 and aviation pioneer Harold Pitcairn, whose family was one of the guiding forces behind both the Cathedral and College, made the first rotary-wing flight in America in the pictured autogiro on December 18, 1928, hence the name “WhirlyBird” for the cyclocross race. By that time, Pitcairn Field was already a thriving aircraft design and manufacturing facility (and track bicycle racers, especially those who raced in the 6-day races at Madison Square Garden, were the most highly paid professional athletes in America).  After outgrowing the facility in Bryn Athyn, Pitcairn moved his airfield and aircraft manufacturing business a few miles to the east and a facility that grew into the Willow Grove Naval Air Base.

The WhirlyBird ’Cross presented by Guy’s Racing takes place Sunday, September 26. Details are available at BikeReg.com.