Tape, trail, cool weather...it's cyclocross! © Ryan Hamilton
by Ryan Hamilton
Just as the weather was turning from winter to spring and getting very ‘cross-like with rain and mud, I cracked open the embrocation to get a whiff and realized there are still seven months until ‘cross season starts. That’s when I remembered someone posting in the Cyclocross Magazine Forum about a springtime ‘cross race: Cult ‘Cross. A quick search of the archives and I found my way to the Cult ‘Cross blog. The drive from Utah to Eagle, Colorado, is about six hours but seemed worthwhile to get my ‘cross fix. I grabbed a buddy that was up for a road trip and headed out to the back range of Colorado.
Once we made it to Eagle we grabbed the bikes for a pre-ride of the course to check it out and stretch our legs. After an exploratory lap, we happened upon Larry Grossman, the genius behind Cult ‘Cross. After talking with Larry it was clear this race was for the people – the people like me who will drive six hours to small town Colorado for a taste of cyclocross. Larry didn’t disappoint.
A quick, tough upward tilt © Ryan Hamilton
Day of the race and Mother Nature made sure to make all the ‘crossers feel at home. The cold wind kicked up and snow began to blow. By the second lap my lungs were burning and I was second-guessing my decision to make the long trek for 45 minutes of pain and suffering. The course was unique and had something for everyone. It started with an out and back through a dirt parking lot and up a steep barrier section before heading up a rock-filled climb designed to string out the group. It worked. Then you shoot down a paved path before dropping into a fast, shallow ravine with enough rocks to pinch flat your clinchers if you didn’t err on the high side of psi. A short narrow bridge brought you to the main portion of the course. A two foot-high steep bump made sure you didn’t carry too much speed or you’d risk snapping that new carbon fork.
Next were the high-speed grass sections with lots of speed and oodles of traction. A short run up over some barriers then through a small mud puddle and a fast rocky drop that Larry called the Cult ‘Cross version of the Koppenberg – appropriate for a race on the same weekend as Tour of Flanders. Then we took a quick trip along the river before a climb, ending with a winding trail through deep wood chips just begging to grab your tire and sacrifice you to the Cult ‘Cross gods.
The course ended in what Larry claimed was the only run-up finish in cyclocross history. I’ll take Larry’s word for it. It meant that if you were contesting a place at the line, you were going to have to work for it. Except for the Men’s and Women’s open races, it was hard to tell where the real contenders in the other races were because the B and C heats were filled with higher category racers competing while warming up. This managed to get a lot of riders lapped by racers from faster categories, but most didn’t seem to mind. We were there to race, not win prizes.
I went to Cult ‘Cross hoping for some fun, and I found it. This was by far the most interesting and enjoyable course I’ve ever competed on – it was challenging and fun. The atmosphere was grassroots cyclocross at its best. The locals were great and everyone was there for a good time. I don’t have a clue where I finished, and frankly I don’t care. It was ‘cross in its purest form and that’s what I came for.