Snowy Racing In Utah Surprises Racers

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Racing in serious snow conditions in Utah. © Lynda Walenfels

Racing in serious snow conditions in Utah. © Lynda Walenfels

Who would have thought that a series race with the tag line “’Cross racing when everywhere else is covered in snow” would see six inches of snow during their second race of the season? But that is exactly what happened. Last Saturday, the St. George area of southern Utah received record snowfall for a single day.

When the bell rang to start the Cat C (beginner non-USAC category), the day was overcast and cool for the nine hardy beginner racers. But by the second lap, the snow began to fall. For the first race, this just meant an ambiance of a traditional ’cross race. A fire barrel was lit in the pavilion and a heater placed on the podium and everyone present began to get a little giddy. After all, snow is a rare occasion in the mostly warm desert climate, where winter temps are more commonly in the 50’s than the 20’s.

By Race 2 (CAT B Men + CAT A Women), the snow began to fall and conditions began to get a little slippery. This was a fast and more experienced group of men and women, so it was surprising to see some crashes and technical difficulties as pedals clips became frozen. Hand-ups by the crowd included mint cookies and a few snowballs began to fly.

Away from the venue, road condition started to become affected by the weather, and the temperature began to plummet. In the meantime, there was the largest junior group hanging out in shorts waiting for their turn to race the track. Southern Utah recently formed a high school mountain biking team, the Flying Monkeys, and the sport of cycling is really catching on in the local high schools. With only one lone youth in the group, the 10-year-old opted to race with the big kids and do the full lap. It was all boys out there, but those kids had a blast. There is nothing like a 14-year-old with a smile on his face after he discovers the joy of racing bikes in the snow.

Normally, the last race (Cat A men and Singlespeed) of the day is the biggest group, with a lot of experienced racers coming up from Las Vegas. On this day, if you were not already at the venue, you weren’t racing. (Side note: Conditions got so bad later that day the people spent the night in their cars on the highway to Vegas). It was just four crazy locals who decided to line up for the final race at 2 pm with close to five inches of snow on the ground [similar to the women's race at SSCXWC]. There were actually a surprising number of spectators hanging out to watch, drinking hot cocoa made by Findlay Subaru, one of the event sponsors, and playing in the snow.

The race started out between the singlespeeders fairly seriously, with a lot of back and forth as the three racers vied for first and second place. But the crowd just would not stand for too much seriousness, and they began to build the largest snowman obstacle that ’cross racing has ever seen. With three large balls, the snowman towered over six feet in height and took up half the course width. To make it more challenging, the crowd constructed a snow wall barricade. The whole race the single speeders had been bunny hoping the barriers, occasionally sliding out on the landing. The new barrier got the same treatment.

The best part of the day, came on the last lap. One by one the racers took on the abominable snowman in their own unique way—a body check here, a hand shove there—until the last racer, Danny Christensen, grab a fist full of front brake and hurled himself into the snow creature with all his might and tumbled to the ground as he took that snowman out.

Snowman versus singlespeeder. © Heather Gilbert

Snowman versus singlespeeder. © Heather Gilbert

Southern Utah Cyclocross will be hosting Christmas Cross December 14 at Gubler Park in Santa Clara. The next series race will be January 25, in Hurricane.




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