by Ken Getchell
Bike races are frequently marked by pivotal events know as Queen Stages, but not in the Zipp OVCX Cyclocross Tour presented by Papa Johns, where the season begins with the King stage on September 19. Specifically it’s the Kings CX weekend in Mason, Ohio. Last year’s popular format of a non-points “pre-season” race on Saturday followed by the season-opener for the 15-race Zipp OVCX series on Sunday will return. Also returning is last year’s popular (at least with the spectators) Tape-Destroyer, though with some changes according to lead promoter Corey Green. “It promises not to destroy quite as much tape, though all bets are off if it rains,” he said recently.
The venue for the races is Kingswood Park just north of Cincinnati. A former golf course, the property is now a Deerfield Township park and has a perfect viewing “stand” atop a hill in the middle of the park. From that vantage point the viewer will be able to see approximately 80% of the course as well as being able to oversee the Saturday’s separate kids course. On Sunday, children and their parents will have the opportunity to ride on the real race course as part of the PUR (pronounced “pure”) Water Filtration Systems sponsored Ride With Kids Series.
One new aspect of the race will be the new “Sha-Zand” obstacle, an inclined, hill-side sand section that keeps changing shape. “Sha-zand started out as a plan for an old school run-up on a steep, soft slope,” explains Green. “When we started clearing the area we discovered that this wasn’t a dirt base at all, but was sand, most likely from dumping from the upkeep of the bunkers on the old golf course. The end result is a hillside that continues to move and change the more we ride it.” Green goes on to explain that even though Sha-zand is easily rideable, it promises to be a tactical section requiring quick decision-making, especially in a pack. “The risk-reward of the Sha-Zand is that the lead-in is tight and twisty with a downed tree protecting the hillside sand. You have to enter the woods and navigate a couple turns, hop a log and then ride through the sand before going up a steep uphill to get out of the area. The result is a good technical section offsets the grass crit-type speeds we have seen on the course in training as a result of the dry August we have had. This section will slow people down for at least a few seconds before they go at top speed through a large section designed for power.”
It sounds like pure cyclocross to start the Midwest ‘cross season, which may be why registration for this year’s weekend is running far ahead of last year’s record entry. For full information about the Kings CX Weekend and round one of the Zipp OVCX Cyclocross Tour presented by Papa John’s, see BikeReg.com.