Last week’s Zipp OVCX Athletes of the Week Ray Smith and Rachel Dobroszi. Zipp OVCX

Last week’s Zipp OVCX Athletes of the Week Ray Smith and Rachel Dobroszi. © Zipp OVCX

Dayton, Ohio —  Possibly the most important week in the short history of the Zipp OVCX Cyclocross Tour has started even better than expected.  Just days before racing in front of an expected 10,000 spectators, Zipp OVCX Tour Director Mitch Graham announced that Papa John’s Pizza has re-joined the series as presenting sponsor.

The announcement was made as the riders and staff of the Midwest-based series prepare for their second double-header weekend in as many weeks.  Just six days after raising $5,000 for disadvantaged kids at the St. Mary’s Child Center in Indianapolis, Indiana, the Zipp OVCX Tour Presented by Papa John’s will put cyclocross on center stage as the featured attraction of Gearfest, Dayton Ohio’s huge outdoor sports exposition on Saturday, October 1.  The following day, the Tour travels across town for one of the most venerable events in Midwest cyclocross, The Buckingham Financial John Bryan Cyclocross Classic on Sunday,October 2.

Gearfest annually draws in excess of 10,000 people for displays and exhibitions of outdoor sports and equipment, and the spectacle of cyclocross racing will be surrounding them throughout the day on Saturday.  It has been pegged as one of the most important race dates for the sport since the race was first announced last winter.  In order to provide racers with the ultimate cyclocross weekend, promoter TJ Turner rescheduled his Buckingham Financial John Bryan Classic from its traditional Thanksgiving weekend date to the day after Gearfest.  Set among the 200 year-old trees of John Bryan State Park, Series Director Graham says of Sunday’s course, “It’s a well-balanced course that isn’t defined by any single feature, it has a little bit of everything.”

This weekend’s Dayton Double-Header follows a successful opening to the 2011 season for the Zipp OVCX Tour.  After three races over the past two weekends, attendance is up by over 20% and the average entry for each of the Zipp OVCX cyclocross races so far this year is roughly double the average entry for road and mountain bike races in the region throughout the year.  The new class structure has been well-received and the new chip scoring mandate is providing all racers with the unexpected bonus of split times and position at the end of every lap.

On the Elite side, “youth” has already become a definite theme of the Zipp OVCX. At the season opener, defending Women’s champion Nikki Dallaire (soon to be featured in the print edition of Cyclocross Magazine) out-gunned young pro Katie Antonneau for the win.  With both Dallaire and Antonneau contesting the USGP last weekend, it was a wide open affair for the Indianapolis weekend double-header as Elizabeth Cobb and Geraldin Schultze took the wins.  Of particular interest in the Indy races was Katherine “KK” Santos mixing it up at the front of the Elite field both days and finishing on the podium at the St. Mary’s Cyclocross, despite being only 14 years old.

The youth movement extends throughout the rest of the Tour as well.  Mitch Kersting won on opening day in Louisville, but 17 year-old Andrew Dillman won overall at both of the Elite Men’s races in Indianapolis last weekend.  It’s the tradition of youth and rider development in the Zipp OVCX that attracted Papa John’s Pizza to the series.  Says Director Graham, “Papa John’s is  supporting the series because the series supports junior development.”  Altogether, there are approximately 50 junior-age racers competing in various junior and adult classes in the Zipp OVCX presented by Papa John’s.  Fifteen year-old Rachel Dobroszi who, along with Cat 2 rider Ray Smith, was selected as Zipp OVCX “Athlete of the Week”, rolled her Zipp  wheels to a mid-pack finish at the Brookside Cup in the Elite Women’s division (Zipp OVCX Athlete’s of the Week receive use of a pair of Zipp 303 Cyclocross wheels for the week they are selected).  As the young riders cultivated over the past half-decade begin to mature, the already-mature riders in the Masters classes also continue to see their numbers growing with large field sizes now the norm.

At this early stage of the season, though, riders are still focused on each new race and scoring points to establish their start seeding.  With points on the line at two of the most prestigious races in the Midwest running back-to-back in Dayton this weekend, nobody can afford to stay home.  For more information on the Zipp OVCX Tour presented by Papa John’s, including registration links to all races, see