by Ken Getchell

The MAC Powered by SRAM Cyclocross Series makes its annual swing through the state of New Jersey this weekend, November 8 and 9. The two races will encompass two distinct areas of “the Garden State”. The weekend starts with one of the iconic course features of American cyclocross racing — the “Amphitheater of Pain” at the Beacon Cyclocross in the South Jersey town of Bridgeton. Then the series moves north along New Jersey’s famed turnpike to Jamesburg for the 10th annual HPCX.

The course for Saturday’s Beacon Cyclocross is unique and is a personal favorite of many racers. The fast, hard, sand-packed roads though the forest are very different from the typical east-coast grass. But even though the course is considered one of the fastest cyclocross courses in the country, it also boasts two of the biggest and slowest obstacles. The beach run, which would be the biggest obstacle at almost any cyclocross race, is 79 meters long and has two right-angle corners. But at the Beacon Cyclocross, it is overshadowed (literally) by the “Amphitheater of Pain”, a three-story outdoor theater. It would be a formidable obstacle even if the racers used the access stairs, but the organizers instead route the course through the terraced seating area where each step is at least two feet high. Compounding the difficulty is that the finish is a mere 45 seconds from the top of the amphitheater, making it important tactically was well as physically.

On Sunday, the MAC Powered by SRAM racers will be back on their familiar east-coast grass for the UCI C2 HPCX, an event co-promoted by the Highland Park Hermes and the Rutgers University Cycling Team. Originally intended as a temporary location during municipal construction at the race’s original venue, Jamesburg’s Thompson Park proved so popular with the racers that it has become the event’s permanent home. The park’s amenities include convenient parking and heated restrooms. But the park also has a lot of terrain changes that the organizers use to craft an interesting course. Fittingly, as the Rutgers University Cycling Team co-promotes the event, the race is also part of the Eastern Collegiate Cycling Conference’s cyclocross series and the New Jersey Cup.