In our preview of the Jingle Cross Festival, I tried to read the tea leaves of the course map in the race technical guide to get a feel of what Friday’s C1 course will look like. Yesterday, I made the trip to Iowa City ahead of the weekend of racing and brought my GoPro to try my hand at riding the course Helen Wyman calls one of the top five in the world.

You can see my (sped up) course preview, complete with excessive braking and poor line choices in the video below. Read on past the video for some thoughts on my pre-ride experience.

Here are a few of my pre-ride observations:

  • First off, the course is very bumpy. I talked to one of John Meehan’s Grinch’s minions, and they said Iowans are discouraged from riding Mt. Krumpit and other features during the summer, so the grounds are similar to how they were left after the muddy racing in 2016.
  • Tire choices will be interesting to watch over the weekend. I spoke with Toon Aerts of the Telenet Fidea team, and he said him and the other Challenge-sponsored riders will be running Grifos and not file treads thanks to the gravel and the bumpy terrain. The other Telenet riders will likely be going with the Dugast Typhoon. Stay tuned for more as we take a look at what riders are running over the course of the weekend of racing.
  • The setup on Thursday has riders ascending Mt. Krumpit via the Krumpit Run-Up and not the long climb to the west that was used on Friday night in 2016. This is the traditional Friday night route at Jingle Cross, and last year’s use of the long climb may have been because organizers wanted to save the run-up for the World Cup.
  • There are two four to five-inch railroad ties at the bottom of Mt. Krumpit that should be rideable for many of the pros—and amateurs in some higher categories. I was able to get over the first one, so if riders maintain enough momentum into the second, they should be able to clear it as well. The beginning of the run-up past the railroad ties is very bumpy and pitted after last year, so it will be interesting to see if riders risk riding the Krumpit Run-Up versus just running it. And in case you were wondering, the run-up is steep.
  • The sand section through the horse pad is deep. Last year, it was much wetter and riders were able to blast through with (what appeared to be) relative ease. With the dry, hot conditions, the two to three inches of sand are loose, and the entrance to the pit after a sharp left turn makes carrying speed into the section a challenge. We will have our eyes on the Elites to see how they fare in the sand.
  • The last climb around the bleachers on Mt. Krumpit is challenging. Organizers added a little extra section with a sharp left turn into a steep kick up around some trees. I saw Kaitie Keough and some top-level Masters such as Jacob Lasley ride the section, but it definitely requires riders to carry some speed into the corner and pick the right line up the steep kicker.
  • Finally, it was really hot out. This will not play as much of a role in the night racing, but for the amateurs racing Friday and Saturday afternoon, bring water! Although the course is bumpy, the long start/finish straight is relatively smooth and should make for a good area to stay hydrated.

Stay tuned to Cyclocross Magazine for our continued coverage of the 2017 Jingle Cross Festival. You can see an archive of our already-growing coverage here