After a nearly two-year-pause, with the last one being held in 2020, the Rockville Cyclocross Series is returning to Fairfield California.
The pros in Europe aren’t the only ones who get to enjoy cyclocross during this time of year. For lucky Northern Californians as well as passing-through champs, the cyclocross season will continue on for peak season cyclocross, in true cyclocross conditions.
Prepare for all the mud, slides, smiles and season-ending relay and BBQ.
Starting this Sunday, January 9, and running until the end of February, every Sunday at Solano Community College will be Throwback Thursday for cyclocrosseres.
Promoter and Rockville Bike owner John Silva lays out his cones, decides on course direction, often sets up barriers, adds some course tape, and readies for a steadily-growing group of dedicated cyclocross racers to play in the mud, all for just $25.
His short route includes a technical descent and climb, a thrilling, winding, slippery trip through a eucalyptus forest, a junglecross barrier erected by Mother Nature, and a paved finish.
It’s perfect for the diehard cyclocrosser and newbie alike, with a laid-back vibe and friendly competition and no tire-measuring official in sight.
Looking for USA Cycling ranking points, an expo and electronic timing? You might want to look elsewhere.
You’re in for a fantastic day if you show up for the final race. The schedule changes with one mass-start race. Silva and his wife Esther will then assign you to a relay team and feed you with a season-ending BBQ. Where else does anything like this happen?
Where’s the Website?
We’ve called Rockville Cyclocross the unintentional Fight Club, and Silva certainly doesn’t make discovery of his race series very easy. He doesn’t even have an official website and doesn’t plan on making one unless a volunteer wants to take such a project on.
There is a public Facebook page for the series and finally an Instagram account, and that’s the default form of communication in addition to email. You don’t need a Facebook account to view the essential details.
Here are the details:
When: Every Sunday from January through February 2022.
Solano Community College
4000 Suisun Valley Road
Fairfield, CA 94534
9:00 a.m. Cs and Juniors 8th grade or younger, men and women
10:00 a.m. A and B men and women. Rain or shine.
$25 adult, $15 juniors, with full-season pre-pay discounts available for adults
Prizes aren’t why racers are drawn to Rockville, but this year, the promoters are offering $140 ($80/$40/$20) in bike shop gift certificates to A and B men and women as well as young Juniors for the overall series placings, with six of the top eight races scoring. C men and women will compete for merchandise prizes.
The big draw might be the handmade trophies this year. In the spirit of BostonCross, racers and promoters will create unique, memorable trophies for series podium finishers.
We chatted with promoter John Silva about his series returning after a one-year hiatus. See our interview below, which has been lightly edited for clarity.
Cyclocross Magazine: What is your and Esther’s motivation in putting on this unique race series?
John Silva: I think the motivation in this series is to try to get our local cyclists more involved with local events, which we have very few of. Cyclocross is both growing in popularity and being such short races, even if you’re out of shape, you can ride ’em. We want to offer that to the locals so they can get out there and stay on their bikes more. The races are short and anybody can ride for half an hour. Hopefully, it’ll bring [the Rockville Bike Shop] some business, but mostly it’ll bring people to the area, which is a good thing, too.
CXM: How many years has this been? I first attended in 2014 but that wasn’t the first year…
JS: How many years? I don’t know. I think more than 10, but I can’t remember. Probably 10 years or more!
CXM: How did you decide on the January – February timeframe?
JS: We decided on the January to February timeframe because there were so many other big series. There’s a big Sacramento series, also the Santa Rosa weekend, but there’s nothing going on at this time. No road racing, no nothing. It’s winter. It’s the best part of winter. And we’ve always had some good winter for our races, which oftentimes I’ve been to races where conditions don’t even seem like cyclocross, like in Vegas.
CXM: How did it come about that you put on the races at Solano Community College?
JS: Well, [my wife] Esther used to be a full-time teacher out there before she retired. And so we taught mountain biking out there and through mountain biking, we had set up a little course out there and an obstacle course in the back area where we now have cyclocross. And we knew that the eucalyptus trees were back there. We had created the trails in the forest for mountain biking. And so we kind of went ahead and just piggybacked on that and made the course use the little hill and then as much of the flat area as we could. We try to kind of mix it up. But, we knew that the forest was kind of a unique feature that you don’t find anywhere else. And I think people like it. And so, because of that, we had a cyclocross course for the college and we could rent it cheaply. It was easy to do there, compared with the city. There was a lot of paperwork for a course, but probably less work compared to the city.
CXM: Now that Esther retired they still welcome the race?
JS: They always have depending on who’s been there. And this year, after COVID, they had a whole new crew and the school was closed. We had a lot of trouble even locating who to get ahold of. And we kind of just left messages with people that were there, and then they said they would get back to us. And then only about three weeks ago, boom. All of a sudden it was like you can have the race, but it was pretty late. We had no idea who we were even talking to but it happens. So, here we are again.
CXM: That’s great. How does the college view the race series? Do they view it as just providing a community service or as a revenue-generating opportunity? We had a race at our local community college [Foothill], but it was almost impossible to go back.
JS: Well, I don’t think they view it as much of anything. It does put them a little more on the map, I think most of the racers have never heard of it and have no idea where it was. So it could only help promote ’em, you know? I think to them, it’s just another service they can provide. And that’s if you get ahold of the right people.
CXM: Your race series has a very unique ending, with the final day including a single race, then a relay race, and then a potluck. How did those ideas come about? What were your thoughts when USA Cycling and then the UCI followed and added cyclocross relays to Nationals and Worlds?
JS: It’s a small series. Because it’s a small series it almost has a little bit of a family feel to it. And I’ve been to some mountain bike races where they’re kind of smaller races and they have the same thing. They’ve had little potlucks at the end of the season and people would bring drinks. At one of the Lake Sonoma races, if you were a singlespeeder, they didn’t charge you a fee. Instead, they charged you a six-pack. If you brought a six-pack, that was your entry fee. Then that’s what people use for a drink afterward. So that was kind of a cool way to do it and so we’ve kind of kept it sort of a little family-style thing, you know? And if you got big enough, that would be a harder thing to do.
As for the relay? To us, when we first started, on the Superbowl Sunday, we had an option that if you came around, we had little footballs lined up and you could stop and you could kick a football. We had made a little goal post out of PVC, and if you got it over the goal post, you got like 30 seconds off your time. So every time around, there was this one guy, he kicked the field goal every time. He was pretty good. And then, of course, if you didn’t make it to the goal post, the time you spent doing it was part of your time. But you could get a big-time bonus if you made it. It was mainly just for fun.
So we’ve had other little things like that when it was less serious. We didn’t even have any A riders in those days. So now, the relay is kind of a similar thing. I’m surprised to hear that they have one at Nationals. I wish they did it like we do, to flatten out the teams. So if you have one fast guy, you have one slow guy, that way, technically everybody should be almost tight at the end, as opposed to having a bunch of ringers up there, you know.
CXM: You’re a small grassroots series. People learn about you on social media, through Facebook and Instagram. You email people, but it feels a bit like Fight Club. Any plans for a website to give your series some legitimacy?
JS: Not really. Not because we wouldn’t want one, but somebody would have to set it up, somebody would have to administer it. We don’t have time. We work seven days a week at the shop now. To get involved in that much more would be hard. Not that it wouldn’t benefit us and not that because we wouldn’t want one. It just adds another layer of complexity that if we were full-time promoters, we’d be lining all of that up, but we’re not.
CXM: So if I read between the lines, your ambition is not to get 200 racers at your series, but to keep it at a smaller size.
JS: Well, if we could get two hundred racers, it’d be great. But, I don’t know if we could manage it. We’d have to have a lot more help than we have now. The course would be there already set up, so that wouldn’t be a problem. But even, of course, there’s rainfall. When you’re holding it in a park with grassy areas, you could have 20-foot wide flagging. There’s no way we could have that kind of stuff. But I think if we’ve had 40 or 50 people in one start, that would probably be fine. We’d have to do a couple back and forth sections to sort ’em out before they went off into the course. Just get ’em into a little bit of a single file and that would probably work fine.
CXM: NICA has high school and middle school mountain bike racing this season, which starts late February. What are your thoughts on your racecourse and race series being a good training ground or a warmup for kids to experience mountain bike racing, but in a cyclocross format?
JS: It’s perfect. One year we tried to get a hold of the local Rockville NICA team. Any competition is good training for a mountain bike race. Any competition, as long as it maximizes your heart rate, it’ll train you. We’ve got some fun trails and singletrack, and the course conditions will help racers work on their handling skills.
CXM: Is the famous downed tree still there? In the eucalyptus forest.
JS: It’s still there. Every year I go back and take a look at it. It’s pretty solid.
CXM: Well, I’ll have to work on my bunnyhopping skills. Thank you for extending our cyclocross season.
JS: Thank you!
More info: Rockville Bike Cyclocross Facebook page