The Surf City CX cyclocross series may be the nation's oldest cyclocross series, but each year it ventures into new territory.
This year, the race landed in a new downtown Santa Cruz venue at Antonelli Pond, juggled the requirements and concerns of five different landowners, generated funds for three different organizations (Mountain Bikers of Santa Cruz (MBOSC), the Rock Lobster CX Team and the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County), rode through a community garden and greenhouse, and in partnership with Cyclocross Magazine to help grow the sport, offered all first-time cyclocross racers free entry.
A First-Time Cyclocross Experience for Many
We at Cyclocross Magazine are motivated to help grow grassroots racing. That's how we all got our first taste of cyclocross, and that's how our top pros got their start. Pro cyclocross in the U.S. has little chance of growing if our participation shrinks.
At Saturday's Wisconsin's Fire Cross, 10 newbies tried out the sport, thanks to free entries. One day later, at Sunday's Surf City, a whopping 40 people took advantage of this offer. That's over 10% of the nearly 400 racers (not including kids or costume) trying cyclocross for the first time!
Assuming the costumed crossers, Halloween props or course bumps didn't scare them away, some of them will be back to race cyclocross at Surf City next year, or perhaps even join the infestation at Coyote Point this weekend.
We're already seeing the return on investment. A year ago, the Surf City race offered free entry for all C Women. Now a year later, we've got some proof the effort is working.
A day after last year's free race, Hannah Dillard walked into Rock Lobster Cycles' shop to learn more about cyclocross after winning the Women's C race, her first cyclocross race ever. She borrowed a bike, then later placed an order for a frame, and this year, she finished on the podium in the A Women's race. How's that for a success story?
She wasn't the only one—15% of the enormous 2018 Women's C field returned to Surf City in 2019. Others have returned to race other events.
Clearing the Way for the Future?
Surf City not only invested in the future of the sport by clearing one barrier for newbies to try it, but also literally cleared the path for cyclocross at Antonelli Pond. Brendan Lehman, countless volunteers and the crew from MBOSC had to turn a field of four-foot-high brush into an expo area and cyclocross course.
Although the course's bumps had some racers swapping to high-volume gravel tires or mountain bikes, it was much smoother than it was just days before. Lehman and his crew spent hours filling in gopher holes and smoothing out the surface with a backhoe.
And after the party was over, Lehman was back at the venue, ensuring the grounds were in better shape than before the race.
Could Antonelli Pond offer up a long-term home for Surf City CX? Only time will tell. The "ownership" of the series in flux and it always takes a village. Hopefully, the race's donation to the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County showcases how cyclocrossers can be open space stewards far beyond a one-day race.
Santa Cruz Stays Weird with Costume Cross and Tracklocross
Surf City CX wasn't just about policies and promotions. It also served up its tradition of costume cross fun, and continued the Rock Lobster Cup's embrace of tracklocross.
"Racers" went all-out on their disguises, competing for bragging rights and prizes.
Some needed help just to finish a lap, but fans were happy to oblige.
National and world champion tracklocross graced the start list. The fixed gear stars skidded their way around the course, beating many of their freewheeling singlespeed peers.
Enjoy a full photo gallery of the day's fun from Santa Cruz's own Jeff Vander Stucken. View all of Jeff's photos and purchase your favorites here.
Surf city results coming soon at cyclo-x.com.