What happens when Raleigh Bicycles teams up with Cyclocross Magazine to run a contest to find the best new obstacle for a singlespeed race? You, our readers came up with some of the most absurd, funniest, downright zany obstacles that exceeded our wildest expectations. And for good reason: on the line was a trip to cyclocross Worlds in Kentucky, including airfare, lodging, and VIP access to the event.

The goal? We wanted to find something new, something exciting, something that might just find its way onto a course at the SSCXWC next year in Philadelphia. No promises, but based on the entries, Raleigh’s marketing manager Brian Fornes thinks he might be able to build the winning entry, and maybe a few more.

With over 50 entries submitted, the judges had fun debating intensely for hours on the finalists, and had some tough decisions  with some very strong ideas (including the four below) in the running for our winning prize — and the possibility of actually being built for SSCXWC 2013.

Over the course of today, we’ll be announcing the “American podium” of the contest overall. Four judges were involved, but Raleigh had the final say.

Thanks to everyone who entered this contest. If you didn’t win, stay tuned to our site for LIVE STREAMING VIDEO COVERAGE of the 2013 Cyclocross World Championships from Louisville.


The Grand Prize Winner: Keith Vonachen

Keith Vonachen, hailing from Sandpoint, ID got dreaming about his perfect cyclocross obstacle during the butt-cold Idaho winter days and imagined a brief escape from the winter blues in the form of a quick dip in a hot tub. So the geographer-by-day busted out the kid’s art supplies, had a family project morning of building a to-scale model, and then even filmed a video of how it might be used (or abused).

We loved the creativity involved, the fact that he built an actual model (complete with a see-through floor on top of the flyover!), and his use of underage actors and their props. We also cannot deny that we were all tempted by the possibility of watching the crazy chaos of SSCXWC 2013 from the warmth of a giant hot tub.

It’s true, a hot tub at a cyclocross race has been done before, but incorporating it into the race could lead to a completely new experience for all involved. Whether that’s a good thing, we’re not sure, but maybe by incorporating Loy Donaldson’s excellent “Lifeguard” entry below, we’ll be in good hands.

“We had a lot of fun dreaming, making and filming it!” Vonachen reported when submitting the entry, and knew the magnitude of the opportunity presented by Raleigh Bicycles and Cyclocross Magazine. “I know it’s the chance of a lifetime!”

When told of his winning entry, Vonachen exclaimed, “No Way! I cannot believe it!” The next morning, Vonachen was still on a high, explaining, “I didn’t sleep a wink last night because I was so excited about the contest and race.”

So Keith has a tough decision on his hands, and told Cyclocross Magazine he’s debating between his lovely wife and his good friend Carl, his cyclocross buddy who appreciates professional racing the most. We’re not sure if he made his decision yet, so a bribe could still influence his decision as he makes plans to watch the world’s best in Louisville.

Second Place: Loy Donaldson

From Loy:
In Alaska, our Cyclocross season is relatively short. With snowfall by Halloween, the rest of the cross world is just getting their season rolling as we’re reaching for our fat tires. Along with deep snow, we have an abundance of wildlife around. Inevitably our trails become meeting places for animals, bikes, and the people riding them. This summer my dad came up for a visit and we went for a ride on our local single track. Around a tight corner I lost track of my dad for a split second. The next thing I know I hear screaming from up ahead and catch sight of him again just as his rear wheel is leaving the ground, feet dragging while managing to not go over the handlebars. Not three feet in front of him? A rather large cow moose lying on the trail next to her calf.  Imagine a barrier that doesn’t just sit still, but may stand up at any given moment and give chase. There’s nothing quite like being chased by a 1,000 lb wall of fur with tree trunk legs looking for a game of whack-a-biker. Thankfully for us, she seemed more interested in hanging out than the normal reaction. Run-ins with wildlife on a race course don’t happen often. For some reason moose aren’t drawn to the sounds of cowbells and screaming like we are. As much as a life-or-death situation would really get the blood pumping, my real barrier idea is a little less harrowing.

My idea: A life guard tower with a train conductor sitting atop. This megaphone toting, course controlling heckler will operate a railroad switch of sorts. Just as a train can be switched from one track to another this “conductor” will decide whether racers go left or right around his guard station. To avoid a high speed crash at the switch, the tower should be after a run up.  To the left: A chest deep mud pit with just enough firm ground on the sides to nimbly sprint while risking a slip and fall into the pit. This pit should be placed next to the beer tent. To the right: A perfectly manicured arched path of grass bereft of any technical challenges whatsoever. This side should be lined with bikini clad beer and dollar hand up girls. So, the fate of your race may depend on the maniacal whim of a man who didn’t even punch your ticket to ride. You may say, “Hey, that’s not fair!” Well, that’s cyclocross.

Why we like it:
For us, this one feels the most suited to SSCXWC. The “lifeguard” forcing people one way or another is hilarious. And if someone gets bent out of shape because they get forced the bad way, tough. It’ll even out.


Third Place: Ian Smith

From Ian:
I’m guessing someone has already proposed a “slip-and-slide”, so I won’t.

My official idea is this: Yeah, cyclocross is awesome, but what about those of us that are good with our hands (too)? I propose that a biathlon-type skill be incorporated into the race.

But, OK, instead of shooting rifles, maybe they could just throw darts. On each lap (or maybe just one time during the race?), the racer must dismount at the “dart range.” (So you’ll need a long row of dart boards on easels or something).

Each racer must throw three darts at the target from a predetermined distance. Darts are handed out by attendants stationed at each dart board’s throwing line. Each dart must hit the target. If any darts miss the target, this must be “atoned for” in one of three ways (racer’s choice):

  1. Ride around a 150 meter penalty loop complete with obstacles of the race organizer’s choosing.
  2. Retrieve his/her darts and attempt to get all 3 darts in the target a second time.
  3. Chug a Modelo Negro (separate and in addition to any other required/optional beer pit stops on course)

Getting a bulls-eye over-rules all other attempts. i.e., if a bulls-eye is hit, the results of the other two darts don’t matter, and the racer may continue riding.

If the target is not hit by all three darts (or one bulls-eye) by the second attempt, the racer must chug a Modelo Negro AND ride the penalty loop. If the racer get two bulls-eyes in one round, they win a prize. If the racer gets three bulls-eyes in a row, they get an extra-special prize.

Why we like it:
Ian’s biathlon-like idea is the most complex perhaps but really has potential to be ultra-memorable and super, super awesome for spectators. If it’s funny but with some skill, it really could alter the race. Biathlon does so well on TV (way better than XC skiing without shooting) in Europe because of the suspense – the best athlete does not win. In a way, you could return the race to a real race but introduce a wacky random element with drinking by doing something like what he proposes but not with sharp pointy items. Throwing balls into a bucket, shooting a rubberband gun, doing a math problem, or trivia etc. could all be ways to implement it. The penalty laps/drinking would be so good, both to watch and keep the racing interesting.  “Rider X has a huge lead on final lap … uh oh, he has to do two penalty laps!” 


Fourth Place: Heather Pugh

From Heather:

Page 1 of Heather's submission

Page 1 of Heather’s submission

The alligator obstacle.

The alligator obstacle: very Florida!

Why we liked it:
Heather won us over with her awesome presentation, and while we’re pretty sure alligator barriers wouldn’t be PETA approved, they’d certainly get us hustling on the ’cross course. Of course, in Heather’s design, it’s a ball pit and not a real alligator, which we also loved: especially if we got to watch racers start to ride up the snout only to realize that they were about to plunge into a ball pit!

Fifth Place: Eric Peterson

From Eric:
Put a photo booth on the course and have racers get their picture made mid-race. You can let them choose which lap they get it done so if there’s a line they can keep racing. It’ll make it interesting because all of the fast guys will get there first and the slow guys will pass them. But then, of course, the slow guys will have to have their pictures made at some point.

When the race is over, not only do all of the competitors have a souvenir, you have an image of everyone. Pretty much all modern photo booths are digital so you have the image files. You can then post those on social media. BONUS!
Also, you should be able to brand the photos that get spit out from the machine with the Raleigh brand.

Why we liked it:
While it might be a little hard to actually execute, we loved this idea for the “kitsch” factor, and because who doesn’t want a souvenir from the race? We also love it from a promotional standpoint: brilliant! We’d love to see this at SSCXWC, though we’d be a little bit nervous about what kinds of pictures would come out of some of the more … “colorful” racers.

Stay tuned as we announce the winner in a few hours!

Don’t miss our LIVE STREAMING VIDEO of the 2013 Cyclocross World Championships. And for all the latest news, results, photos and videos from the 2013 Cyclocross World Championships and Masters World Championships in Louisville, KY, keep checking our 2013 Cyclocross World Championships page