Worldclass ‘cross is coming to the Southeast

In what is a sure sign of the growth of cyclocross in this country the UCI awarded Louisville, Kentucky the Cyclocross World Championships for 2013. As a warm-up Louisville will also host the 2012 and 2013 Masters Cyclocross World Championships. ’Cross, as it is known to its die hard fans, is now officially big time here in the States.

With that in mind the 2010/2011 cyclocross season is right on us. A full ‘cross schedule hasn’t been posted, however a few events have been put on the calendar. High Country Cyclocross (HCCX) promoted by Pirate Race Productions is conducting an eight week Wednesday night series. September 8th the racing will be at Historic North Wilkesboro Speedway and in October the racing continues at the Boone Fairgrounds.

The training race at the Norths Wilkesboro Speedway is inspired by the UCI Roubaix ‘cross race in Europe. The Roubaix cyclocross race starts and finishes on the famous velodrome. Like it’s European counterpart – the North Wilkesboro Speedway race will also start and finish on the track. The course then meanders outside the Speedway for some technical sections and returns to the infield where racers will have to ride a tractor pull track which will include barriers. Spectators can watch the entire start and finish section of the race from the grandstand. To see all the racing action climb to the top row of the viewing stands and watch the entire course.

“It is a European type of course. Its going to go back and forth from a power course to a technical course,” says Pirate Race Productions event producer Andrew Stackhouse.

January 16th Stackhouse has planned a major cyclocross race at this venue, so attend the North Wilkesboro Speedway training races to get familiar with the course. Stackhouse has big plans for this race as he is working on the getting the race UCI approved for 2012 in anticipation of the Cyclocross World Championships in 2013.

“We’ll have our own pre-Worlds venue, in all intensive purposes, down the street from Louisville.”

The racing continues in October at the Boone Fairgrounds. The course is hard packed gravel roads and contested under the lights. An interesting feature that will have people talking is the grass run-up which is going to be lined by Tiki torches.

I recommend participating in all of these races to prepare you for what is arguably the hardest cyclocross race here in the United States – the Three Peaks Race.

To encourage women’s participation in ’cross Stackhouse is trying to organize a clinic on October 16th and is in the process of recruiting coaches to help lead the clinic. Any women coaches out there want to lend a hand?

A cyclocross training series isn’t the only event being produced by Pirate Race Productions. Modeled after the England’s Three Peaks cyclocross race and Pennsylvania’s Iron Cross, Stackhouse is also promoting Boone, North Carolina’s own Three Peaks cyclocross race. The course is a brutal mixture of paved and unpaved roads, as well as weathered jeep tracks that will force riders to dismount. The route traverses Beech Mountain and its North and South Ridges. There are two course options: 75 or 35 kilometers. If you don’t have a ’cross rig there is a mountain bike division in both distances. The race starts and finishes at the Beech Mountain Visitors Center.

Race promoter and bike racer Stackhouse explains his motivation to organize the hardest cyclocross course in the States.

“Like a lot of American fans of cyclocross I had heard of the original Three Peaks cyclocross race in England and was totally blown away.”

However it wasn’t until Stackhouse moved to the Boone area was he able to create a ‘cross race in the same vein as Three Peaks. His Three Peaks event will actually have mountain peaks in the course. But don’t worry – while the course will undoubtedly force riders to dismount, it isn’t a death march.

“Completing Three Peaks will be an accomplishment – but not stupid,” says Stackhouse. “Riders will be pushing their bikes at some point – it is a ‘cross race after all, but the descents aren’t technical at all. The long downhill sections are really well paved.”

Although the final ascent is a jeep road that “will be a shock,” it is definitely rideable.

If ‘cross is your discipline or you’re suffering from the road bike blues, take advantage of the great races that Pirate Race Productions is offering. My advice, look for the skull and crossbones kit of the Pirate Race Production cyclocross team on their Guerciotti ’cross bikes and follow them – if you can.