Cyclo-cross has exploded in popularity in the United States, and the country currently features more than 50 events sanctioned by the sport's governing body, the International Cycling Union (UCI).
Cyclingnews focused on three wildly popular American 'cross races in part 1 - CrossVegas, Gran Prix of Gloucester and the Alpenrose Bike Challenge - and we conclude our highlights of the US 'cross calendar with four more events which draw huge attention from racers and fans alike.
Granogue Cross: The Toughest
As stated on its website homepage, Granogue Cross is often referred to as the crown jewel of the Mid Atlantic 'cross scene. This year the organizers will host back-to-back UCI C2 level events that wrap through the Dupont Estate grounds, offering two of the toughest courses in the country held on October 16 and 17 in Wilmington, Delaware.
"For me, Granogue is one of the best races in the county," said Tyler Wren (BOO Bicycles). "The races really test the completeness of the riders because all sorts of skill sets are required for that race. There is lots of climbing which means you have to have good fitness but there are also high-speed turns, really steep ride ups that some people have to run. There are rooted single tracks that almost makes you feel like you are riding a mountain bike course. It is challenging in every aspect that a 'cross race could be challenging."
Granogue Cross marks rounds five and six of the Mid Atlantic Cyclo-cross (MAC) series that begins at the Nittany Cross in Trexlertown, Pennsylvania and also includes the Charm City Cyclo-cross in Baltimore, Maryland; Whirlybird Cyclo-cross in Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania; Beacon Cyclocross in Bridgeton, New Jersey; Highland Park Cross in Jamesburg, New Jersey; and the Super Cross Cup in Southampton, New York.
Ryan Trebon (Kona-FSA) and Georgia Gould (Team Luna) won their respective events last year at Granogue.
Cycle-Smart International: The Oldest
There are a number of events that hold a page in the history books of American cyclo-cross and those include the Surf City race series held in Santa Cruz and the Bay Area Super Prestige series event held in the historical Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, both in California. However, the Cycle-Smart International will celebrate its 20th anniversary this year as the oldest UCI-sanctioned cyclo-cross event in the country. Its pair of races are held on November 5 and 6 in Northampton, Massachusetts.
It is also a longstanding member of the Verge New England Championship Cyclo-cross series that includes five rounds of racing beginning at the Green Mountain Cyclo-cross weekend in Williston, Vermont and moving on to the Downeast Cyclocross in New Gloucester, Maine; Cycle-Smart International in Northampton, Massachusetts; Bay State Cyclocross in Sterling, Massachusetts; and NBX Grand Prix in Warwick, Rhode Island.
'Cross specialist Adam Myerson founded the event when he was 19 years old. He continues to actively promote his race and is also one of its top contenders. The pair of races are a staple on the UCI calendar, formerly as C1 category events, they are now C2 level races.
"It became a cool project that I got excited about every year," Myerson said. "It's a really satisfying thing to watch over the years. It's like your little baby growing, you get so proud of it and you can't imagine not doing it again the next year. I keep it going now out of a sense of obligation because I know how popular it is and how much people appreciate it. I've been at it for so long now that it would break my heart to see it end."
The races changed venue on two occasions but it is now firmly in place at Look Park where the circuit utilizes a steep hill for a run-up (and ride-up), a deeply rooted upper level followed by a drop-off and several raised train track crossings on the lower portion of the circuit.
"I think people like the organization of the race, the way we set up our courses, the flow of the day, the course production, how well registration works and all that contributes to the popularity of the event," Myerson said. "Plus, everyone likes Northampton because it is a great place to get a meal, it's a nice town and people like to come to western Massachusetts.
"It is great that the park lets us race there. People like the course because it is a lot of fun. It isn't a very hard course but it is a lot of sprinting, coasting, uphills and downhills and corners so it's a fun little roller coaster ride. You can go easy on it and you still feel like you're going pretty fast."
Jeremy Powers (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com) and Mary McConneloug (Team Kenda/Seven/NoTubes) won their respective events during the first round. On the second day, Powers's teammate Jamey Driscoll took the victory in the men's race and McConneloug repeated her winning performance in the women's race.
Stanley Portland Cup: The Epic
The Stanley Portland Cup is ranked amongst the most epic cyclo-cross races in the country mainly due to the harsh and unpredictable weather conditions that typically strikes the weekend of December 4 and 5 in Portland, Oregon. The races mark the final round of the USGP that traditionally hosts a battle to the bitter end for the series championship title.
"What makes it epic? Weather is for sure a huge factor," said Joan Hanscom, co-coordinator of the US Gran Prix of Cyclocross (USGP) series. "We ran in a hurricane there in 2007 and we still had around 800 people race that day. The Gentle Lovers, a local team, had their wood burning hot tub out in the elements. Tents were blowing away, the Expo had to be shut down. The drum corps played throughout the storm. It was madness.
"It's more than the weather," she said. "It's the last USGP of the season and it has more than once come down to the last day, a tie-break type situation that determines the winners in the Elite fields so the racing is always intense."
The USGP begins with double rounds at the Planet Bike Cup in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin and moves on to the Derby City Cup in Louisville, Kentucky, the city that will host the 2013 UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships. The series recently added the New Belgium Cup held in Fort Collins, Colorado which replaced a pair of Mercer Cup races previously held in New Jersey. The Stanley Portland Cup decided last year's series winners Ryan Trebon and Katerina Nash.
"Last year it was cold, freezing fog on Saturday and overnight we had 60 mph winds roll in and they stayed with us all day," Hanscom said. "The registration and hospitality tent had to be leashed to big trucks to keep it from blowing away. And we still had huge crowds and fields.
"The fans are amazing! They're a passionate, 'cross savvy bunch in Portland and they race their own races with great enthusiasm before spectating with great enthusiasm. There's just this really cool combination of intensity and enthusiasm that runs all day. I love it."
Todd Wells (Specialized) and Katerina Nash (Team Luna) won their respective events on the first day. Nash repeated her win on the second day and Jeremy Powers topped the men's podium.
USA Cycling National Championships: The Finale
The USA Cycling Cyclo-cross National Championships reached all-time record number of participants and spectators last year and it will once again put an exclamation point on the end of the American cyclo-cross season on December 8-12 in host city of Bend, Oregon.
"I heard that there were more than 1,700 people in town just for the one event, and our tent and traveling beer barrel were busy the whole weekend," said Doug LaPlaca of Visit Bend. "Our preliminary estimate is that 'cross nationals 2009 generated $1.7 million in direct consumer spending and approximately 3,200 paid room nights in Bend lodging properties.
"I have very high expectations for 'cross nationals, but even my expectations were exceeded last year. Of all the major events I have produced during my career, I have never been involved with one that has generated so much positive feedback and goodwill than 'cross nationals did last year."
Reigning US national cyclo-cross champions Tim Johnson (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com) and Katie Compton (Planet Bike) will no doubt want to defend their respective titles in the men's and women's events for the second consecutive season on the challenging course held in the popular Old Mill District of Bend.
"For a one-day race, Nationals have a little something extra about them," Johnson said. "Bend's Nationals last year had so many people, both racers and fans, the course was sinuous and tough with a side of nasty weather thrown in. Even if I hadn't been lucky enough to win, I would still have that in my top three races of all time."