Field Reporter: Don Maschka
The Carousel Volkswagon Jingle Cross Rock Cycloscross Races were held in Iowa City November 27, 28, and 29th. I went down to watch the pros and partake in the festivities on Saturday and give it a go myself on Sunday. It is a UCI sanctioned cyclcocross event and is the highlight of the Iowa 'cross season. It certainly lived up to it's advanced billing.
I arrived at the Johnson County Fairgrounds in plenty of time to get some good photos and scout out the course the pros would be riding. The atmosphere was charged by amplified music and racaus fans. The Specialized Team was set up near the start/finish line as was the Planet Bikes Team. The recent rains made for a muddy course, but the day's mild weather attracted big crowds as did the opportunity to see National Champion Todd Wells and cycling legend Ned Overend compete in a stellar elite field.
I made my way over to a muddy descent and was treated by the sight of a male fan at the edge of the course with a dollar bill in his butt crack. The dollar could be had by any rider skilled enough to make the descent and brave enough to pluck the bill from the aforementioned crack. Eventually the dollar was indeed taken, but at great psychological cost to the rider.
Next, began the ascent up the infamous Mt. Krumpit. It is here that dreams of cyclocross glory go to die by unprepared 'crossers. This is no ordinary run up. It is 100 yards of pure torture. The difficulty lies in the severity of the grade and the horribly muddy conditions of the ground. If one wants to win Jingle Cross Rock he or she must come to grips with Mt. Krumpit. The spector of Death literally looms above the riders as they try to take the hill.
For the fans the summit is cyclocrossing nirvana. At the top are hundreds of cow bell clanging, 'cross fanatics. Scott Sumpter and his crew were good enough to bring up a keg of Fat Tire beer for all to enjoy. Everywhere along the course the riders were offered a friendly beer hand up and for the lucky few a kindly summer sausage hand up. As the race wore on desperate riders hungry for carbs and protein took from the offerings to the roar of the crowd.
It was here I was able to meet up with the first couple of North Iowa Cyclocross Ben and Katie Fistler. Katie and Ben raced on Friday and Saturday with great results. Katie went up to Cat. 3 and promptly got 6th place. North Iowa Spin recruit, Ben "The Reverend" Fistler had his best result of the season on Friday with an outstanding 17th place in a deep CX 4 field. We were able to enjoy the race from here together as we watched Wells and Overend power up and through Mt. Krumpit. The Grinch proved he is indeed a mean one as he scared little kids and the riders alike. I made my way back down the mountain in time to watch Wells throw his hands up in victory as he crossed the finish line.
On Sunday I lined up in the 5th row in the staging area for the CX 4 race. I would estimate another 20 riders were behind me bringing the total numbers of starters to 70 or so. Only 53 of us would finish. I was warned by Ben that the starter was very vague and to be alert. In spite of this I was caught fiddling around with my watch as the starter casually said. "Ok you can go." I promptly got slammed out of the hole shot and had to make up a lot of ground on a few straightaways before the first barriers.
After the barriers there was a nasty little run up followed by on off camber, muddy section. This caused a bit of angst in the field with back wheels spinning out all over the place, but I was able to get through it and make up a bit more ground on another straight section before we entered the Whoville Whorl. The Grinch's Lair featured a sand pit that I was only able to make it through cleanly once in our five laps. The first two laps riders crashed in front of me and the fourth lap I went down taking the rider behind me as his pedal got caught in my back wheel. I was able to get through it all, but lost more time.
We were spared the most difficult run up the riders had to do on Saturday, but the course was still very muddy. The combination of mud then onto pea gravel destroyed dozens of derailleurs. It was technically the worst race of the season for me, but the most fun I've ever had racing a bike. In the end I was able to stay on the lead lap and finish a respectable 13th.
I stuck around to watch the single speed race and was shocked to see Iowa City powerhouse Brian Eppen riding in nothing but a Speedo in the 39 degree weather. In spite of the vasoconstrictive effects of the cold on muscle and other body parts Eppen won the race by over a minute. Another group of guys in Speedos and girls in bikinis followed, but did not have quite the same motors as Eppen. Two of the girls actually completed the race in their bikinis on a tandem!
I have to say a big "thanks" to all of the sponsors and organizers of this great event. For all of the North Iowa Spin racers I would highly recommend going if you get the chance. Mark your calenders for next year.