Cyclocross Action Returns to Copper Harbor

Author: btk
September 29, 2011
race | cyclocross

Fast-paced cyclocross action returns to the Keweenaw October 15&16. The fourth annual Keweenaw Cup, organized by Houghton's Red Jacket Cycling Team with support from the Copper Harbor Trails Club, will see as many as 100 racers lining up for two days of racing: Saturday, Oct. 15, in the Downtown Hoedown in downtown Copper Harbor, and Sunday, Oct. 16, in the Top of the World Smackdown at the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge in Copper Harbor. Weekend champions in each of five classes will be awarded the illustrious Keweenaw Cup.

The races are open to everyone of all ages and all abilities on any kind of bike. No experience required! Typically 30 minutes to one hour in duration, cyclocross events are timed races held on short courses (1 – 1.5 miles) and feature surfaces ranging from pavement and dirt roads to singletrack and grass. Obstacles, which include everything from wooden barriers, logs, sand pits, mud bogs, and unrideable hills, add to the challenge — and make mounting and dismounting an integral part of the race. Scheduled for mid-October, anything is possible in the Keweenaw with respect to the weather — and the race will go on regardless of what it decides to do.

Though cyclocross races are typically contested on what are essentially modified road bikes with knobby tires and cantilever brakes, any type of bike will work and is welcome. In fact, given the torturous terrain found on the Keweenaw, mountain bikes have proven to be the bike of choice among many racers.

Though it may sound intimidating to the uninitiated, the festival-like atmosphere that surrounds every cyclocross race — with clamoring cowbells and cheering spectators — make it a unique sporting event and, for many, the highlight of the cycling season. The short courses ensure that there are nearly always racers in sight for spectators, and that the cyclists are never out of earshot of an encouraging word.

The $20 entry fee for Saturday's afternoon race includes a pasta dinner at the Mariner North as well as music by the Gratiot Lake Road. Dinner tickets will be available at the Mariner North on Saturday for non-racers. Entry for Sunday's race is $10.

Proceeds from the weekend's events will benefit the Copper Harbor Trails Club.

The Keweenaw Cup will mark the fourth weekend of racing in this year's UPCROSS Points Series, a 7-race series of cyclocross events organized by Marquette's KMK Cycling Club and the Copper Country's Red Jacket Cycling Team and the Range Mountain Bike Club of Ishpeming. The series attracts racers each week from across Michigan, Northern Wisconsin and Minnesota from late September through mid-November.

Further details on the Keweenaw Cup at www.keweenawcup.com
Further details on the UPCROSS points series at www.upcross.net
Questions? E-mail Chris Schmidt – cts@redjacketcycling.com

More Cowbell!

Author: btk
September 12, 2011
race | cyclocross

It still feels like summer out there, but a change of seasons is in the air. Clouds are hanging lower in the sky, the mornings are cooler and filled with autumn haze. Leaves, still green, are beginning to drop from the trees. And, cyclocross riders everywhere are dragging their neglected and mud-caked 'cross bikes from the garage to prepare for the coming race season.

For this rider, the damage included brake shoes worn to bare metal, a chain rusted to an orange crisp, and tires—just a season old—worn nearly bald with patches of cotton thread poking through the sidewalls. But, after a few squirts of chain lube, some new brake shoes, and a new set of tires, my steel machine, strangely heavier than last season, was ready for another season of battle.

A quick spin down the street and the pain and suffering, banished to the darkest corners of my mind for the past ten months, flashed back. My bike, with the zing of brand new cx tires on hot pavement, the whirl of a freshly lubed chain winding through grease-clogged gears and the wail of bearings about to fail, sang the song of wheezing lungs, burning legs, and a brain starved of oxygen, teetering on the edge of consciousness. "Do I really want to do this again?" I wondered in a moment of weakness clarity. Of course! That's what cyclocross is all about. Riding on the edge for 30 or 45 minutes or an hour, hurting the entire time. Hurting more every year as time to train gets harder and harder to come by. Reminding myself time and again that if I'm not feeling pain, I'm not riding hard enough.

To the uninitiated sane, it's not easy to understand what drives a person to cyclocross. For most, the race season is over with the final mountain bike race, why not pack the bikes away and relax and recover for a month or two before the snow comes? But anyone who's given it a try will understand: what better way to pass a season of deteriorating weather than with equally demented riders, cheering each other on, suffering with one another as they ride through the final leg (and high point) of the cycling season. Words can do it no justice: you need to give it a shot to comprehend.

If you're looking for a taste of cyclocross, there's no shortage of it in the U.P. Racing gets underway this weekend (September 17) with Sherman Cross in and around Michigan Tech's football stadium. What better way to kick off the season than with an evening of racing under the lights. After that, the seven-race UPCROSS series gets into gear, opening at Al Quaal in Ishpeming September 25. Then it's on to Iron Cross in Negaunee (Oct. 2) and the River Park BMX track in Marquette (Oct. 9). Four solid weeks of racing conclude with a double header in the Keweenaw where the Red Jacket Cycling Team will present the fourth annual Keweenaw Cup (Oct. 15/16). The following week is off for UPCROSS, but U.P. racers looking to race can head over to Ashland, Wisc. for two days of racing at Baycross. The penultimate race of the UPCROSS series will be contested in Harvey (MQT) Oct. 29 at Choco-X. And the U.P. State CX champion will be crowned November 12 at Tourist Park in Marquette in the final cx race of the season.

Informal training races are also held on the Michigan Tech trails every Wednesday throughout the fall at 6pm; everyone welcome.

For details on the UPCROSS series, visit www.upcross.net.

Did Someone Say Cyclocross?

Author: Ian Marks
August 18, 2011
race | cyclocross

A new race, Sherman Cross, is a great opportunity for cyclocross racers to start the 2011 season. The race, which takes place Sept. 17th, will give racers a truly unique experience of racing under the lights at Sherman Field. The event will give true cyclocross racers (although any bike is welcome) an advantage as the race will be a mix of pavement, grass and gravel with absolutely no singletrack. The spectator friendly course will also feature music and food. The night of racing will feature a series of races giving racers the chance to take in more than one race. The night will conclude with a novelty race for extraordinary bikes (unicycle, tricycle, tandem, pugsley, ect.). Registration is $10 ($15 day of) for unlimited races.

For details on the race, check out: michigantechhuskies.com/shermancross

Entry form: shermancross-reg-form-11.pdf

For information of cyclocross racing in the U.P., visit: upcross.net

Cyclcross in the Keweenaw (and U.P.)

Updated: March 1, 2011
road | race | cyclocross

Long a fringe phenomenon, a cycling disciple left to the freaks and Belgians, cyclocross has come into its own, even in the U.P. The UPCROSS points series, with races across the Western Upper Peninsula from late September until mid November draws over fifty racers week for week. U.P. autumns being what they are, you'd be correct in assuming that the weather isn't always sunshine and daisies. But that's part of the challenge. As are the mud pits, the barriers, the hill climbs, fire-eating monsters and other assorted obstacles that litter the course, forcing riders to dismount, carry, and remount their bikes on the fly.

At a time of the year when most are ready to hang up their wheels for the season and start thinking about pulling out the skis, 'cross racers are starting to rub their hands in anticipation of the upcoming season. What better way to stay (or get) into shape for the winter than a weekly session of high-intensity pain and suffering, with a few training rides thrown in for good measure.

Although any type of bike will work, traditionalists decry anything other than a true cyclocross machine, with cantilever brakes, drop bars and knobby -- but narrow -- tires, as heresy. Mountain bikes abound at UPCROSS races which are, after all, all about fun and squeezing a few extra weeks out of the cycling season. In fact, given our less than ideal cx terrain, many of the races tend towards short track mountain bike racing with barriers than actual cyclocross, though race organizers do their best to lay out as true a cyclocross course as the surroundings will allow.

The Keweenaw plays host to two days of UPCROSS racing, the Keweenaw Cup, which is contested over the course of a weekend in mid to late October in Copper Harbor. Points earned in the two races are tallied and the overall winners determined in five classes. Though not the final race on the UPCROSS calender, the Keweenaw Cup does mark the end to the Keweenaw race season.

In addition to the UPCROSS series, weekly training races are held on the Michigan Tech trails beginning in mid September and ending when winter darkness sets in. No entry fees, no prizes, and no glory. Even so, the races have proven popular, drawing upwards of 20 racers.

Check back here as cyclocross season draws near for details on the UPCROSS series and the weekly training races.