Sunny skies and 80s glam metal set the scene for cyclists of all ages and abilities, as spectators rang cowbells and shouted encouragement to riders during the Cascade Cross at Bellingham BMX on Saturday, Oct. 13.
The premier cyclocross series in Bellingham kicked off its 12th season this month, celebrating the sport with enthusiasm. As winter conditions tend to slow down mountain and road biking in the Bellingham area, cyclocross offers cyclists a way to keep in shape during the offseason.
Cyclocross is a form of bicycle racing in which competitors are challenged with different terrains and obstacles. Riders often have to dismount and carry their bikes, challenging their bike handling abilities as well as their aerobic conditioning.
Unlike other forms of cycle racing, cyclocross is measured by the number of laps a rider completes within the designated time frame. These time-frames typically range from 30 minutes for beginners, and can last as long as 60 minutes for experienced riders. The time-frame allows riders to compete in harsh winter conditions, while demanding speed and bike control from the racers.
The cyclocross course at Bellingham BMX, located at 5502 Guide Meridian, is the first and only perma-course located in the Pacific Northwest. Cyclocross tracks are usually built on top of pre-existing biking and hiking trails, but the course at Bellingham BMX is exclusively for racing cyclocross.
Kip Zwolenksi, director of the Cascade Cross series, said he wouldn’t want to be kicking off the season anywhere else.
“This is sort of our home course,” Zwolenski said. “Normally, it’s a lot muddier.”
He said conditions are expected to get much wetter as the series continues through January, but that hasn’t impacted the turnout of fans.
“We had almost 160 people come to race today, which is higher than average,” Zwolenski said
Matt Hoffmeyer, a cyclocross racer and employee of Kona Bikes in Bellingham, said the sport has grown immensely since he’s been involved in the Cascade Cross series.
“It’s a very healthy sport,” Hoffmeyer said. “It’s a really good community vibe, the courses are really challenging and it’s just a fun kind of family. Everyone is out here to challenge themselves.”
The sport has expanded its reach to Western, too. Seniors Summer Sturges and Kate Berreman, who both competed in the event, said they enjoy cyclocross for the friends and connections they’ve made within the community. Both are members of Western’s cycling team and said they use cyclocross as a fun way to stay in shape during the winter. Sturges added that she enjoys how supportive cyclocross racers are of each other.
“You pass someone and they’re like ‘Keep it up!’ or ‘Nice work!’” Sturges said. “I feel like sometimes girls are under-challenged or there is not as much expectation, but I don’t feel that with cyclocross.”
Her teammate Berreman couldn’t agree more.
“There’s so many women out there supporting each other, and I think that’s what makes the cross scene out here one of the best,” Berreman said. “It’s awesome to become part of the bike community. That’s something I find really valuable anywhere.”
The Cascade Cross series will continue through January and a full list of events, as well as information on how to register and contact the organizers is available online at www.cascadecross.com.