Main Entry: cy·clo-cross
Pronunciation: 'sI-kl&-"kros, -klO-
Etymology: French, from cyclo + cross-country (from English)
: the sport of racing bicycles over rough terrain that usually requires carrying the bicycle over obstacles
Cross races typically take place in the chilly, sometimes wet, autumn weather. The course is consists of multiple laps around a 1.5–2 mile course of pavement, trails, grass, and steep hills intersperced with obstacles that require the rider to quickly dismount and carry the bike while navigating the obstruction and remount. Successful mounts are done in one graceful motion, and the sight of the rider leaping like superman with a fluid leg kick over the saddle is an inspiring acrobatic sight to see. Competitors, struggle up muddy slopes, carrying their bicycles on their shoulders - their eyes blurred with dirt with a look of pain on their face - anaerobic thresholds are pushed past the limit creating the classic image of the sport. I was slightly skeptical. Could this be real cross? There would be no rain, hail or freezing temperatures for this inaugural event, held in the arid temperate desert fall in Las Vegas.
After an overly confusing chain of events surrounding how and where this so called spectacle was to take place, I was finally able to meet up with others waiting to take part in this event. Our collective decision was made. We would be sharing a white stretch limo for an elegant ride to the event. Driving away from the opulence of the strip we watched as the huge orange disc of the full moon rose over Vegas and chatted about how pulling up to the cross race in the stretch limo would be so very Vegas. The unusual setting for a cross race, in this case a very overflowing parking lot, did nothing to chill our excitement. Top US and European Pros had arrived to do cyclocross battle this night and we were in attendance. We were stoked.
The race was to take place at the Desert Breeze Soccer Complex, which is a Clark County facility in western Las Vegas 6 miles from the Strip. Either the limo driver had never been 6 miles off the strip or he decided to show us the scenic route but it sure did take a lot longer to drive the 6 miles than we though it should. Regardless, we arrived and the event started off with Elvis singing the National Anthem followed by the pro women at 7 pm.
Several heavy hitters like Katie Compton, 3 time US Champion and Silver medalist at the Worlds, and Lynne Besset, multi-time Canadian Champ as well as a host of other top contenders were here and ready to rumble. The women didn't disappoint, the racing was fast, intense, and the crowd approved.
In the end it was Lyne Bessette (Cyclocrossworld.com) who took the impressive victory and had the honor of being the winner of the first Vegas cross. Next were her strongest rivals, US national champion Katie Compton (Spike) and Katrina Nash (Luna).
The hour between the women's race and the men's race allowed the crowd to fully indulge at the Sierra Nevada beer garden and listen to Elvis sing "Viva Cross Vegas." Prior to the start of the men's event the crowd swelled to 5 deep on many parts of the course. The 5000 plus spectators were mostly Interbike convention attendees so this was a very rowdy crowd ready for some hot racing under the lights.
Like the women, the men did not disappoint. The 92 man field started fast and continued the blistering pace for one full hour of racing. Midway into the event the contenders did battle as others fell off the pace. The crowd was in a frenzy at the half way point, and one could only imagine how crazy the crowd could have been if there was free beer. Luckily the $4 price tag kept things in some sort of order. As one spectator said, "In Vegas $4 beers are practicality free".
Those who lost hopes of winning or placing high in the field continued to race had some fun drinking beer and eating pizza while racing, thus demonstrating their excellent bike handling skills. Dollar bills were thrown onto the course enticing the racers to further test their skills by trying to pick up the free loot while still racing their bikes.
During the closing moments of the race spectors made a mad dash from all corners of the course to the finish line to watch Ryan Trebon (Kona-Your Key Mortgage) and Christian Heule (Stevens) duke it out into the final stretch, with Trebon getting the win.
If this event is any indication, it is clear that cyclocross continues to be one of the fastest growing biking disciplines in the US. The fast, spectator friendly, nature of the race and the compact course layout are sure to please hard core fan as well as the casual newcomer. There were many very pleased fans tonight. This race was the highlight of the 2007 Interbike convention so.
The Vegas Cross race was a huge success in my eyes and I still have the buzz of the crowd in my ears and the thoughts of watching another race in the future.