About 700 bicyclists from around Colorado will be in Castle Rock this weekend for the Cyclecross State Championships being held at Rhyolite Regional Park.

“This is the third year the Colorado championships will be held in Castle Rock. The course at Rhyolite is highly regarded as one of the best in the state for its layout and durability in inclement weather,” said race organizer and Castle Rock resident John Haley. Races start at about 8 a.m. on both Saturday and Sunday and run throughout the day.

Cyclecross is considered the steeplechase of cycling. The racecourses are short – usually around two miles – and feature all kinds of obstacles and terrain including dirt track, pavement, grass, steep hills and stairs. The sport is conducted in the fall and winter so foul weather, snow and mud are often also part of the mix. And while this might sound crazy to some folks, cyclecross racers often pine for these conditions to make the contests even more interesting than they might be on a calm, sunny day.

Cyclecross races are also very spectator-friendly and fun to watch. Unlike road races where you might get a glimpse of riders as they fly past furiously on the road or mountain biking where you’ll see the start and finish unless you trek up the trail, cyclecross courses are easy to navigate from a spectator perspective. In many cases, you can see several parts of the course from one perch. Moreover, you’ll have the opportunity to see the racers more than once as they lap the course several times.

“When I first got involved in cyclecross back in 2006, I didn’t know what to expect,” said Castle Rock resident Michael Linde. “I was a cyclist but not this kind of cyclist. I was passed by just about everybody in the race. But afterward, everyone came up to me and encouraged me and congratulated me for competing. This is a community. Your race might only last a couple of hours but you find yourself staying around all day to cheer on your rivals and have fun.”

To be sure, there are some serious competitors in cyclecross but participating in this sport is as much about camaraderie and friendship as it is about winning, Haley noted. The state championships will also have a festival-like feel with food, beverages and vendor booths. There will plenty of things to see and do even if you’re not participating in the races.

“The cyclecross community is tight-knit,” he said. “But it is also welcoming.” Both Haley and Linde encouraged residents to come watch the races this weekend.

Cyclecross got its start in the early 1900s when road racers wanted to something to do during their off season in the fall and winter. Bicyclists would race each other from town to town and the first one to reach their destination won. There were no rules so to be the fastest often meant making shortcuts through farmers’ fields, over fences and up staircases. Eventually, the sport took on a more formal structure. Farmers were happier and friends and neighbors could watch the competitions. Today, cyclecross is one of the fastest growing segments in cycling.

“Cyclecross is a great sport,” Linde said. “Where else can you go out and race your bike in rain, snow and sleet just for the sheer joy of it and have a bunch of your friends cheering and encouraging you on the sidelines?”

About the author

K.C. Neel is the Co-Owner of Castle Rock Bike & Ski which is located in downtown Castle Rock.