Dozens of cyclocross racers descended upon their secret training facility in Philadelphia to particpate in “grass track” and prepare for the upcoming race season.
Riding around in circles.
Grass track is exactly what it sounds like: a small oval course on a field where cyclists ride laps in an often desperate effort to get into shape for the looming cyclocross season.
Baltimore’s Charm City Cross (September 17 & 18) remains a highlight of the Mid-Atlantic season, with racers from all over the Philadelphia region making the pilgrimage to compete at this epic early seasonevent.
Beer, frites, waffles, and cross.
Immensely popular in Europe, cyclocross has found a cultish niche in the already cultish world of American cycling. Cyclocross began as a way for road racers to retain fitness during winter, cycling’s off-season, but has become a discipline that many racers focus on exclusively. Competitors race modified road bikes over fields, sand, pavement, and barriers that require dismounting and re-mounting at high speeds, for 40-60 minutes.
City of Brotherly Love loves Charm City Cross
What possesses Philly Crossers to drive 2 hours and pay $30 to line up with 100 other racers in tight-fitting skin suits and ride as hard as possible for 40+ minutes through mud, sand, and grass? Over natural and artificial barriers, including stairs while being pummeled by inclement, nasty weather? Love. Crossers love their sport and they love each other. The palpable camaraderie among racers makes the beginning of every season feel like a family reunion. When the race is over, it’s time to cheer on your fellow suffering cyclists while enjoying a brew. And racers love Charm City, coming from all over the Mid-Atlantic and Europe to join the orgy.
Charm(ing) Kris Auer: promoter. racer.
Charm City Cross promoter Kris Auer, owner of 20 Twenty Cycling Company, loves cyclocross and sponsors C3 Athletes Serving Athletes, the Mid-Atlantic’s only dedicated cyclocross team. Known menacingly as the “Dark Side” for their imposing dark racing togs and dominance in various Mid-Atlantic races, C3 racers travel across the universe in search of the victory and the perfect waffle. Many have Belgian-style monikers in honor of Belgian cross heroes like multiple time world champ Sven Nys and Daphne Van den Brand. Look for Fatmarc Vanderbacon or Daphney van den Combsie at the start.
The cross force is strong in Auer who, in addition to sponsoring and racing for C3, has nurtured the sport’s popularity through grass roots endeavors like weekly training rides for veteran and novice riders as well as training clinics for various cycling disciplines (e.g. road, mountain, ‘cross). Charm City Cross is like a love letter to the cross community who feel the aphrodisiac and swoon at the incredible course. How can racers not like a course that offers a “Lil’ Belgians” race, complete with a sand pit, for the under 10 set to try the sport and usher in the next generation of racers?
The force is strong with the Darkside
In addition to Director Auer, the 70+ member team includes reigning MAC Elite Women’s champion Laura Van Gilder and runner up Arley Kemmerer. Stalwarts Weston Schempf and Andy Wulfkule are always threats in the Elite Men’s races. This year, the Dark Siders will compete against UK National Champ Helen Wyman (Kona Factory Racing), and compatriots Gabby Day (Team Scott Contessa) and Ian Field (Hargroves Cycles). The Philadelphia Cyclocross School (a team that promotes cultural exchange via cyclocross) will line up Elite Swiss racers Lukas Müller, Lukas Winterberg, and Erik Brügner and 2 Elite U.S. racers Pat Bradley and Eric Spohn.
Historic Druid Hill Park boasts all the requirements for the perfect ‘cross venue: urban location, ample parking, natural barriers, and plenty of food and beverage vendors. Auer chose the park because “it’s a very spectator friendly venue with good sight lines of the entire track from a central location. Most spectators congregate in the area adjacent to the pit, natural barrier (tree planter), and sand. The Lil’ Belgians course, kid’s playground, food vendor area, and beer garden are also right there. Bring the family and enjoy the day.”
Come to Druid Hill Park on September 17 and 18 to get a taste of Belgium without spending a lot of euros. But fair warning: cyclocross is contagious. Don’t be surprised if you catch the fever.
For more information on Charm City Cross: contact Twenty 20 Cycling Company at 725 West 36th Street, Baltimore, MD 21211, (443) 759-5620. www.twenty20cycling.com
Registration and Technical Course Information: Bikereg.com