This past weekend marked the mid-way point of the 9th rendition of Cross On the Rock. With seven races (six weekends) of Island ambience set to tantalize racers this season, the first three have all been memorable and most excellent.
The series continues to grow steadily from its 2006 roots. Numbers have swelled to almost 400 racers at the latest event on Turkey Monday at Topaz. From little rippers to grand Masters the sport is becoming a favourite time of year for cycling enthusiasts and first-timers. There is something about racing bikes in the sun/rain, on gravel/mud that takes one back to the basics of first learning to ride; balance, pedaling, cornering and of course..…. skids!
Rewinding to early September, Cumberland set stage as the series opener and it did not disappoint. The Waverly Pub CX Crit made its return with a revamped course: cobbles, gravel, a hip jump, and infamous bar fly-by. The buzz was set and Sunday at Comox Lake Campground came quick enough. With the new venue came an unorthodox course that featured drifting gravel corners, a serious run-up, campsite chicanes, and quick-sand waterfront. The aforementioned list of leg-zapping features made this one of the more aerobically challenging COTR events of late. The efforts were certainly rewarded with cold Cumberland Brewing and Riders Pizza while reminiscing over the gorgeous day that had unfolded.
The second event would take place two weeks later, marking a return to Transfer Beach after a year’s hiatus. Talk about a venue. Panoramic ocean backdrop, beach, grassy slopes, old-growth cedars, a kids waterpark….this spot has it all. The course made great use of the varied terrain and available surfaces. About a third of the loop took riders through a technical array of hairpins and off-camber crowned corners between cedars and maples. The dry weather leading up to the weekend brought dust bowl conditions when the masses hit this section on the first, tightly contested, lap of each event. Riders then made their way through the first and second sand traps which provided great entertainment for on looking crash-enthusiasts. The second of sand pits discharged into a hairpin into pea gravel that took great strength to ride through; following that up with a stair run-up and pavement climb, riders were relieved to hit the descent back into the wooded tech section. Technically gifted riders stole the show at this one by conserving energy through cornering and then laying it down where watts were warranted.
Thanksgiving Monday brought about COTR #3 and an opportunity to set the turkey dinner appetite into overdrive. With record setting numbers The ProCity GP took place in Topaz Park, showcasing a sticky and slick grass-based circuit. Rain in the earlier races gave way to overcast skies but the damage had been done and with each race the track gained more and more character. Bikes became unrecognizable, rear derailleurs cocooned in mud and grass; quite amazing that a drivetrain gaining a kilo of debris still functions….single speed inclinations were bolstered after this one. With plenty of off-camber and slick meandering corners, reading between the lines was key to a clean and momentous race. Renaat’s delicious waffles post-race put a cap on what must be the fan-favourite course to date.
Next up in the series is the Bear Crossing out at Bear Mountain. A new location on the mountain is rumoured. With the resorts revamped marketing campaign towards becoming cycling destination the expectations are high for another great event. The series then will shift up-island for a double-header in Nanaimo (sure to be hair-raising) and Nanoose for Pony Cross. The grand finale will once again be hosted at Hogwarts-Shawnigan by us! Talks of even more stairs have been leaked, so get those Stair-Master intervals set. Club volunteers will likely be needed so come on out, lend a hand and heckle to your hearts content.
A big thank-you to all that make this series run each fall. We have something special here for cyclocross on this island and it is only possible by the selfless and passionate efforts of all the COTR crew, supporting clubs and sponsors. Ride On!