Cyclists will soon be racing up and down Mount Krumpit on the Johnson County Fairgrounds as a series of cylco-cross events, including the Telenet UCI Cyclo-Cross World Cup, kick off Thursday evening. The world cup event is putting Iowa City on the map. It is one of only two American cities to host a world cup event.
The Christmas-themed Volkswagen Jingle Cross Cyclo-Cross Festival has been an Iowa City tradition since 2004 and usually is held in November or December, but was bumped up this year to coincide with the world cup event.
For those who aren’t familiar with cyclo-cross, Jingle Cross founder John Meehan describes it as a mix of NASCAR, traditional bike racing and obstacle course events like the Tough Mudder races. Competitors carry their bikes up steep inclines and over barriers and ride full tilt through terrain that can include sand and plenty of mud. Oh, and it’s a winter sport so it can be rather cold.
“This is like the hockey players of bicycle racing. You must have gotten hit a few times with a puck to do this, but it is a ton of fun,” he said during a Tuesday event at the Iowa City Public Library.
Helen Wyman, a two-time European cyclo-cross champion who will be participating in the Iowa City world cup event, also spoke at the public library and described the intensity of cyclo-cross racing.
“In a road race you’ll ride for hours but then the sprint is only in the last bit. But if you took that intensity, that is the cyclo-cross race. It’s just really crazy intense racing,” Wyman said.
Though it is not yet a widespread American sport, the world cup event is expected to attract more than 10 to 15 million viewers worldwide.
Cyclo-cross world cup competitors finished the first event in the series in Las Vegas on Wednesday and will compete in Iowa City before heading to Europe for the next seven races in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and Italy. The series stretches from September all the way through January.
The Iowa City cyclo-cross events will kick off with a party on Thursday Sept. 22 at 6 p.m. in the Terry Trueblood Recreation Area (579 McCollister Blvd) featuring fireworks.
Other than Saturday’s world cup events, which are ticketed, events on Thursday, Friday and Sunday are free. Among the many Jingle Cross events are kids races, a Single Speed Speedo Spectacular — in which bathing suits or costumes are encouraged — and a weekend-long Deschutes Beer Festival with music and food.
“It’s still a community event and to see things like the kids races, that’s what brings a smile to my face. Plus, it’s cool to see all these pros coming into town,” said Ryan Baker, the owner of World of Bikes
Wyman, who is originally from England, has raced in the Jingle Cross event before. She said her favorite moment during her last Iowa City race came when the people she had stayed with during the event surprised her by passing out sheets with the words to the British national anthem, God Save the Queen.
“Everybody was singing the national anthem to me on Mount Krumpit,” she said.
For information about tickets, a full schedule and other details, visit the Jingle Cross website at jinglecross2.com.