Cyclocross a rough, rugged race

DeKALB – Last weekend, Hopkins Park was home for the fifth year in a row to a cyclocross bicycle race that was part of the Chicago Cross Cup series.

“We love cyclocross and we wanted to find a way to bring people out to DeKalb,” said Tobie DePauw, manager of North Central Cyclery in DeKalb, one of the sponsors of Sunday’s event.

Cyclocross racers ride bicycles that are similar to road bikes, but with wider, knobby tires for better control on unpaved portions of the course. Races consist of many laps of a short course featuring pavement, wooded trails, grass, steep hills and obstacles that require the bicyclist to carry his or her bicycle for short distances.

“It’s a very good way to get into racing because the courses are short. They are two miles long,” DePauw said.

Cycloross originated in Europe about a century ago, and it is a little known but growing sport in the United States.

This year’s event attracted 587 bicyclists to DeKalb, along with their families and hundreds of spectators. There were 20 children younger than 9 signed up for the children’s race.

“This is the first year we have had (the children’s race),” event volunteer Josh Arends said. “I think it was definitely a success and we’ll do it again next year. We want to have a more family-friendly event.”

Cyclocross is a competitive event, but not everyone enters races to win. Michael Kelly races wearing a Supergirl costume, complete with cape and skirt, partly for fun and partly to bring more visibility to the sport.

“The first couple of times I tried it I knew I wasn’t going to finish in the top 10,” Kelly said. “So I figured I would have some fun. People react to it and little kids cheer, so I keep doing it.”