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VOL. 129 | NO. 217 | Thursday, November 6, 2014

Outdoors Inc. Cyclocross Championship Returns

By Don Wade

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Memphis might not qualify as a cyclocross racing hotbed. That description better fits Seattle, San Francisco, Denver and Boston.

The 28th annual Outdoors Inc. Cyclocross Championship returns to Greenbelt Park along the Mississippi River on Mud Island this weekend. 

(Outdoors Inc.)

But Memphis has something they don’t: the longest continuous running cyclocross event.

This Sunday marks the 28th year for the annual Outdoors Inc. Cyclocross Championship race. This year’s event again will be held at Greenbelt Park on Mud Island. Race director Joe Royer expects some 150 riders to participate, and though children will have their own races, the event will feature elite amateur and professional riders.

Royer says past races have brought in former Olympians and Tour de France stage winners. But there is a solid contingent of riders from the Mid-South, too.

“We’ll have five or six local guys in the lead pack,” Royer said.

Of course, cyclocross is not your typical bike race. Challenges abound.

“Cyclocross is a very technical sport,” Royer said. “You have to be able to dismount a bicycle going 25 miles an hour and going over obstacles.”

The race is sanctioned and a top pro from Denver is expected to be in this year’s field. Competitors have to literally carry their bicycles at some points in the race as they navigate the 1.5-mile lap course.

“It takes a lot of skill,” Royer said. “People that are very fast are not necessarily the best cyclocross riders.”

Weather can change things, too.

“If it’s wet and muddy, a lap might be 10 minutes,” Royer said. “If it’s dry and fast, a lap might be five minutes.”

At one point, three barricades or hurdles will challenge riders. In this case, three large Mississippi River logs.

“We try to put a real Memphis spin on this,” said Royer.

Registration begins at 8 a.m. and the first race goes off at 9 a.m. The pros and elite amateur riders are schedule to race at 10 a.m. Full details can be found at outdoorsinc.com.

Unlike traditional bicycle racing, cyclocross also lends itself to spectating.

“You can see the whole course,” Royer said. “A lot of people will be coming out of the houses and condos in Harbor Town with a coffee cup. It’s a tradition to bring a cow bell and there will probably be at least a hundred people ringing cowbells.”

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