Welcome to the Cascade Cross Series

Bellingham BMX

We are a small town cyclocross production outfit with a big heart. We emphasize the highest quality of courses at killer venues with a smooth, fun-filled race day for riders of all ages & abilities!

Bellingham's strong, cyclist-dominant community brings a friendly & enthusiastic atmosphere with an inviting attitude. Nevertheless, our caliber of competition is quite high! You will be challenged. You will be encouraged. You will leave with a smile, a dirty, sweaty brow and will want to come back for more!

What is cyclocross, you might ask? It is the least-understood but most emphatically-enjoyed faction of competitive cycling. It is mud-bogging, sand-squirming, barrier-hopping, wet-grass-slipping, steep-pitch-scrambling fun. Read more...

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Thursday, September 01, 2016

Posted by Ryan Rickerts

Happy September! It rained in Bellingham yesterday. Granted... it was only 1/4th inch over 24 hours, but after seeing only a 1/4” total in the month of August, that little burst was enough to trigger a response from several nefarious critters native to our region. Yes, the Banana slugs (Ariolimax columbianus) might emerge from their summer hiatus (wherever they hide), and along with them, your favorite purveyor of mud, that most elusive creature known as the local cyclocross promoter (Bicyclomax dismountus):

“In drier conditions, they hide in damp places such as under tree bark, fallen logs, rocks and man-made structures, such as planters, to help retain body moisture.” (source)

No, we will not talk openly about cyclocross until the first cool, moist night descends upon us. Not that we've been completely in hiding, however. Major upgrades to the Bellingham BMX course are well underway - that is, a 20% lengthening of the course, from 2.5km to 3km, including more high ground (for the wet season) and undulating terrain in the woods. We're just waiting for some moisture to start conditioning the fresh soil into a hard track... perhaps tonight! You will like what you see at the grand opening race at BBMX this season!

Furthermore, schedules have been laid. Parties have been planned. It is, after all, the Ten Year Anniversary season for Cascade Cross, and we'll be doing it in style!

We did start with the minor hiccup that was the loss of my domain name registration while I was on vacation in Ecuador. Not to worry, nothing was lost except for a few emails, along with perhaps your confidence that this long-storied and much-appreciated production of local cyclocross would re-start at all.

Well, my friends... after 55 races promoted at many memorable and amazing venues... not to mention several infamous celebrations to follow them... we really cannot stop now. The dial certainly goes to SIXTY, and we're eyeballing at least a few more beyond that high mark this season!

So the rough outline for the 2016-17 schedule is there to the right. Our Facebook page is getting regular updates as well (with photos). Series Passes will be coming out shortly, along with a fresh run of our 10 Year Anniversary merchandise! We've got the 10 Year Edition of the SSCXWC in Portland with another run of Singlespeed Pre-Worlds in Bellingham to get you prepped! Right after that, a double-header with the WA State Championships of CX in Oak Harbor the second weekend of December. In addition, block out Friday, Sept. 30th for a season opener party at the new Cafe Velo bike shop+cafe opening in downtown Bellingham this fall under the careful hands of a former cyclocross rival of mine, Andrew Francis. His shop is just a stone's throw from our excellent season finale party last January. How convenient is that!?

It's going to be a great year for PNW cyclocross, especially those events coming out of our little outfit based in Bellingham. Trust in that! Work on your fitness, work on your bikes, build a bitchin' singlespeed, buy a Series Pass and a hoodie, pray for rain, and we'll take care of the rest.

Cheers,
  ~RyanR>

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Posted by Ryan Rickerts

Well, we did it. We seem to have timed it perfectly. The intent was to hold off on hosting at Bellingham BMX until we got some moisture. And after several weeks of work parties with tractors and chain harrows and dozens of shovels, Mother Nature did to our dry, bumpy ground on Wednesday what twenty people and their machines could not. It simply rained.

A women's practice clinic was held that evening and they had a fantastic time playing in the mud (see our Facebook page for some photos), with Kristi Berg coming up last minute to coach. They reported, after a day of solid rain, that it was just enough mud to make it interesting. Not that it wasn't interesting already! We've got rolling hills, twisty turns, tight forest with tacky dirt, stairs, barriers, sand... a bunch of cool & classic elements to make for an interesting & challenging lap. However, this is cyclocross, a fall sport, and we want it squishy and mucky and cool, and that's what we've finally got!

Do not be concerned that this is going to turn into a derailleur-sucking nightmare as we have experienced in the past after a month-long drenching. 2015 has been an epic drought year for Washington (and much of the West). You do not turn a desert into a swamp overnight! So we are in fact ecstatic to have possibly the first true cyclocross conditions for our 2015 Bellingham BMX debut this weekend!

That being said, the forecast is for about 1/2 inch of rain on Saturday. So come prepared with your knobby tires, your real fall clothes, your tent, your AWD drive vehicle to get out of the field (if you have one)... it could be a very interesting day! When that top layer of clay gets slick, it can fill your tires quickly and make cornering like riding on an ice rink. Now, we have a bunch of grass which will offset that pure, hardpack dirt experience. We also have a short section of fresh trail in the woods that has not been packed yet (that's your job), so be prepared for the real deal out there!

There is much more detail on the race page, including updated maps and images for you to peruse.

I'm also excited to have our act followed by the ever-popular WMBC Shoot the Trails event on Saturday night, a fundraiser for all the massive trail building efforts in Whatcom County. This show often sells out (even though they're now at an expanded venue at Bellingham Tech College), so here's what I'm going to do. I am bringing 12 event tickets to Bellingham BMX. There will be a holeshot prize for each adult category, from the start line at the BMX track up until the tight 180 degree turn in the woods - essentially, the top of the course. There is orange fencing there to indicate the corner. I will have a representative there dangling the ticket. First tire over the tight root line gets the ticket! You may grab and pocket it or collect it at Registration. And do not drive off with this ticket unused in your pocket -- they are too valuable at that point! Trade it for Kulshan Beer in the beer garden!

Now a word from our sponsors...

Darren Clark, former vice-president of the WMBC for over a decade and stalwart of the forest on many build projects, has stepped up with his Farmers Insurance agency to become the season sponsor of the CX track at Bellingham BMX. His wife Caroline will be out on race day to check out the scene (he's also a crab fisherman and it's peak season), but you can bet Darren will be out with us next spring adding features to the venue to support future projects such as short-track mountain bike racing, kids mountain bike clinics, and maybe even some dirt jumps! Once a trail builder, always a trail builder. We appreciate the years of dedication Darren has put in to our bike community and his continued support for off-road cycling. I personally have my renter's insurance and home owners insurance serviced through his office in Fairhaven, so I can honestly recommend them!

Next up, I'd like to introduce to you dangerous bike racers our new medic and body-working volunteer on staff, Dr. Adam Phaneuf!

Adam has just moved to Bellingham and joined the staff at Performance Health Northwest (also where I have received great physical therapy from Erik DeRoche, himself a bike racer). He enjoys the race atmosphere and supporting athletes. You can visit his tent if you want some overall body care, talk about a particular issue, or if you receive damages from the race course for a medical assessment. He already helped patch up a few riders who did not handle the gravel corners well at Woolley Cross, so Adam has become a huge asset by becoming a regular support person for us! Thank you, Adam!

Lastly, but not least, I want to talk about Charlie Heggem and his company, Cirrus Cycles. He has been hopping around the cycling scene for decades as a pro racer and promoter, but now with this product he is introducing something pretty revolutionary. It is an isolation seat post called the BodyFloat. He put one under me on my Trek Crockett just a few weeks ago when I was working on the summer-hardened turf at Bellingham BMX. It immediately made a difference in comfort & control. I raced it at Woolley Cross which, for me (not traveling to the early season MFGs), felt like a bumpy nightmare. It did not eliminate the bumps, but it certainly took some edge off! If this unseasonably warm & dry fall weather continues in the Pacific Northwest, this may become mandatory early 'cross season equipment! And since I use my 'cross bike to ride mountain trails and gravel roads with washboards- and potholes-galore, I will be keeping this demo unit on my bike as long as Charlie allows me.

Charlie is going to be helping out at the races this year with timing, parking, coffee running, and anything else needed. He also raced very well pretty much off the couch and flew by me like I didn't know what I was doing, earning himself 2nd place in a stacked Master Men B field. You can stop by his tent and learn more about the physics behind his product (not my domain, I just enjoy riding it). He is also donating several of these to our prize coffers which we give away at the end of the season party, often awarded to those who race all the races and survive a gauntlet of competitions at the end of the night!

Thanks to everyone who is stepping up to support the series and keep it healthy & fun for everyone. I'm going to get back to learning this Orbiter timing system on top of prepping the course. See you out there!

  ~RyanR>

Friday, October 02, 2015

Posted by Ryan Rickerts

Alright, it's been a busy week, but we've got a BBMX work party queued up for tomorrow. Before I put you to work digging and setting course a week in advance of our Bellingham BMX race, I feel I've got some esplaining to do!

Okay, about the Orbiter system and Woolley Cross results. The consensus is Registration ran real smooth, so thank you Christin, Collin (new recruit from Team Racepace) and Becky (graphic designer of our forms) for running that show! We got your chips on your bibs. We did the call-ups based on last year's overall. We double-checked start lists and scanned everyone into their race wave (category). Everyone was reading well with a *BEEP* as they went by the finish line (unless you didn't pin your number properly on the left side as I explained several times).

So what went wrong? Well, we've got times for most riders (unless you didn't pin your number on your LEFT side, as explained previously). The problem is the results software database (which I do not currently have access to) is not loading up the correct start lists to link those recorded times to you fine people and the bib number you pinned on. Even though we have the correct start lists. Why not? After a week of back-and-forth with the vendor over email and phone, I cannot explain to you why the correct start lists cannot be loaded. Well, sometimes they are. It seems to be a bit of operator error. Which is actually good news.

Here's why. The whole program last Saturday was a demo of the hardware and software. The intent is that I, your fearless cyclocross leader, rent this equipment with the option to buy. I will be the operator as soon as possible. So I do not anticipate having this much trouble getting data out of the software in the future. I am a professional software developer in my “day job”, and my impression of the programming looking over the salesman's shoulder is that it is perfectly fine software (even though it only runs on Windows - got a laptop you could donate?). It is well written. I just need to be in the driver's seat of our own data, because I'm ultimately responsible for it and I definitely understand it. I know you! I'm out there racing with you.

I could be wrong, but I'm moving forward, not backwards. Meanwhile, after waiting a day or two for times, I fell back on manual entry of the hand scoring we did at the finish line with a couple volunteers furiously scribbling your bib numbers down on a notepad. This is how we did it for eight years. It works alright, until we have field sizes like the Men B at 12:30pm. That one took me a few extra days to sort out - pulling out some serious cyclocross detective work skills!

If the participation numbers stay strong in the 200 range this year, as they should since our races and courses are AWESOME! (don't ask just me, I've got plenty of feedback from Woolley Cross to reflect this), we cannot continue hand timing. It is what you call untenable. So the technology adventure continues! Bring your bib number back with the chip on it, and don't fold it! We will be issuing more bibs with chips if you lost yours or if it is your first time out this year. Please check that you understand proper bib placement. I will be doing my best to reduce the amount of pain experienced this week waiting for results. While you were waiting, I was struggling to produce them. Trust me... I'm over it.

While I was waiting around for times to help with my detective work, I did enable a new feature on our results website. Now you can search for yourself and see results for all six years of the series in the results.cascadecross.com database. It's something I've wanted to see for a while now and just never got around to tweaking the custom software. You can count on me to continue enhancing the features in the digital side of our series. I feel like we have the people side of our equation pretty well dialed. Some of the best!

Woolley Cross was killer, in many senses of the word. I hope to say more about it next week when I talk about some of the support crew that came out and debuted their services for our series this year. It's going to be a good one! Check back, and go ahead and pre-register for Bellingham BMX. Come on out tomorrow to help us get it ready and take a few practice laps on the dry, buffed out course. See the Gallery page for updates on the course development.

Get your ‘cross on!

Cheers,
  ~RyanR>

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Posted by Ryan Rickerts

It is Go Time for Cascade Cross 2015! We're back in 'cross promoting action - refreshed and revitalized! Now is the moment where I lay down a bunch of exciting information to carry you into the series opener and beyond! So please pay attention - this is more than marketing fluff!

Woolley Cross starts us off with a classic course favorited by many long-time riders in the region. We are very excited to work with several organizations to launch our season in a fantastic way. First and foremost, Skagit County Parks for cooperating with us in hosting what can be a less-than-popular activity on public lands, especially when shared on a daily basis by many user groups with potentially conflicting interests -- e.g. dog walkers, frisbee golf players, horseback riders, bird watchers and other wildlife enthusiasts, cross-country runners, cyclists...

We always appreciate being allowed into any public park year after year, and we always do what we can to accommodate any concerns to continue that cycle. Do your part to minimize impact by removing garbage, using proper facilities, changing in your car and other discretions, don't stick your car in the mud, etc. - anything & everything that reflects respect for the park and its other users - and you can help ensure we get invited back next year!

Secondly, we have the debut of Team Racepace as your Woolley Cross hosts, assisting with course building, mowing & brushing, parking, kids racing, registration, scoring, and all the other little details we need a solid group of volunteers to help with and make the day run smooth! Thank you in advance, Collin and crew!

In fact, Collin helped me inspect the course this very morning before our ‘day jobs’ and help get all areas cleared with the Parks Maintenance Supervisor Mike McCutchin. Here's a panoramic view from the top of the “big” climb on the course, where it turns and becomes a twisting gravel descent. There is only a 85’ elevation gain/loss over one course lap (according to the Strava segment), but it wears on you, especially with the thick grass slowing you down in spots where you hope to recover. You have to stay on the gas a lot on this wide open course. Let's just hope there's no wind!

The gravel descents can catch you off guard at race speeds, so while there may not be much mud to require aggressive knobs, don't skimp on the cornering tread, or back off a little bit on your speed in those sections (or take a line closer to the grass). You can also see here some of the fog that typically hangs in the Skagit River Valley early in the morning this time of year, so come prepared for cool weather if you race early in the day, even if the forecast for later in the day is warmer. Your feet will get wet walking around in the grass, so think spare shoes & spare socks! The map on the event page also indicates a nice dike road on the hospital side of Hansen Creek that connects back to Hwy 20 or Fruitdale Rd. It's obvious in a Google satellite view and seems like a good place for your warmup!

Thirdly, we have the Whatcom Women of Cross clinic at 8:30am with Cycle U's Kristi Berg coming up north to coach/usher a bunch of new ladies into the cyclocross family fold, as well as forwarded registrations from the wind-affected WACX Festival in late August, making for a killer Women's Only race at 10:30am! Many of these women also bring their young children who will be excited to ride the skills park provided by Chris Mellick's RRAD Program then hop into their own Youth Race at 11:30am. We should be hearing a heck of a lot of cowbell during these two races from support dads, partners, family, friends, and everyone else. The great thing about cyclocross is you can make a day of enjoying your own race as a participant, then enjoying everyone else's experience as a spectator!

The kids love to ride Chris' obstacles over and over all day long. If they don't get enough, you can bring them up to Lake Padden on Sunday, Oct. 4th for Take A Kids MTB Day. It's pure awesome to witness women and children developing to incredible new levels in this sport - a sure sign of successful adoption of more aggressive styles of bike riding & racing into our culture. Good bike handling ability is a skill for life!

I'm also very excited (and a little bit apprehensive) about announcing my new friend called YANTS - Yet Another New Timing System! I want to inform you on how it will work, and also the motivation for switching from Red Tent Timing who did a fine job for us last year in our debut of using a chip system over hand scoring.

Cascade Cross has always provided our own results software except for the analog scoring at the finish line. We have the capability just not the equipment. Now we will be running our own chip timing system with rented hardware and volunteer operators, basically to save money since our field sizes barely justify chip timing and certainly don't cover the cost of hiring a professional timing company. However, rather than going back to hand scoring (which often is as close to a perfectionist's nightmare as you can come), we are going to try and trim costs by running our own system, as well as bumping up the race fee by $5 (plus another $5 deposit for the chip).

Woolley Cross is the test run, but it should be relatively seamless except for the $5 chip deposit which is good until you lose and need to replace your chip. That means it's good for the entire season! We plan to affix these to the backside of your normal jersey bib so you can pin them on like normal. The readers will NOT be overhead like other PNW series but instead recording data from the LEFT SIDE. So it's very important that, like always, you pin your number on your LEFT SIDE! Especially since there is a run-up on this course and you are likely to shoulder your muddy bike with sharp, hooking parts on your right side possibly dislodging your number and the chip with it, always pin your bib on the LEFT SIDE!

So pin it like this, with 'BELLINGHAM CX' at the bottom of the number lining up to your jersey's side seam. Just add bike clothes underneath for a more pleasant cyclocross experience. However, if you're training for SSCXWC in Victoria, pin it just as shown, direct to your flesh:

There is more to the story, but that will do for now. Recognize that Day Of Registration is now $35 plus a $5 chip deposit good for the whole season, so bring a pair of twenties and you should be set. Better yet, help support this series and treat yourself to a Series Pass!

We are also throwing a work party at the Bellingham BMX venue on Oct. 3rd from 10am to 2pm to dial in some new features, clean up and possibly add some bridges, thread course tape (actually rope) and other details in advance of the BBMX Race on Oct. 10th. Come on out! We might even through a practice race that afternoon!

Get dialed, stay tuned, and see you soon!
  ~RyanR>

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Posted by Ryan Rickerts

In one week, folks we will gather together on a Wednesday evening to eat food, drink beer, fool around on bikes, and raise money for this incredible non-profit program.

The sport of BMX allows many local kids (and adults!) to experience the skill, fitness, and community building of cycling regardless of income or parental participation. It takes enormous resources to lease & maintain this facility, yet it is operated entirely on entry fees, some sponsor banners, and mainly the sweat equity of one humble family and all their volunteers. And they have been gracious enough to allow us to have our own cyclocross track!

You can help keep the program rolling by attending this event. We'll get together, have some fun, and talk about 'cross preparation, such as how to recondition the CX track for some practice races in September!

Bring a bike, helmet and clothes appropriate for taking laps on the BMX track, plus you can participate in a little fun relay race around the track for a prize!

Buy Tickets in Advance Here to help plan food & beverages accordingly.

Thursday, August 06, 2015

Posted by Ryan Rickerts

Happy endless summer, folks! Welcome to the new California! I'm sure you've been out riding your bike endlessly for at least five months now. Maybe you're tired of the dust & heat & wildfire smoke. Maybe you're looking forward to rain and cold and MUD like a proper Northwest fall! In fact, I'm certain of it because people have been asking - what's up with local cyclocross?!

I can tell you (as has become the requirement of the past few years as the series and sport has grown) that there's been a great deal of planning happening behind the curtain since the end of last season, such as: discussions with other area promoters to balance the regional schedule, discussions with clubs and venues to determine the most feasible layout for our events, and MANY meetings & discussions with local 'cross leaders to consider an organizational restructuring of Cascade Cross.

The last item was hinted at during the season-concluding speech at the Awards Party in January. Many creative options were considered for a formal business structure to best sustain the success and community-feel of the brand while also distributing the load and protecting the owners/investors: a cooperative, a non-profit, a limited-liability partnership... None were championed to the degree required to support the series at the level of abundance it has reached in years past. It was bound to be another year of Sole Proprietorship, which to me, signifies a lonely & difficult five months.

I have made a tradition of announcing the series schedule during the Tour de France each summer to celebrate the enthusiasm during one of the most popular cycling events in the world. In that window in July, I honored that tradition and posted up the six dates that fit reasonably well with the regional calendar. Some adjustments were made for the addition of special events like the WA State championship at the Deschutes River CX event on Nov. 7th and OF COURSE the incredible return of SSCXWC to the PNW in Victoria, BC on Nov. 21st-22nd. Joy! Singlespeed shenanigans right in our back yard, a reasonable riding distance away even! I believe it is important to accommodate and make room for these one day championship-style events outside of the established series (but it appears not all promoters agree with me). We were still able to squeeze in six races around the other events on offer (theirs all in Sept/Oct/Nov), which was consistent with our 2014 lineup.

Most recently (meaning today), I reached the difficult conclusion that there is not adequate organizational energy locally to sustain a series of that length, especially with the turnouts we saw last season. As Obama would say, Let me be perfectly clear. We have an amazing racing scene with some of the most friendly yet fierce competitors I've ever had the pleasure of lining up next to on a bicycle. Many helping hands have been there over the years and will continue to make Bellingham cyclocross possible. We will always have some flavor of local 'cross that is inviting to newcomers to bike racing, that helps cut down on I-5 miles on your precious weekends, that inspires you to stay on your bike in the cold, dark months. However, the Cascade Cross of yesteryear, where Ryan hosted 6 races in the span of six weeks, is no longer. Running a successful series like we have had is too exhausting for one person to manage on an administrative level - permitting, insuring, resupplying, marketing, advertising, banking, accounting, online registration, results, website maintenance... writing! - particularly with a full-time day job, a kid, and many other responsibilities. It's time for a better balance.

So what I am presenting to you today is the Great Pruning of 2015. We are back to three cyclocross races as we were in the beginning, with the potential to stretch that to five if things go well and everyone chips in. Here's what we get to celebrate keeping alive:

I am bringing back Woolley Cross, aka Northern State Recreation Area at Sedro Woolley, to open up the series for 2015 on September 26th. This venue has always been a favorite for it's layout, scenery and difficulty, and we lost the opportunity to experience it last season. I love giving a venue a rest and coming back to it with a fresh pair of eyes! It will be good to kick off the season in late September and capture that early season enthusiasm. Our Saturday race also pairs nicely with Cross Revolution event in Arlington on Sunday for those traveling into the area from afar. We have a new enthusiastic club in town supporting that which I will announce shortly.

Gratefully, we also have the return of the Thanks Given'er at Fort Nugent Park in Oak Harbor, brought to you by the Whidbey Island Bicycle Club on December 5th. These guys did an amazing job last year and the venue was just soooo incredibly perfect, I'm begging them to do a double-header in early December. Since no other promoters in the region are willing to host races past November (I'm talking all the way to Oregon and up in BC, too), and U.S. Nationals are in January (and Worlds in February), I feel we have an important role to play in filling out what has turned into a very imbalanced cyclocross calendar in the PNW, especially in the months where we might actually have 'cross weather! So if Brad Nelson (who just opened a Skagit Cycles shop in Oak Harbor) and his dedicated crew can be convinced (along with the City of Oak Harbor), we might have at least four races to look forward to!

Last, but certainly not least, we have Bandit Worlds at Cornwall Park. This event has long been a shining diamond for cyclists in the long winter months, often bringing sunshine and many smiles to a beautiful park in the heart of Bellingham. It is not the most epic course ever designed, but it has all the elements we require - grass, gravel, pavement, twisty loamy sections, rooty sections, hills, stairs, and a great spectator experience! We are fortunate the City of Bellingham Parks Department continues to allow us to have our day of fun. As long as that is the case, we will keep coming back, and thanks to the highly efficient work of the Fanatik Bike Co. Racing Team, we are doing it right!

Now let's grieve what we have lost (at least allowing to rest):

First, on the bubble is Bellingham BMX. As everyone who's been paying attention to Bellingham 'cross knows, working on this space has been near & dear to my heart for the past two years. I've put countless of my own personal hours, sweat, blood, tears, and dollars into building the first permanent cyclocross course in the region, that is turning an abandoned golf course into a top quality track built for speed, challenge, and fun! I think we accomplished that and had some amazing days out in those fields. We've had some tough days, too. Everyone who has come out during a wet spell has discovered the temperamental & devious nature of the glacial silt clay. When it's dry, it's rock hard. When it's saturated, the peanut butter mud will grab you and your bike and try to stop all forward momentum! See the picture above with Dale Plant running, for example. I've always placed course quality as the first & foremost requirement for my venues, and even with my bias and hardened character I have to admit that some days this course is just too hard to be fun.

The sweet spot is somewhere in between, and one of the most amazing days I've had as a promoter and rider was the official debut in early Oct. 2013 when nearly 200 riders showed up from all over the Northwest to see what we had created. After a few days of drying out and a couple solid sessions of grooming with with a 4-wheeler and a chain harrow, it ran like a dream! We dialed it in just the night before and dubbed it cyclocross corduroy. Well, what we have right now after running 5K running races over it last winter in very wet conditions and neglecting it all spring and summer is a bumpfest. We have some big trees that blew down in the forest and have to be sawed up. We still need a major bridge. I've built sandpits and Belgian stairs to keep it interesting and force you off the bike when it's dry. It's very challenging to adapt the course later in the season when the water table finally comes up and it's wet everywhere. So we can run races there early in the season and have a good time, but it's still going to take a fair amount of work in the remaining days of summer to get it to a pleasantly rideable state again. If I get some material help (which WWU Cycling has offered at least labor), we should be able to get at least some practice races up & running in September. If it seems workable and weather is cooperating (which I have no way of predicting based on our unpredictable climate), we may be able to host an official race there in early October, or add another date in 2015 as energy & conditions permit.

Now onto the Cross Border Clash: After years of trying to move into Bellingham, Transition Bikes has finally done it. They are no longer headquartered at Delta Tech Park. It is still feasible to run an event there, and that may yet happen under someone else's leadership. I need to give it a rest. It is a great track but it's huge - not easy to build and not close to town. It takes a lot of marking equipment. We had our lowest turnout there last season (partially to blame is choosing the day after Halloween) and the Border Clash concept never really took off. Where were you, Canada?! It is plenty of fun but we usually counted on the Transition guys to prime some new features and do some basic maintenance out there. We will give this one a rest in 2015.

Lastly (at least speaking of last year's venues), we are walking away from Lutherwood on Lake Samish. Personally, I love Lutherwood. It is so epic! It is hilly. There is often great mud, tricky descents, fast gravel sections, a big slippery field, indoor registration with a fireplace, BBQ, beautiful lodges to stay in... we had such a great time there last year. I always tried to turn this into a festival atmosphere by offering trail rides on Sunday since there are plenty of campsites, beds, showers... but nobody ever stayed over. We had at most five people out riding the amazing trails on Chuckanut and Blanchard mountains guided by none other than the master of the local trails, Chris Mellick (last year, it was just Chris and I). There is so much potential out in this space. We can add our own trails specifically geared to CX. For now, the layout is limited to one direction or another, and we gave it a good run. I'd say we've pushed the envelope a bit on what the generous operators of the bible camp might tolerate in terms of behavior. I'd like to meditate on how to reinvent this event so it meets the potential that the venue provides while at the same time respecting the atmosphere they have created. Perhaps you could offer some suggestions the next time you see me.

So that is the honest truth - both the beauty and the tragedy that I'm faced with doling out to you, my loyal cyclocross aficionados, this season. As was duly celebrated last January, I have put in nine seasons and hosted 50 cyclocross races in my “career” as a cyclocross promoter in Bellingham. I feel blessed to have done this at over a dozen venues, all of very high quality and in beautiful settings, so I know I'm doing my craft in the right place. Never have I been so often thanked and told how much I was appreciated, but never have I worked so hard for so little personal reward - other than seeing smiling faces and kids getting on bikes. I don't have the energy & passion that I once had to fire up this amazing project, but I can't stand to see too many frowns in the months of October to February either! I also want to have the fitness & enthusiasm to race my bike (preferably locally). I want to put my creative energy into building new events, particularly gravel grinders like the Spring Smash. It is time for a new chapter for me, and therefore a chapter must also be closed.

Stay tuned for more news in this exciting adventure!

Sincerely,
  ~RyanR>

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Posted by Ryan Rickerts

Are you sufficiently excited for Bellingham Bandit Worlds this weekend at Cornwall Park!? If not, here are some juicy tidbits to get your mouth watering:

The Fanatik Bike Co. Racing Team is large, in-charge, and well coordinated by CX Captain Rusty Dodge. They will be at Cornwall Park building out the course Friday night and early Saturday, monitoring it Saturday during the races, tearing it down on Saturday afternoon and tamping out the grass before we leave the park. They do a fantastic job of running our finale and are a huge asset to the cyclocross community. Thanks in advance, crew!

Pre-registration is extremely helpful for this race to help us get your Overall Scores ready in time for the Awards Party!

After racing and finishing the first five races in our series, the following 26 riders are in the running for a Transition Rapture frame at the Awards Party. You must also finish Bandit Cross on Saturday and attend the Finale Party to complete several feats of strength and agility! Some of these characters are repeat offenders from 2013. Have you sought professional help for your Bellingham CXaffliction?

Blair BenjaminDavid Hodgson
Andrew BergKirsten Jensen
Christin ClawsonDavid Joiner
John ColemanBaden Kowal
Magnus CollanderRuy Lopez
Curtis CrapeCarter Maden
Brian DagnonSteven Moe
Colin FergusonBrad Nelson
Scarlett GrahamHannah Neubeck
Jen HamptonScott Rittscher
Johnathon-Joshua HarderMario Rivas
Elizabeth HartsochClinton Seal
Doss Herndon-SchepperCharlie VanZandt

The event page for our Finale Party has been updated with some directions via bicycle on some unfinished interurban trail routes. It is only 2 miles from Cornwall Park. Make it part of your cyclocross adventure! Here's the Google map.

The weather forecast is looking pretty solid for the weekend and has been so solid lately, I don't doubt it will be 50 degrees and clear! This does not make great skiing conditions, but it should be fine cyclocross conditions for the last cyclocross race in North America for the 2014-15 season. After the best Junior and Women cyclocross racers in the world battle it out in Tabor, CZ (can Katie Compton finally take the title for the U.S. from Vos?), you can ride around a beautiful park with your friends. Okay, maybe there'll be a little bit of suffering and elbow bumping.

See you out there!
  ~RyanR>

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Posted by Ryan Rickerts

Happy New Year from Cascade Cross! I know the holiday season can be crazy (and you're probably just glad it's over), but it does provide us with a great opportunity for us to share good cheer, then renew & rejuvenate ourselves for the opportunities ahead. Before that spirit totally escapes us, your secret cyclocross santa (also known as Ryan) wants to send out a warm greeting card. Sorry for the late arrival! I just want to extend a heart-felt message of gratitude for the wonderful cyclocross season we've experienced together so far in 2014. It has been an amazing sequence of races and venues with fantastic weather, course conditions, spectating, racing, and costuming (some of which we will review in a moment).

Let's rewind a year to get some perspective. Early in the morning hours of Jan. 11th, just hours before the series finale in Cornwall Park last season, I lost my best friend of 8 years - my Australian Shepherd named Bandit. He had been my shadow at every cyclocross course I've ever built. All those late Friday nights in the dark... what would I have done without his company? Probably given up. He was an extremely loyal companion and a great ski & ride partner. Here he is on a particularly thirsty day on the Whoopsie Woodle trail on Galbraith Mountain:

Bandit succumbed to an unknown fatal poisoning - perhaps natural, perhaps not. It was both ill-timed and perfectly timed. That fateful incident capped a particularly difficult year of promoting cyclocross for me. By the beginning of November, we had promoted six cyclocross races in six weeks. The stress level was causing low-grade destruction of my sanity. I was stretched to the breaking point, and by that time in January, Bandit's death could have been the force that caused the rubber band to fully snap. Fortunately, the Fanatik team and other volunteers stepped up in a big way and ran that event so smoothly that I could sit back a bit and just get through the day. I raced in the B race as way to honor his memory and keep the rubber rolling forward. The next morning I took his beautiful Blue Merle body out to my brand new property right by Silver Lake Park (home of our 2nd race last year) and buried him. I named the one acre lot Banditland.

With the success of that last race affirmed, I handed over the finale to the Fanatik team in a long-term agreement. That is, the last race of the season at Cornwall Park will always be theirs, as long as we can keep it. Feel free to share your support for that situation with the Bellingham Parks & Rec Department! My one request was that we rename the event Bandit Cross, and so it is! Cheers to you, Bandit.

In the early part of 2014, say spring time, I began conversations with all the interested clubs & teams that have helped me promote cyclocross over the years. I wanted each group to take ownership of an event and do much of the prep work so I could focus on the overall management & marketing of the series, the permacourse at Bellingham BMX (my baby), and have a bit of fun myself! It was a model that could bring more sustainability, since I seemed to be losing some of the incredible energy it requires to pull this off in my spare time (on top of all my other responsibilities and personal pursuits).

It became quickly apparent that every club had an important role to play, but not every club could fully pull off their own event. We had to continue to work as a group, with each person or group contributing where they could to make the whole machine operate. That's why I called 2014 the Year of the Collective. Maybe you didn't notice a difference, but this approach has proven to be quite effective for us this past year! We also brought in the help of Red Tent Timing which is another huge release of burden on me, especially on race day. Instead of being chained to the finish line all day as I have been for the prior eight seasons, I found myself wandering around checking on course conditions, talking to vendors & volunteers, taking pictures... even race commentating at Bellingham BMX! I was having more fun with more energy for racing myself, which brings it all home. I mean, we're all in this to get muddy, right?!

So what you will see more of in 2015 and beyond is a collective model of production of the Cascade Cross Series, and that includes you! You might also call this a co-operative business, that is, member/owner operated! The core leadership will be putting together a feasibility study of actually forming a legitimate business structure in Washington. Look for more announcements in this arena come springtime. Everyone is welcome to participate in this transition process!

But let's not get too far ahead of ourselves! We still have to look back at the past few races and look forward to the next three events! I'll have to cover the excellent, new Whidbey Island race and Zombie Xmas Cross at Lutherwood in a “year in review” post in February, as I'm running out of breath! In the meantime, you can always count on Brett over at theHoleshot.ca for an excellent race report with photos. Let's just say, in brief, don't miss these races next year. They are the highlights of my season so far, and many called Fort Nugent Park one of the best cyclocross venues in the region! How fortunate we are to have access to all these amazing venues for our tiny little series!

I'll be filling in the details for the Ride of the Valkyries over the next few days, so please watch closely for instructions! This will be a real fun, casual ride with a slightly different feel than a cyclocross race, but you will still get a great workout with a bunch of cool people! I'm also going to add another twist: pointing you to a cause that I think needs some more serious attention in our society - the Clay Hunt Veteran Suicide Bill that is currently in the House of Representatives. I'm using our platform of staged battles on our bicycles to raise awareness on the very real issue of the mental issues soldiers face when they return from war. Please have a look at the Latest news on the issue, think about it, and write your congressperson if so inspired! You can also sign the Change.org petition.

Then, we come full circle to the race called Bandit Cross, with the ever-excellent Fanatik Bike Co. Racing Team pulling it all together for you. I'll be supervising and working with Red Tent closely to make sure our chip-timed results are totally dialed for Series Overall calculations to be made in time for our Awards Party immediately afterwards. This will be a special finale, not only for the reasons described above, but also because this will be my 50th race as a promoter of local cyclocross. You heard that right - 50! We have all the ingredients to make this a real special party to commemorate all this successful grassroots development, so please do not miss out!

Thank you, cyclocross warriors! I look forward to seeing more of you in 2015!

Cheers,
  ~RyanR>

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Posted by Ryan Rickerts

Well, my friends. In case you missed it (and many did), the Cross Border Clash at the DeltaTech Industrial Park on the day after Halloween was one of the best cyclocross courses, conditions, and scenes many of us veterans of this little Series have ever threaded together. How can I say that? Well, of course, I've been to every one (that's well over 40 races, folks). I, along with the Homegrown Racing Team pb Jacks Bicycle Center pieced together a bike racing festival at the Transition Bikes headquarters of the highest quality. On our fifth visit there, with the additions from Red Tent's upgraded timing & results system, volunteers at registration, a PA system rocking the iPod tunes, beer & taco vendors, neutral support and wheel pits from BikeSport Bellingham, spectators/hecklers with their bacon & fireball handups... you name a good 'cross element, and we had it!

You can read an excellent write-up with an equally excellent photo gallery from our friend Brett Whitehead on TheHoleshot.ca. We're really getting into a groove in this, our 9th season of incredible cyclocross! If you need even more reminiscing on how great the season has been so far, or just a taste of what the Cascade Cross scene is all about, read this fresh article on BBMX #2 from Chris Stevens at the Bicycle Paper.

And I quote: “The community spirit of this group of racers and volunteers is infectious... The racer in front of me actually looked back and asked, ‘Are you okay?’ That’s a level of courtesy I’ve never experienced in a decade of ‘cross, and I don’t think it’s an exception... But don’t be fooled by the laid-back mountain biker attitudes, the caliber of competition is high.” That's right, Chris. We'll loan you a wheel, then ride you off ours with excellent handling ability, power, and tenacious attitude, then treat you afterwards like a very welcome guest!

So why are people not coming out in the same numbers we've seen in the past? That's anyone's guess. Could it be us taking tight schedule spots next to nearby races in Seattle and/or Vancouver series? Could it be people still recuperating from four solid months of playing outdoors this summer? Could it be the reputation of derailleur-snapping mud at BBMX, then holding Border Clash the day after a drinking & late-night dancing holiday? Well, all those may have formerly been the case. Now, the other big series are wrapping up. Unless cyclocross is no longer the fastest growing discipline in cycling (besides enduros?), we can find no excuses for not seeing your muddy grin out on our varied & interesting turf!

If you haven't seen any Cascade Cross action yet this season, this Saturday is a perfect chance to hop on the fun train we're just getting up to full speed. You'll find us down on gorgeous Whidbey Island riding bikes around the radical Fort Nugent Park. I'm really excited to debut this venue to our many loyal series followers, as well as newcomers and the city of Oak Harbor itself. The community is welcoming us with open arms, with various businesses offering discounts and deals for race participants. For example:

   Candlewood Suites in Oak Harbor is offering group rates of $89 per night.
   The Coupeville Inn is offering 10% off their winter rates for lodging.
   Flyers Restaurant & Brewery will be serving food at the race and giving out $5 gift cards to racers for beer afterwards.
   Port Townsend Cyclery is donating prizes for 1st Place finishers in every category.

So you get the sense they're rolling out the red carpet for Bellingham-based cyclocross, don't you? Let's show them how amazing this community of cyclists is and go have a great day of racing! You won't be disappointed, and you'll be even more prepared for the big UCI race coming to town in early December. Or just strengthen your vocal muscles because if you do go to Waves For Water event in Tacoma, you better be shouting your head off for our rising local star Courtenay McFadden who just won her first UCI race on Day 3 at Jingle Cross in Iowa. I confirmed she will be there racing her heart out for the home crowd and hopefully another big win!

Here's another bit of info you might want to see before call ups on Saturday - your standings in the overall points after 3 races. Please let me know if you see anything needing correction. So yes, we still have 4 races to go in a 7 race series! Other series are packing up their bags just as the cyclocross weather is getting (how shall we say) consistent? That is to say, more challenging. But honestly folks, this is the heart of the cyclocross season in other similarly-cold parts of the world where the sport is dominant. It belongs in this weather! Once you take off from that start line, you should not feel cold again for at least another 40 minutes. So get your front wheel where it belongs - in front of our official calling out your name over the megaphone, tire pressure just right, ready to roll out between the tape and go flying through the beautiful courses that we have created for you right here at home in the beautiful PNW.

See you out there,
  ~RyanR>

p.s. if you're into cross-country running and want to help keep the gates open at the Bellingham BMX venue, we've converted over to a BBMX Winter XC running series out there, starting with a 5K Christmas Cross run on Dec. 20th. Check it out!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Posted by Ryan Rickerts

MOMENTUM. A bike should retain it naturally, but the mud robs it from you. The sand steals it. You squirm and crunch to put constant power onto your pedals to replenish the inertia. When that's not enough, you dismount and start running. That's cyclocross. It's what makes cyclocross hard to understand for the general public yet so addictive to those rare individuals that thrive on overcoming a challenge and seeing what they're made of.

This is especially true in the tough courses & conditions that Cascade Cross cooks up. We want to see you out there pushing yourself. We don't have an easy course and we don't have any easy races. When you get tired, look up and hear "3 laps to go!" we expect to hear you say “What!? No way!” then put your head down and keep going. We expect you to keep going until the friendly (yet cruel) man at the finish line flips the last board on the lap counter and shouts "You're done!"

And so it was at Bellingham BMX #2 last weekend. Once the rain really got under the hard summer skin of our permacourse venue, the infamous peanut butter mud emerged from the depths of that wicked clay soil. The season shifted quickly from all dry, bumpy, and fast courses to something more like a winter epic, and the hardness quotient was raised very quickly. We got what we were looking for out of Bellingham BMX this season, so I'm glad we went back after some “normal” fall weather! We're cooking up some new programs to keep the gates open at the venue this winter, so stay tuned on that front. We want to use the facility to its maximum potential, and we're open to suggestions!

If you missed the mud bath, I'M SORRY for you, but here's a close-up look at some of the action. Chris Stevens, who raced in the Master Men B field, has a photo set on Flickr as he prepares an article on the series for the upcoming Bicycle Paper issue. Going even deeper, we have a fantastic writeup and photo collection from Brett Whitehead at The Holeshot.ca. This was Brett's first race back with Cascade Cross after setting up his custom Donkelope Bike he won for finishing every race last season. What a nice surprise for him - all this mud! He has some real kind things to say about the Series and the Bellingham BMX permacourse that made my heart sing a bit. Thanks, Brett! It looks like that free bike frame is paying back some nice dividends for us.

Now recall that notion of keeping your momentum. The secret, in an individual 'cross race as well as your whole 'cross season, is getting that inertia up and keeping it! To keep momentum in this sport, when the weather & darkness tries to snuff out your enthusiasm for outdoor sport, when the couch begs you to keep it warm, the screen clamoring for your eyeballs - it takes immense drive. If you're just brushing off the bike this fall, here's a prime chance to light the fire under your ass, as we still have 5 races to go! If you've been rolling with us so far, I hope your kits, shoes, & bike are washed & dried, parts replaced, gears tuned, chains tightened & lubed... because we're moving straight onto the Border Clash!

This has become another classic PNW venue in our toolbag, and we're looking forward to re-igniting our friendly rivalry with the lads & lasses up north. The Jack's Bicycle Center/Homegrown Racing team was out at Transition's super-secret winter training lair last Sunday mowing & staking, lining out a cool race configuration for this Saturday, and we'll be wrapping up the taping on the afternoon of Halloween. Just one day of racing this year, so you can go race the MFG SCCA/Starbucks Gran Prix in WA, or Pumpkin Cross up in BC, or whatever floats your bike on Sunday, and NO FLYOVER!. Another surprise gift from Greg at Donkelope, that steep & vicious beast has seen its day of traveling all around Whatcom County. Just the usual sand, dirt berms, grass, singletrack, gravel, and asphalt! And now with chip-timing that we've come to trust, so you can look forward to a proper, full-speed finish line on the asphalt this year. I, for one, am looking forward to those all-out sprints! You can also expect an orderly call up procedure with YANKS vs. CANUCKS based on our newly posted Overall Series Points. And if you're not bumping, it's not racing!

See you out there,
  ~RyanR>

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Posted by Ryan Rickerts

Greetings, mud fans. I hope the steady rainstorms the past few weeks have made you as excited for genuine 'cross conditions as they have made me! I've got some key information for the upcoming races over the next two Saturdays.

First, if you missed the memo, we are headed back to Bellingham BMX this weekend for our 2nd race of the season. Why? Because after an excellent season opener there in mostly dry conditions, everyone asked for it! The track is in such good shape, and we put so much work into it over the past 1.5 years (including Mother Nature's own conditioning), it seemed like a crying shame to leave it alone for another year. We don't know what the soil will be like in the middle of winter - as we saw last November, it can get pretty saturated out there - but for now it's running solid! The dirt is still firm and holding up well, along with all the grass that came in, and water is moving off the grounds quickly. With the unseasonably warm weather we've been seeing, it's also just plain drying out.

Here's a nice write-up from Oct. 4th with photos from the Naked Racing Team out of Victoria, BC who came down to dominate some single-speed categories for the weekend. Contrast those conditions with late September 2013 when we first tested out the track. It was too wet to document, but it was comparable to #derailleurgate 2013 in Buffalo, NY. We've come a long ways from that anomaly of conditions!

This photo is from last Sunday in a swampy section we had to cover late last season because it was completely unrideable. Now we're ripping up the janky old plywood bridges to actually uncover some moist, loose dirt for you to play with!

So come on out and enjoy this track for another round, in the other direction. We're holding onto the Northern State Recreation Area in Sedro Woolley as a backup in our quiver of excellent venues should something fall through later in the season. Or even add a bonus date in January to help push the PNW season into the real 'cross weather. Stay tuned for that news!

The next item is concerning our new chip system from Red Tent Timing. We had some misreads at the last race and want to get that resolved. The theory is the disposable chips embedded on the back of the shoulder number were getting wrinkled depending on how they were pinned, and it ruined the signal. So the good team at Red Tent upgraded their hardware and ran some tests with multiple units on helmets and trailer bikes in the rain (pictured below). These chips are not disposable! They are actually $10 a piece. But they're pretty much weatherproof and the signal is proving rock solid in all conditions. So we'll be mounting these bad boys to your helmets for the next race. Please re-use your big bib for your back if you already have one. We will still be doing back-up hand scoring. The shoulder numbers are out for now. We could only afford to order about 300 of these, so not enough for everyone to use once and take home this season. So we will be asking for a $10 deposit at registration to make sure you come back after your race and return it. Thanks for working with us on this new system, and thanks to Trey & Camille for stepping up their game to make their system work for cyclocross!

Now, to get those elusive same-day, accurate results that we seek, we're going to have to ask you to pre-register, or register early on the Day Of! We need a half-hour before your race to get everyone into the timing system. Can you do that? Good, I knew you could.

Other new rules I gotta lay down - a little squirrel out on the Guide Meridian told me some locals have been poaching the cyclocross permacourse when the facility is closed. That's not kewl, folks! This is private property, not a public park. You need to pay to play or we can't cover the dang rent! Furthermore, parking at neighboring businesses or residences is definitely not cool! Some of these neighbors were negative about the county permitting this facility in the first place. They were worried about noise, lights, and... rogue vehicles in their driveway!? Do you really want to be the guy that made Bellingham BMX lose their permit? The rules for practicing are stated on this weekend's race page and are pretty simple - when the gate is open for either BMX racing/practice, or we're out their working for CX. No freeloading! We'll work on a club-type access if that's what people are really clamoring for, but I had not heard many requests of this type. I thought I made this rule pretty clear - please honor it.

What else? We've got the Jack's Bicycle Center/Homegrown Racing Team working hard to organize our Border Clash out at the Transition Bikes headquarters. That venue has become another favorite we have right here in our home county - lots of good interesting features to challenge you. I'm excited to see what they've mixed up out there while I've been busy dialing down the BBMX venue. Of course, you probably figured out it's not a double-header anymore. I wrote about that extensively in the Sept. 12th post below. We're going with the flow here - dropping races that don't quite fit, but as I said above, adding new ones when the opportunity arises.

Speaking of which - we're tentatively adding a race, so those 2014 Series Passes which are on sale until this Friday are still looking like a great price for consistent racers out there! To further sweeten the deal, we arranged a group discount for Series Pass holders to go see a bike-centric circus act called Cirque Mechanics: Pedal Punk at the Mount Baker Theatre last week. So we're finding ways to show that membership has its privileges.

Keeping it fresh, keeping it rich, keeping it real - that's Cascade Cross!

See you out there,
  ~RyanR>

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Posted by Ryan Rickerts

Well hello, Fall. Nice to see your true colors coming into bloom here. We see your dark, cold, & wet. It feels familiar. It feels good. It feels like cyclocross season! So let's not delay any further and get riding! Here's the hot news this week:

First, a dedicated Cascade Cross attendee from up north, Brett Whitehead, is running a cool website focused on Pacific Northwest cyclocross called theHoleshot.ca. Brett was also the lucky winner of the custom Donkelope Bikes frame contest last season. He broke down the series of fortunate events that lead to his proud ownership of this hot, red cyclocross device in a recent blog post called The Time I Won a Frame. Go re-live that exciting outcome to last season's shenanigans and get sneak a peek at this work of local bike-building art.

Thanks so much to Greg Heath for sponsoring this highly-entertaining contest! After volunteering to build our first flyover (which was pretty dang tall), he raised his support for Bellingham cyclocross to a whole 'nother level with this one! What good things will befall you if you race AND FINISH all six races this season? You may just have to take a gamble to find out. Just remember that we treat our loyal racers well!

We talked in the last blog post about some changes in the series this year - some good, some bad. Here's another one: the single-speeders will be reuniting into one category again. United is good! The bad news (for some) is you will all be in the last race of the day with the A Men. Here's why: the SS A category was a relatively new idea (by request) to give the fastest single-speeders more of a challenge and swelled to as many as 17 racers at Woolley Cross 2012. Then last year it was down to just a few of the fastest & toughest guys. Apparently no one wanted to be off the back or get lapped. Another problem last year was with the size of the B race. We had as many as 100 in this field at our opener but only 30 or so in the A race. Having all the single-speeders in the A field will provide a better distribution of bikes & bodies throughout the day. It's better for spectators to see racers all over the course and it's even better for A Men who are struggling to keep pace - they will still have someone to race! Will the slowest single-speeder get lapped? Sure they will. They probably don't care. That's 'cross racing so get used to it! You'll wind up doing the same number of laps as you would have in the B race and get challenged a bit more in the process. Singlespeed is about the challenge, right? See the Categories page for clarification on start times.

The next news item is a smoking hot one. I'm pleased to announce our brand spanking new partnership with Red Tent Timing - powered by Trey and Camille Wilson out of Olympia, WA - to bring chip-timed results to Cascade Cross for the first time. This crew cut their timing chops scoring Enduros for the Cascadia Dirt Cup (the final of which is in Bellingham on Oct. 19) and the Washington Student League's high school cross-country mountain bike races this season. We are excited to help bring up a new player in digital scoring for the PNW CX scene and keep the cross-discipline spirit of our regional cycling community alive & well. Of course, it's all about giving our racers a better race day experience with faster, more accurate results. We can hopefully have proper sprint finish straights (instead of some contrived finish line to slow you down enough for a human to read your numbers)! We hope to publish individual lap times and offer some fastest lap glory, as well. Welcome, Trey and Camille!

Here are some new logistics you will need to get the hang of: Red Tent will be affixing the chips to the back of shoulder numbers. These will be worn on your left, along with the usual large bib on your back left hip. You will keep your number for the season, as customary. Do not roll up, fold, or otherwise abuse the shoulder number with the chip on it! Keep it flat. Keep it dry. If you lose or forget your number, we will issue you a new one. You need to NOT wear a timing chip on your helmet from one of the other CX scoring outfits. If we see you at the start line with one, we will make you take it off. You need to NOT ride through the finish line when you are warming up, or go anywhere near the finish line with your chip on. If you do, you will get yelled at. We don't like yelling at people. This is a deviation from our usual lackadaisical style about pre-riding, but fairly customary at any other big cyclocross race you attend. Please don't be that guy. Warm up, inspect the course, stay out of the way of riders still racing - we are still small enough to allow this luxury - but DON'T EVER CROSS THE FINISH LINE UNLESS YOU ARE RACING. Thanks, kids. This will be fun.

Speaking of new partnerships, let me fill you in on another goodie. The newest bike shop in town, Bikesport Bellingham, has stepped up and committed to providing neutral mechanical support at every race this season. They will also be responsible for making sure a good wheel pit is set up complete with bike racks. This was not an easy decision for me due to several bike shop loyalties I have formed over the 15 years of riding bikes in this town, but owner Scott Kowal has stepped up to the plate to fully support this 'cross series. That's the kind of commitment we need to keep this mud train rolling smooth, so if they're game, we're game. Welcome to the pits, Scott!

Now, in the days leading up to the Prologue this Saturday, let's talk about the weather. Luckily, it has been raining this week. Hard. Those who dabbled in our first test event at Bellingham BMX last season may be recoiling in fear. The course was sooooo muddy. However, keep in mind we saw nearly four times the average rainfall for September by this point last year. We also had bare, fresh dirt from our extensive equipment work getting the course cleared of old, bumpy grass that just turned to complete goo. It was sort of a perfect storm. It dried out in time for our season opener, though. We groomed it and the track got tacky and even shaped into nice burms. Now, this year September has only had a fraction of average rainfall. That soil has a long way to go before reaching the saturation point. In fact, it was rock hard and bumpy the last time I checked it, so this moisture will help soften it up and make for some challenging bike handling instead of just hard & fast riding. You know, good 'cross! In addition to a few more bridges over some particular trouble spots, we also have a feature Mother Nature added - a nice, new bed of grass which I have been keeping short. Here's my little mowing helper showing off the green earlier this summer.

It has filled in even more since then, so we are in an entirely different ballpark this year. I look forward to seeing a bunch of you there to test the new grass and blow off your cobwebs for a big season ahead.

If you're looking for more 'cross to fill in the dark, wet days ahead, check the sidebar for some new series cropping up around the PNW. I also hear little birdies chirping to me about CX events just over the border looking to draw some U.S. participation. FOR EXAMPLE, this Sunday, Sept. 28, the fine folks up at Vanier Park CX will let you race for just $20 USD with proof of residence. West Coast Cycling will cover your one-day insurance if you need it. It's a beautiful venue right on the water in downtown Vancouver (just 55 miles to the north of Bellingham), and Sven is a great promoter who loves 'cross. Go check them out!

See you soon!
  ~RyanR>

Friday, September 12, 2014

Posted by Ryan Rickerts

Descending darkness. A chill in the air. A few heavy rain storms. Leaves rattling across the ground...

If you are a mushroom hunter, you're hyper eager to get into the woods, to start looking around the forest floor for caps pushing up through the duff. If you're a hungry cyclocross racer or spectator, however, the clues that Fall is here are a bit different.

The biggest cyclocross series in Washington, i.e. MFG, is underway, with racers' shoes already filled with sand. CrossVegas happened, with Sven already notching a solid win and collecting the first UCI points up for grabs this season, as well as our local Bellingham pro Courtenay McFadden getting some serious screen time! StarCrossed is happening this weekend, with the bright velodrome lights and rowdy party on tap in Redmond to welcome the big-time pros to Washington. The cowbells are ringing. The beer is flowing. The tires are pressured (but not tooo pressured). It's go time!

Enough with the saliva-inducing prose! Let's get down to some serious Cascade Cross business. I have a couple big announcements to clear up any questions about the series this year - some good, some bad, some we-don't-know-yet.

First, the bad: the Silver Lake Outdoor Festival was tragically shelved. Those who were smart enough to venture out the Mt. Baker Highway last October to experience this gorgeous venue (pictured above) were treated to a rare experience - camping, live music, scenic surroundings, fresh air, and an awesome course. It had room for improvement, which I devised shortly after experiencing the course from the racer's perspective (as I always do). The best part of this course, by our standards, was the campground. It had banks and dirt and trees and the RUN-UP! I planned to expand our use of that area while compacting other areas to keep a similar length but slow it down a bit (lap times were fast), improve spectating, reduce conflicts with other park users, etc. We learned a few lessons about how big of a spectacle to throw that far out of town (attendance was light for the effort), but we were still prepared to provide an excellent but perhaps more subdued experience in the early part of our season.

Unfortunately, the Whatcom County Parks Department, when reviewing our course proposal this year, decided that layout was unworkable for them based on their 'vision' for the park. They only want campers who fish and chill in their camp chair or sit in their RVs, apparently. We were priced out of bringing an effective fundraiser for the Friends of the Deming Library back to Silver Lake Park. That is, one provider of public county services turning away another provider of county public services. That's a pretty selfish and short-term perspective, if you ask me. What's your opinion? What's your vision for the future of recreation in Whatcom County? Maybe you should share it.

From 8 race days in our series last year, that drops us down to 7. Then, we are taking away Day 2 of the esteemed Cross Border Clash. A little backstory: this double-header was always intended to be 100% international, that is, hosted in Canada on Sunday. However, due to huge differences in race licensing & event insurance approaches between BC and WA, this could never happen in a fair way. So we ran the same course backwards and always had a great time. We put the work into building the course on a private venue, so why not leave it up and use it again? Sunday turnout was always a bit light, but that didn't matter. We had fun, and our only Sunday race all year.

An open cyclocross Sunday in WA in the range of September-November is very hard to come by (see previous post for a rant on that), so we conflict. Initially, we conflicted with the Seattle series in Enumclaw, which we heard was a cool venue, but it's pretty far away and you needed a USAC license. Then we conflicted with Seattle series in Silver Lake (Everett). This year, we would conflict with MFG #5 back at Marymoor Park. We don't conflict with MFG. When opportunities arise, we partner with them. They may have a different flavor of course in Seattle then we do up here, but everything else they do is totally legit (in fact, the Cross Border Clash was originally Terry B's idea, and we tried to host it in Arlington at a venue Papa Berg suggested. He's pictured on their event page). For one, you're racing in field sizes of 100, not 30. It's a different kind of experience. So go down to Redmond and get yer points!

That does leave us with a small dilemma on how to award points for the Clash Cup, but we'll sort that out later. It also drops us down to 6 races. That's still a respectable series size (in fact the same as MFG), and you can add to that our Prologue and ever-popular Fun-Alley Race & Party, and you've got a nice full season of local 'cross ahead!

Now for the good news everybody wants to hear - new venues! Brad Nelson, who came out of nowhere (actually, Indiana) and swept up the Mens B overall last season, has partnered up with his new hometown club, the Whidbey Island Bicycle Club, and the city of Oak Harbor, to host our first venue in Island County. Whidbey Island has certainly been within our range of possibility before. I made the effort some years ago to get permission at Fort Casey down by the Keystone Ferry to Port Angeles, but to no avail. No worries! The city park these folks arranged for is perhaps superior in features & facilities, and having motivated, local resources on hand to get it prepped is invaluable. So I awarded them the Thanks Given'er. Please check it out and support their efforts!

That should be enough to whet your appetite for now. Other than these few changes, expect the same high degree of 'cross quality we have become reputable for around the Pacific Northwest. We've been at this for 8 years now (the same amount of time as CrossVegas, ironically), and we pride ourselves in the 3 Cs of great 'cross: courses, camaraderie, and competition!

Look for more specific announcements on the Bellingham BMX venue to leak out over the next two weeks. Check our Facebook page and Twitter feed (linked in the sidebar). I need to go glue a tubular. What are you doing to get ready?

Cheers,
  ~RyanR>

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Posted by Ryan Rickerts

I need to start this news report by waxing a bit philosophical. Someone recently told me that virtuousness is found in between two vices - so in our case, courage falls on the fine line between timidity and recklessness. I believe the hugely popular experience last Saturday at the debut of our permanent CX track at Bellingham BMX is due to successfully finding this balance point. It would have been reckless to send the 250 anxious & curious attendees that came from Portland, OR to Victoria, BC to see what this new venue had in store out to a ridiculous amount of suffering, running, & bike carnage (as we did with 55 locals the weekend prior). However, it would have been timid to pack it & run to an alternate venue when we worked so hard on this for six months! And the forecast favored the brave. I've never totally counted on a forecast for a 'cross race before (it's 'cross, you get what you get!), but this time I did, and it paid off!

The relentless rain of late September finally stayed away after Wed. night, and the soil was dry enough by Friday afternoon that we could get into seriously grooming the track. We pulled out the 4-wheeler and our 100lb chain harrow, strapped some tires on it to really weigh it down, and started rallying the track to knock down the quickly hardening ruts. What remained is something I called cyclocross corduroy, like you would find at a freshly groomed ski hill. It's pretty incredible what you can do on a handbuilt course with some light equipment and a few dedicated people!

Saturday dawned with no moisture, not even a dew drop, so this slightly damp dirt packed down real nice as the C riders practiced the course. The day went on to warm up considerably, so the track just got better & better! The A Men were railing in some real nice lines and reported tacky, flowy conditions except for the few short problem areas (a ditch and the swamp entrance to the woods). You wouldn't even recognize the place at the end of Saturday compared to one week prior - it was just the course I dreamed of making!

So here are the results from the Bellingham BMX debut. We had some hotshot riders from Kona make an appearance, with Wendy Simms blowing apart the A field during the new Women Only Hour, and Toby Swanson battling Erik Tonkin for an hour to take the A Men victory. It was by far our largest turnout in Bellingham for a 'cross race and my eight seasons of doing this, and one of the funnest local bike racing days in memory! Having the BMX races running simultaneously turned out way better than expected and also made for some amazing film footage (which you will see in the WMBC Shoot the Trails film competition & fundraiser on Oct. 19th). Maybe you will see yourself in there!

I've been getting some great feedback all around that this course was very enjoyable and that our hard work (and gamble on the weather) was all worth it. How rewarding! The really great news is we don't have to take it down! In fact, on Monday evening we already had some guys riding it that missed the race on Saturday. We'll be opening the gate whenever we can to give the public access to this local cyclocross treasure. This week that happens to be during the BMX practice on Thursday, Oct. 10th, from 5pm to Dark (the woods get dark first). Just pay $5 at the BMX registration window and go to town! The forecast looks good and the tire-compacted lines are holding up well to the intermittent moisture we've seen. We'll get the real problem areas addressed as soon as we can - for example, we just picked up a huge donation of treated 4x4 lumber from Brooks Manufacturing so we can start building some bridges, even some mountain bike skinnies for skill sections! This is a long-term project and we're just stoked to have survived Phase 2 (the BMX launch in June being Phase 1) and to have given everyone big smiles and an excellent day getting muddy on their bicycles.

Now we're right onto the next big new event, this weekend's CCX #2, called the Silver Lake Double Cross out in Maple Falls, which I'm hearing has caused some confusion. The double is for two types of cross, cyclo-cross and cross-country running! Yes, the event on Sunday is only a 5K/10K run, not a cyclocross race! It is intended for those who do both (and we all know running is good for your 'cross!), or for a partner who does one but not the other, so the whole family can come out, camp, enjoy the festivities, and get in their favorite form of outdoor exercise & competition. We will try to add another cycling event on Sunday in the future, but this is a great start in a gorgeous location with a family-friendly festival atmosphere & lots of fun things to do both days! It's also another totally new CX course, which should be a fun mix of grass, gravel trail, asphalt, and forest floor. Also note there is no cell service out there, so you can look forward to some real quiet time! I hope to see you all there!

Monday, September 09, 2013

Posted by Ryan Rickerts

“All the News That's Fit to Print!” Actually, it won't fit. It will run right off this page and onto the floor. Buckle up and hold on for the entire ride, please - I have been so busy making news that I haven't had time to write it up!

Furthermore, 'cross itself seems to be blowing up in ways those who have been in the sport a long time may have never anticipated. I am personally excited for how big 'cross will be in Bellingham in 2013, and it's not all my doing. But here is what I have been doing:

Starting before April and progressing almost continually since then, I have been working out at a 30-acre lot that happens to also be the home of the newly developed Bellingham BMX track (I've also been racing BMX for the first time - yeehaw!). I was new to that community, but I jumped in to lend a hand. They had quite a mission to get the BMX track funded, built, and open in time for a big States event in the beginning of August, which despite many obstacles (including a very important man dying and coming back to life - no joke) has been running without flaw ever since. Check out their schedule and get some practice or racing in this month while you still can! It's a blast & great anaerobic sprint training for 'cross besides (try racing 20" and 24" back-to-back like Mike Trowbridge does)!

Any ways, since that project launched successfully, myself & a very dedicated crew of local 'cross enthusiasts have been slaving away at turning an old, abandoned 9-hole golf course into a workable & permanent cyclocross course. This would be the third such dedicated CX venue in the country and the only one in the PNW, mind you, which has been extra motivating for me. It's also had some frustrating moments. I was never raised to be a turf-tender (I have a newfound appreciation for facility folks at existing parks & venues who keep that grass maintained)! There were plenty of unknowns on how to prep & rejuvenate this land to make it fast, challenging, & fun. There was plenty of forest overgrown with blackberries and tall, lumpy crabgrass. There was plenty of wasted equipment rentals, but enough promise & progress was made to declare this venue useable in the 2013 season. In fact, I got a very interesting invite from some series down in Seattle that you may have heard about...

So let's jump to the weekend of October 5th & 6th. Yes, MFG is coming to town for the #3 event in their series and to pair up with our season opener. Yes, the site was personally inspected by Terry Buchanan and given the thumbs up with a few requests for course modification. So we've been hard at it ever since, and there's still more to do! As a result, we have two Work & Ride days on the schedule, Sundays Sept. 15th and 22nd. This is your chance to pitch in for this amazing community project and make it all come together for our ultra-urban visitors next month! You can ride the course, dig the course, clear the course, mark the course - all the little details that will make it dialed & amazing for not only October 5th/6th weekend, but well into the future. Let me tell you, this venue will be the it spot for custom-built riding opportunities in this town. This is only Phase 2 (the BMX track being Phase 1)!

Then comes the Prologue - a brand new concept in this series, but since we have a permanent course in town, we might as well warm up on it (and give the kids some home court advantage)! Saturday, Sept. 28th is the Bellingham BMX Prologue. Think Wednesday Night Hot Laps but with an actual full-size course, friends from out of town, and a bit more seriousness to your effort. We're also timing it so you can check out the BMX racing action that morning, even jump in & use your one-day free trial membership with USA BMX and see what riding a big course is like! This also gives us a chance to incorporate any feedback or changes that are needed before the big opening weekend!

Then... MFG weekend. Yeah. Opening up the flood gates. Getting ridiculous. Hey, October is when cyclocross season starts for real anyhow, so we might as well start in Bellingham where the cyclists are real! Lots of fun in store, don't miss out! A special thanks goes out to Cisco Rodriguez for making this all a possibility. Now that guy is dedicated to getting people having fun & learning how to ride bikes (especially kids). Big props.

Just in case you thought we might start with a bang, then fizzle... think again. The weekend of Oct. 12/13th is another huge, local festival weekend surrounding the sport of cyclocross, and another huge new partnership for me. Sometime last winter, the Friends of the Deming Library approached me because they wanted to 1) showcase the recreational opportunities in the beautiful valley up the Mt Baker Highway, and 2) start a long-term project that could bring some revenue to help maintain their library and sustain their programs. They specifically wanted to use cycling to do this, and someone told them cyclocross is where it's at (OMG, they were so right).

Furthermore, the Whatcom County Parks wanted an event that would help draw visitors to the gorgeous setting that is Silver Lake Park in Maple Falls during the “Off Season” (meaning not fishing, camping, horseback riding for those summer-only softies). Well folks, this is a match made in heaven. After what feels like a dozen meetings, a bucket-ton of organization & planning, and last-but-not-least the recruitment of Heather Anderson for leading our first running race to make a real sweet double-header, you've got yourself a festival weekend! Camping, food, music, kids events, logging museum tours, water activities... it's gonna be another barn burner! Head on over to the Silver Lake Double Cross event page for all the details. Registration is already open, and you can claim your campsite right on the boundary of the race course, too! There's even a couple cabins for rent...

The series will continue in a somewhat familiar fashion after that (translation: amazing, zany, hard, continuous), but that doesn't mean we've run out of surprises. That's just October! So if it seems we're headed in the right direction here, head on over to BikeReg.com and get yourself a Series Pass! You save money, you commit, and you never have to worry about registering again. Just show up, get on the start list, and go play in the mud.

You know we can't promise the mud, but we can't stop it either...

See you out there,
 ~RyanR>