Cyclocross Crusade

What: Race Nos. 5 and 6 in the Cyclocross Crusade race series.

Where: Bend, Deschutes Brewery grounds.

When: Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m.; Sunday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. Riders compete within their respective age groups at certain times throughout the weekend.

Information: www.crosscrusade.com

Registration: obra.org; also available on-site on the day of the race.

Cost: Race fees range from $10 for juniors to $35 for adults. There is no charge for spectators, who are encouraged to attend.

More than 25 years ago, Rick Potestio and his friends would be lucky to get 50 riders to attend their fledgling cyclocross races.

These days, more than 1,000 motivated cyclists and their families typically turn out for races in the Cyclocross Crusade series.

Most of the events in the annual eight-race series are staged in the Portland area. Since 2011 Bend has played host to the Halloween Cyclocross Crusade weekend, which features serious racing and silly costumes.

The race returns this weekend to the Deschutes Brewery grounds in Bend as the Cross Crusade celebrates its 25th anniversary. Saturday’s spotlight will be on USA Cycling-sanctioned races, in which riders earn points toward qualifying in their respective age groups for the national championships in Louisville, Kentucky, in December. Sunday is more about fun than competition and will include an array of costumed riders.

Cyclocross Crusade organizers claim that the event has the most participants of any cyclocross bike race series in North America.

A form of bike racing most frequently staged during the fall and winter, cyclocross consists of multiple laps on a short course that typically includes pavement, grass, dirt and mud. Most races feature steep hills, stairs and wooden barriers that competitors must clear by carrying their bikes. Most cyclocross bikes are similar to road bikes but have knobbier tires and disc brakes to handle a variety of terrain and conditions.

In 1991, Potestio started a three-race series in the Portland area that he originally called “First Mud,” a play on the popular 1982 movie “First Blood.”

In 1993, he and his partners changed the name to the Cyclocross Crusade and set ambitious goals, which included hosting national races within 10 years and a world championship within 20 years.

While the world championship dream has yet to become reality, Bend played host to the USA Cycling cyclocross national championships in 2009 and 2010. In 2011, the Cyclocross Crusade started its Halloween tradition in Bend.

“We thought we really wanted it to be more than just a little race series,” Potestio says. “We really wanted people to think about it as a season and something they would look forward to all year long, and make it something that’s not just about the racing — make it family-oriented and community-oriented, and really build a whole vibe around the event.”

Craig Mavis, the engineering manager at Deschutes Brewery, has long been involved in the Cross Crusade in Bend, helping with the course design and racing in the event with the Deschutes Brewery team. This week, Mavin says, the talk around town is what everybody is working on for their costumes, as Sunday’s race includes a team costume competition.

“It’s been growing every year,” Mavis says of the Cyclocross Crusade event in Bend. “Every year it’s bigger. The brewery team here is about 50 riders. The first year, we really didn’t know what it would entail, and it took off right away.”

Mavis, 64, says that one of his favorite aspects of cyclocross racing is the unpredictability of the weather, conditions, and terrain. Races in the Portland area are often muddy affairs, unlike the norm for races in Central Oregon.

“Every place is different,” Mavis says. “Some are flat, some have hills. Every course has its own features. And you don’t really know what the weather will do. It could be dry, it could be soupy. That’s always the exciting part, finding out what the weather will do. It’s had a few years where it’s had some precipitation and mud (at the races in Bend), but generally it’s a little drier.”

The course on the Deschutes Brewery grounds near the Old Mill District in Bend will include a wooden pump track and some off-camber hills on a course of pavement, grass, dirt and sand.

It is the sort of course that appeals to a variety of participants. And that, according to Potestio, has been the goal of the Cyclocross Crusade over the years: to encourage participation on a broad level. The series, whose early years were dominated by adult men, has evolved to include hundreds of women, juniors, and athletes from other endurance sports disciplines, such as running and mountain biking.

Those types of competitors are pretty easy to find in Central Oregon.

“We tried to get people to think of cyclocross as something that combined aspects of all those diverse disciplines,” Potestio says. “We always have a really large attendance in Bend. It’s easy for people from Idaho to come, and a huge contingent from Portland, of course, then all the local racers from Bend. It really brings everyone together. That’s why we love coming to Bend. It really is a regional center for the sport.”

—Reporter: 541-383-0318,

mmorical@bendbulletin.com

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