Nearly 1,500 cyclists from across the Northwest converged on the Deschutes Brewery grounds in Bend for the Halloween Cyclocross Crusade this past weekend.

The annual event, which includes serious racing and silly costumes, featured one of the most technical courses ever in the popular race series.

“It was super compact, twisty and turny,” said Kevin Blair, a race organizer and course builder for the Cross Crusade. “The reviews we got were that people really enjoyed it.”

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.

Racers in the two-day Bend event competed in 34 separate age-group and skill-level categories on each day. Races lasted from about 30 minutes to one hour, depending on the category. The course was about 1.7 miles long, and most riders completed each lap in about 7 to 8 minutes, according to Blair. The route featured a steep new uphill section cut through the hillside near the brewery.

“That was the biggest new obstacle and people really enjoyed it,” said Blair. “It was very technical.”

The course was laid out mostly on the west side of Shevlin Hixon Drive on Deschutes Brewery land.

“They’re kind of running out of space down there,” said Bend’s Chuck Kenlan, director for the Oregon Bicycle Racing Association who served as a race official over the weekend. “It amazes me that they can get a mile-and-a-half course in such a small space. They’re so creative in how they design these things. A lot of the racers with strong technical skills really loved it.”

Bend has hosted the Halloween Cross Crusade since 2011. The race at the Deschutes Brewery is one of seven race venues in the Cyclocross Crusade series, which this year started Oct. 5 in Portland and finishes on Nov. 17 on Sauvie Island along the Columbia River north of Portland. The Bend event is the only Crusade race not staged in the Portland area.

Blair estimated that about half of the competitors in Bend over the weekend were from Central Oregon.

“We had quite a few from Boise (Idaho) and Yakima (Washington),” said Blair. “There’s definitely a mix. Some people don’t make the trip from Portland down here so we pick up those extra numbers from the (Central Oregon) locals. We have teams from Bend that come up (to Portland) every week.”

Kenlan said the Cyclocross Crusade has the most participants of any cyclocross bike race series in the United States.

“By a long shot,” Kenlan said. “The race promoters do such a good job with this series. They know how to make an event and make it fun.”

Kenlan says that cyclocross remains popular in Central Oregon and across the Northwest because it is a more inclusive discipline than road cycling, and it is spectator-friendly.

“It kind of has a culture unto itself,” Kenlan said. “When you see the imagery of professional road racing, it’s hard to identify with those people because they look different, super fit and skinny. More people can relate to cyclocross. It’s growing because it’s very inclusive that way.”

Races remaining in this year’s Cross Crusade series include events at Rainier High School this Sunday, Barton Park, near Boring, on Nov. 10, and Sauvie Island on Nov. 17.

“The big draw is that it’s one of the few series left in Oregon,” Blair said. “Especially when you look at later in October and November. There’s not many more races that the racers can do. So they travel to wherever they can get the races in.”

— Reporter: 541-383-0318,

mmorical@bendbulletin.com

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