With great power comes great responsibility. Such is the case for this weekend’s Virginia’s Blue Ridge GO Cross p/b Deschutes in Roanoke, Virginia.
The power? Kicking off the 2019 North American UCI cyclocross calendar. The responsibility? Providing a fun, challenging weekend of cyclocross, even if the first race takes place when the calendar says “August.”
“I love it. Personally, I don’t think it’s ever too early for cyclocross,” GO Cross co-race-director Frank Deal said about leading off the UCI ’cross calendar.
“The early North American World Cups really weight the front of the UCI schedule in the U.S., so we’re happy being in the front. There really is a ‘first day of school’ vibe, like we’ve all been on summer break and it’s great to see all of our friends, old and new.”
This year will be the third year for GO Cross and the second year it leads off the hemispheric UCI cyclocross calendar. Even though the 2019 domestic calendar features fewer races than past years and races such as RenoCross have been canceled due to sponsorship issues, GO Cross has plans for the long term.
Key to that is a core set of sponsors committed to making cyclocross a part of Roanoke’s Blue Ridge setting. Visit Virgina’s Blue Ridge returns as the race’s title sponsor, and Deschutes Brewery as the presenting sponsor. The Roanoke Outside Foundation and the East Coasters Bike Shop have also joined as sponsors of the race.
“East Coasters Bike Shop has been involved in cyclocross since the 1990’s, and co-owner—and co-race-director—Wes Best had dreamed of bringing a UCI race to Roanoke for many years,” Deal said about the support GO Cross gets from the Roanoke community.
Deschutes has long been a sponsor of top-level cyclocross and having the company’s East Coast brewery located in Roanoke has proved to be a good deal for the race as well. “Deschutes Brewery is using the race as the East Coast launch of its Handup IPA. Deschutes Brewery will also have a small batch of GO Cross Podium IPA in the beer gardens,” Deal said.
Any race director will tell you that there hundreds of small details that need to be nailed down before you can host a UCI race weekend. The GO Cross jumped right in last year, hosting 2 days of C2 racing. Since that early September weekend, the process shifted right to planning for this 2019 races.
“It’s definitely a year-round process of planning and attention to detail,” Deal said. “We hit the ground running last year trying to cross all of our tees and dot all our ies.”
Deal described how that learning process went. “Walking the course and debriefing last year with our UCI commissar were really informative. We learned a lot through our post race survey on how to make GO Cross a better experience for everyone; for example, giving the Junior 9-14 race its own dedicated time slot.”
One of the unique aspects of GO Cross is it takes place in part on the permanent cyclocross course at Roanoke’s Fallon Park. The venue features a sand pit, barriers and stair run-ups with plenty of elevation change. GO Cross returns to Fallon Park in 2019, with a few changes expected based on how things went in 2018.
“New this year we’ll be on pavement for the start and finish,” Deal said. “We’ve made just a few alterations for Saturday’s race. However, a good chunk of the course will be reversed on Sunday. And we’ve thrown in more climbing to really change it up.”
Another perk of racing at Fallon Park in August? The swimming pool. It would be a shame to lose the swimming pool with a late-October or November race date.
Last year’s GO Cross helped launch Kerry Werner’s (Kona Maxxis Shimano) successful domestic season where he won 8 races in the U.S. when he swept both days. Caroline Mani (Pactimo Women’s CX-Gravel Project) and Crystal Anthony (Liv Cycilng) split the wins in the Womens’ races in 2018.
Werner and Mani are scheduled to return to the Roanoke course this weekend, along with 30-plus strong fields for both the Elite Women and Elite Men.
The Elite Women race at 1:45 p.m. EDT on Saturday and Sunday and the Elite Men are at 3:00 p.m. EDT. Check back here both days for race results.