Cyclocross

National cyclocross championships return to Hartford’s Riverfront Park this week – Hartford Courant

HARTFORD — In January of 2017, the last time USA Cycling held the national cyclocross championships in Hartford, the cyclists experienced a full range of seasonal weather at the venue at Riverfront Park.

“It was classic New England weather,” Riverfront Recapture president and CEO Mike Zaleski said. “It was beautiful. Then it rained. Then it was OK. Then the weekend came and it snowed.

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“From a site perspective, it brings out challenges, but from a racing perspective, people remember this race because of what they dealt with.”

The national cyclocross championships will take place again at Riverfront Park, starting Tuesday and running through Sunday, when elite riders will vie for national titles. Age group, youth and college races will take place throughout the week.

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About 1,600 cyclists are registered and the event on Sunday is expected to attract 2,000 spectators. USA Cycling has teamed up with Riverfront Recapture to organize the event.

“We’re thrilled we can showcase Riverside Park as a venue and we think cyclocross racing is perfect for this park,” Zaleski said. “One of the things USA Cycling has done this year is they condensed the course a little bit.”

The course is 2.2 miles long and winds through the fields and woods, up hills, over obstacles, through a sand pit, up stairs and over ramps. One section even goes through the Riverfront boathouse.

Cyclocross is essentially cross country cycling with specialized bikes. The cyclists often dismount and carry their bikes up hills or over obstacles. Races are less than an hour long.

In 2018, the course got very muddy after the rain and then there was a hard freeze and the ruts froze in the ground. This wasn’t a huge problem until it snowed and the snow covered the ruts so the cyclists couldn’t see them.

“It’s great if you can see where your track is but those ruts got covered by snow and then it was a mystery as to where they were and it was literally slamming people down,” said Ron Manizza of Mansfield, a long-time cycling advocate and race volunteer who runs cyclocross competitions in Connecticut

“It’s cyclocross – that’s what you do here, that’s the whole point.”

The organizers built a set of steps into the course called the “Belgian stairs,” where one step is higher than the others.

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“This course is going to be challenging, there are going to be features you don’t see in a regular race,” Zaleski said. “Going through the boathouse I think will be really cool.”

The course was already slightly slippery and muddy on Monday and rain is expected Tuesday and Wednesday so some parts of the course were already shaping up to be challenging. As the course gets churned up by hundreds of cyclists during the week, it will only get more interesting.

For more information on the USA Cycling National Cyclocross Championships, go to: CX Nats | USA Cycling.

Lori Riley can be reached at lriley@courant.com.