More Cowbell:
Cyclocross at The SR Cup

Most normal folks wouldn’t dare ride their bikes during the wet weather that passes for winter in Santa Rosa.

Luckily for us, most Santa Rosa cyclists wouldn’t dare be described as normal folks. Hardcore riders who relish a roll in the mud and love riding in the rain have a niche cycling sport to call their own.

Welcome to cyclocross season.

Cyclocross – also known as ‘cross or CX – has European roots that can be traced back to the turn of the 20th century, but its popularity in the US began in the 1970s and hit its stride in the 1990s. The race format consists of a number of laps on a short course, usually consisting of quick climbs, descents, and hairpin turns on dirt, mud, sand, and over natural obstacles or man-made barriers.

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While the racing may be fast-paced, intense and brutal, the culture surrounding cyclocross races tends to be good-natured and fun. There is a distinctly laid-back, mountain bike party vibe: beer is consumed, riders are heckled, hand-ups* are encouraged, and spectators generally have a great time watching the action. It’s perhaps the perfect spectator sport, since heckling and partying are as intrinsic to the race as racing itself.

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Although the West Coast capitals of ‘cross are in Santa Cruz and Portland, Santa Rosa has been stepping up its game since 2008 with the SR Cup. Produced by the pro crew at Bike Monkey, this three-day race series attracts riders from all over the Bay Area and further afield to sample the unique flavor of our local cycling culture.This year’s event will follow the same format as last year, although Bike Monkey’s Carlos Perez hints at a few exciting changes to spice it up for returning racers and spectators alike. The first race, held after sundown at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds, features a barrier constructed of Lagunitas kegs, a huge overpass, fog machines, lasers, and blaring techno. It may be the most psychedelic bike race ever produced.

Whether you’re a hardened, mud-loving racer, a total CX virgin, or a sideline spectator, all three days of the SR Cup are guaranteed to be a good time, rain or shine. It all goes down November 11-13 at Sonoma County Fairgrounds and Spring Lake Park. Check out the Bike Monkey SR Cup website for details.

Thanks to Dylan Buffington/MASH for the b&w photos.

*Click here for a great glossary of ‘cross terms.


Get Pumped

Here in Santa Rosa we’re getting our very first public pump track bike park.

If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, here’s what to expect: a pump track is a small course consisting of berms, rollers, and other features that allow a bike rider to roll around a groomed dirt loop without pedaling. The rider uses their body, chiefly by pumping their arms and legs into and out of terrain, in order to gain momentum. This helps riders of all levels, from absolute beginners to seasoned pros, develop critical riding skills that can be applied to mountain biking, road racing, cyclocross, BMX, dirt jumping, or simply riding a bike. It also happens to be an insanely fun way to spend an afternoon with family and friends.

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The Santa Rosa pump track, hopefully the first of many, is the brainchild of Doug McKenzie. After over three years of planning, fundraising, permitting, and plenty of waiting, the 56-year old Santa Rosa native is seeing his dream become a reality. Professional riders and builders, including track designers Andrew Taylor and Greg Watts, are putting the finishing touches on the course with the assistance of many volunteers from our local cycling community.

But it won’t stop there. McKenzie has been involved with the Redwood Empire Mountain Bike Alliance (REMBA) to promote an initiative for a pump track in every park. If that sounds overly ambitious, you haven’t met REMBA before. And if one pump track seems like enough, you haven’t ridden a pump track before. So inflate the tires on your old BMX, strap on a helmet and get out there. You’ll be pumped too.

The pump track can be found at Northwest Community Park adjacent to Comstock Middle School.

For more information, visit the REMBA Facebook page


2015 Levi’s GranFondo Photo Booth

It’s been called The Last Greatest Rest Stop, and the best post-ride hoedown you’ve ever had the good fortune to flop your lycra-ed keister into. It’s the FondoSonoma Festival party and we called it home for an afternoon of good food, drinks and music. If you want see who showed up, have a look below. The Santa Rosa Out There Welcome Wagon was snapping away as usual.

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The Tour Returns

At Levi’s GranFondo, on October 3, the word went out. The 2016 AMGEN Tour of California will once more roar through the streets of Santa Rosa.

After an “It’s not you, it’s us” hiatus in 2014 and 2015, the Tour is coming back to what many consider its most important venue. Santa Rosa will host the penultimate stop on the Tour with an out-and-back stage, starting and stopping right here in town before proceeding to the final finish line in Sacramento. While other towns have hosted the Tour more often, and bigger cities have offered more bombastic stopovers, no other town has so woven professional cycling into its identity as has our own dear City of Roses.

-1This time around, look for the Tour to shoot out into our western hills once again, following much of the GranFondo route through King Ridge, Fort Ross, and some of our most storied zip codes. While the racers shatter local Strava times like fluorescent light tubes, their attention will be split between the stunning surroundings and the physical agony of spewing wattage numbers into our coastal winds. They will crash onto our roads like waves upon the shores, leaving the weak behind in favor of a brutal march back to the safe haven of Santa Rosa. Sonoma County is a gentle place, according to tourist brochures, but once on two wheels, the land of sip, swirl, and spa days becomes a distant memory. This isn’t an appellation. It’s a crucible.

11001734_10152914265822428_944600074548587483_nNew for 2016 is a four-stage women’s race, a first for the Tour and a welcome integration for a segment of the sport that still struggles for equal attention. The women’s race will run through Santa Rosa, albeit on a different course yet to be determined. We all tip our hats to race organizers for recognizing the substantial potential here, to SRAM for helping to underwrite this particular event, and to all of us who are most definitely going to come out and support the absolute fastest women in the sport. We’re all most definitely going to do that. Right, people?

-3So, once again, we don’t have to board a plane to see the greatest of the sport turn themselves inside out for our delight. We can wander downtown and watch world champions like Peter Sagan attempt a repeat of his 2015 win. Sir Bradley Wiggins, 2012 Tour de France winner, can vie for our attention as he himself tries for another Tour of California victory. We can watch Santa Rosa resident Peter Stetina, with his new Trek Factory Racing Team, throttle across the line, his hometown crowd screaming themselves hoarse for him. We can bump into 3-time Tour of California winner, (another) Santa Rosa resident, and “we did it first and best with the whole Gran Fondo thing” guy Levi Leipheimer at the start/finish, who, just like the rest of us, is probably going to hit up some sweet single track in Annadel after watching one of the world’s biggest races come through his backyard.

No community is better suited for the biggest race in our hemisphere than Santa Rosa. That’s not because of the exceptional climate or the extensive network of lonely, grueling, roads. It’s not the singular beauty of the hills, the crags of the coast, the emerald quality of the forests, or the rugged (and steep) contours of the land. It’s because her people understand and know what it means to love bikes, both in the saddle with friends and on the sidelines as champions speed by. We may have taken a couple of years off, but it’s only so that we can come back stronger than ever.

The City of Santa Rosa will host the Amgen Tour of California on Saturday, May 21, 2016: Stage 7 of the Men’s Race and Stage 3 of the Women’s Race. Keep an eye on TourROSA.com and follow fb.com/TourROSA and twitter.com/TourROSA for updates.