With one more year before the US national championships move back to a December schedule, racers planning to head to Reno this season are looking to keep their fitness and skills stoked and sharp for a few more weeks. The pattern is familiar – when local race calendars thin out, active scenes get creative.
Some regions may be blessed with race promoters that put on regular, sanctioned races to fill in this late season gap. Others may just have a group of motivated folks who keep their “Wednesday Worlds” group practicing together a little longer. In years past when ‘Nats had a heavy East Coast draw, racers in portions of the Mid-Atlantic have organized handicapped hot lap sessions as a way to meet this need.
For a second consecutive year, Colorado-based riders along the Front Range are fortunate to have more race-training opportunities at Butter’s Private Parts, held on a private ranch in Longmont, CO. While these Butter events are sanctioned by USAC, they still have the same fundamental thread running through them as some of the less formal iterations elsewhere – local cyclocross tribes banding together to make it happen.
It could be the unique nature of the discipline that in turn creates these bonding opportunities. Sure, you could go hammer out some intervals, or practice starts and off-camber turning by yourself, but nothing really compares to chasing your friends around a good course over challenging terrain. Not only are they great training opportunities, they build community.
This event was set up with registrants self-selecting into a simple A, B, C format with slightly shortened race lengths. With a thriving and motivated junior racing population along the Front Range, there was heavy junior participation in each field. Perhaps this contributed to the grassroots, backyard feel to the event. But maybe nothing stoked that vibe more than the fact that it was actually held at Michael Robson’s house (a.k.a. Butter World Headquarters).
The starting grid was placed at the bottom of the driveway right next to the registration tent and a large tent set up by Boulder Junior Cycling (BJC). There were donuts and coffee and a bunch of large bike racks nearby which was a constant beehive of activity, occasionally punctuated by the sound of a heavy duty pickup truck driving by on the country road that meanders along the front edge of the property. Toward the end of a long season, the vibe is friendly but purposeful.
BJC coach Pete Webber helped with call-ups and pre-race staging, organizing a single practice start for each wave of racers, quickly re-staging racers after the 30-second effort, sending them off a second time to begin each race in earnest. And while the course was actually running through someone’s front yard, the terrain was varied and challenging, obviously arranged with the thought and care that only an experienced cyclocrosser would provide. Severe off-camber, steep ups and downs, and a few extra dismounting opportunities all contributed to a well-rounded test that undoubtedly served all of the participants well.
All of these details taken in aggregate made something quite special, something that felt uniquely cyclocross.
All photos © 2017 Neil Schirmer