Fall weather in Durango can mean snow, mud, rain and an assortment of other conditions. Perfect weather for cyclocross.
Cyclocross uses bicycles that have some features of mountain bikes and some features of road bikes. Repeats on cyclocross loop courses have pavement, grass, curbs, jumps, tight corners and other nasty obstacles that can send riders for a spill.
The cross racing season started three weeks ago on the Fort Lewis College campus. Cross guru and FLC student Matt Shriver has again organized a series of races.
While weather for the first race was miserable, last week's race featured sunny, but cold, clear skies.
Twenty riders assembled on the north side of the FLC track circling the football field. FLC students, citizens, professionals and age groupers all went off hard.
Grant Berry (Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory), Travis Brown (2000 Olympian), Joey Thompson (FLC), Anthony Colby (Target Training), Ned Overend (Specialized ageless wonder) and Adam Snyder quickly pulled ahead of the rest of the riders.
Winding around the FLC campus, this course included two jumps on the lawn between dormitories where riders dismounted, carried their bikes over the jumps and got back on. There was a steep, short incline south of the gymnasium, a gravity-fighting U-turn near the football field, and too many tight turns and curbs to count.
"People were just dropping off one by one and at the end there were just three of us," said Thompson, the race winner. Colby and Berry finished second and third, just a few seconds behind.
Brown, an Olympic mountain biker in 2000 and a 1993 Durango High School graduate, loves cross.
"There are lots of lead changes, finishes are close and it is the most fun to watch," he said. "I remember doing a race in Kansas City in 2002 when the wind chill was 20 degrees below and the ground was frozen and slick."
Brown used a bright colored single-speed for the race last weekend, but will probably change to an easier multispeed bike later in the series.
Joe Burtoni, 47, a Durango Wheel Club member and age-group racer, was breathless at the race finish.
"I only got lapped by three guys, but it's an honor to race with everyone," he said.
Steve Lamont, another wheel clubber, fought with back pain as he finished his laps.
"The grass is slow and it's hard to get any speed going," he said.
"But I'll be back for the rest of the series and the state championship (Nov. 11)."
Mary Monroe, Trails 2000 director and Brown's wife, was the only woman competing last week.
Overend enjoyed himself but admitted, "My experience with cyclocross is thin."
Professional cyclists Tom Danielson (Discovery Channel) and Chris Wherry (Toyota-United Pro) were among the spectators at Saturday's race.
While local cross cyclists and events are thriving in Durango, Todd Wells, last year's national cyclocross champion continues his winning ways.
This month, Wells competed in two United States Gran Prix events in Boston, one cross race in Gloucester, Mass., the Pan American Mountain Bike Championship in Brazil and two races in Philadelphia.
"Gloucester was held in the park where they filmed 'The Perfect Storm' and it sits next to the ocean," Wells said. "This year the race was dry and warm with temperatures in the upper 50s, and it sure was nice to race cross in short sleeves and not be covered in mud at the end of it."
Cross races continue in Durango on Nov. 4, 18, 24 and Dec. 3. The state championship is Nov. 11. For more information, see www.flcshrivercross.blogspot.com.