Iowa City and Johnson County will welcome the world September 22-25 when bicyclists from nine countries - Belgium, France and the Netherlands and others - will arrive into town for a world-class event. These bicyclists aren’t the familiar RAGBRAI riders, but are amateur and professional racers who train year round for a sport not many Iowans are familiar with – Cyclo-Cross.
What exactly is Cyclo-Cross, you may ask? It’s cycling on off-road terrain including grass, dirt, mud and sand on a course with a variety of obstacles requiring riders to hop on and off their bikes, and even carry them. It’s typically a fall or winter sport with the World Championships held in January. Come rain, snow, sleet or sunshine, the races go on.
Why are racers from other countries coming? The World Cup is the most prestigious of races in the Cyclo-Cross world. Ten cities make up the 2016-2017 Telenet UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup series, and Iowa City is one of them. Iowa City is only the second city in North America after Las Vegas to be selected for this event, and stands in the lineup alongside cities in the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Italy.
So how was Iowa City chosen? Iowa City has hosted on a Christmas-themed Cyclo-Cross race called Jingle Cross each of the past 12 years, which has grown in participation and prestige. Organizers put in a bid, and successfully won it – so this year, the two events will be combined into one full weekend of racing at the Johnson County Fairgrounds.
Here’s a brief look at the weekend’s events:
- Thursday, September 22: Opening Ceremony and Welcome Event at Terry Trueblood Recreation Area – this free event will include food, drinks, live music, a kids bike ride, and fireworks
- Friday, September 23: Jingle Cross races with DJ and party (Friday Night under the Lights)
- Saturday, September 24: World Cup races (tickets only $15, kids age 10 and under free)
- Sunday, September 25: Jingle Cross races
Northside Oktoberfest returns to the Northside Marketplace of Downtown Iowa City for its 21st year the Saturday of this same weekend. Ticket buyers for the festival will have automatic entry to the World Cup races and there will be free shuttles from downtown to the race site from 10:30am-7pm.
Cyclo-Cross is a fantastic spectator sport – with music, food and drink and the best of the best in cycling talent – there is simply nothing like it. And it is coming to IOWA. Yes, great things happen in Iowa City. Click here for resources to help plan your visit.