Cyclocross success

Cycling sport turns into 2-day event in Cortez

Kokopelli racer Pete Eschallier jumps over the obstacle course of the cyclocross race Saturday in Parque de Vida. Enlargephoto

Sam Green/Cortez Journal

Kokopelli racer Pete Eschallier jumps over the obstacle course of the cyclocross race Saturday in Parque de Vida.

By Bobby Abplanalp

Journal Sports Editor

Cyclocross racing goes against the elements of weather.

The cycling sport certainly didn’t have that Saturday and Sunday in Cortez.

A balmy November weekend made for nice racing.

Although, there was no snow, mud or running water, the cyclists couldn’t complain about the race course at Parque de Vida.

“True (cyclo) crossers hope for a real muddy, sleeting sideways, 38 degree (weather) race,” said Dave Hagen, who’s the director of operations of the Fort Lewis College cycling team, who is in the midst of the USA Cycling collegiate cyclocross season. “But, a race like this, is great, too. You just never know the weather. It’s great to race in all elements.”

FLC graduate and German native Ben Sonntag, 32, won Sunday’s men’s A race on his Cannondale bike. The Durango resident traveled to Cortez from Canyon, Texas, after racing in the Palo Duro Canyon Mountain Bike Marathon on Saturday.

The long drive didn’t faze Sonntag, who also won in Dolores on Nov. 10.

“You guys have an awesome venue,” he said. “It was really fun to race in today.”

The course weaved through Parque de Vida, across Roger Smith Avenue to the Cortez BMX track and back to the park.

Sand pits and water hazards force cyclists to stop peddling and trek on foot in portions of the race. Tough course conditions is the norm for the racers. But there wasn’t much of that this weekend.

“Sometimes you just wish for nasty weather. But in dry conditions, it keeps this course fun. So, no complaints,” said Sonntag, who is a former member of the FLC cycling team.

The BMX track presented the most challenging obstacles for the riders.

Remaining focused was key.

“Remind yourself, if it goes around turns and stuff, don’t stress, because you have to use those as a recovery,” Sonntag said. “Go smooth through the turns and then you can open it up in this race.”

Cyclocross racing provides great competition for the nationally prominent FLC cycling team.

“We’re trying to prime our kids for nationals in Madison,” said Hagen about the 2013 USA Cycling Cyclocross National Championships in Madison, Wis., Jan. 9-13. “It’s just good for training. This series gives training to all my college kids. It’s good for them to get out there and dice it up with some strong people.”

The success and growth of the Cortez race has bloomed from a one-day race into a two-day event.

Hagen sees the weekend race only getter stronger.

“A lot of (cyclo) cross racing in Europe, they are racing two days. A lot of these people like being able to race two days in a row,” he said. “We have great terrain here. I just want to say ‘Thanks’ to Cortez Parks and Recreation and Kokopelli Bike and Board for their support.”

The Cortez and Dolores races are part of the Stan’s NoTubes 4 Corners CX Series. Up next in the series is a race Sunday, Dec. 2, at FLC Stadium in Durango.