Perhaps best described as an obstacle course for cyclists, the 1.7-mile cyclocross trail sends riders up and down the daunting sled hill in the Dan Ryan Woods four times in a single lap. Most competitors complete a minimum of three grueling laps each race, said Mike Seguin of Mount Greenwood.
"We have one of the hilliest courses," Seguin said of the 11-race cyclocross series.
Howard Ludwig gave the course a try, and it didn't turn out well:
Seguin has helped organize the race and will also participate along with eight others as part of the Beverly Bike and Ski/VeePak Inc. race team. It costs $30 to participate in a single race, and any additional races cost $10 each.
A Category 2 racer who completes each lap in less than nine minutes, Seguin be among 780 total racers participating in the two-day in the cyclocross event, along with several hundred spectators.
"It's a huge spectator sport," Seguin said, adding that crashes are common and hecklers are welcome.
Cyclocross began as a way for bike racers to stay fit during the off-season. The off-road races send participants up steep hills, in and out of heavily wooded trails, through sandpits and over obstacles.
"A lot of sports get canceled when it's raining. We don't stop unless there's lightning," Seguin said, recalling the 2013 race that featured the Dan Ryan Woods' course covered in snow.
At several points throughout the race, riders quickly dismount and leap hurdles while carrying bikes on their shoulders.
"You get an upper body workout," Seguin said.
Organizers of the race in the Dan Ryan Woods came up with their own unique obstacle three years ago — a series of short consecutive barriers. Riders can either dismount and run over the hurdles or bunny-hop them while riding, Seguin said.
New to the bike race this year is a Beverly Hills 5K Trail Run. This foot race set for 10 a.m. Saturday will take runners twice through a shortened version of the cyclocross course. Bike racing will resume at noon after the 5K run, Seguin said.
Seguin has eight years experience in cyclocross. But he said the growing sport is open to riders of any level. Teammate Bob Murray of St. John, Indiana, agreed. He's been racing cyclocross events for the last six years.
"To get started, you can come out on a mountain bike," said Murray, who rides an aluminum cyclocross bike that costs $3,500.
But Murray said most racers are simply out for a good time. Strangely enough, good-natured heckling is part of the fun. He once stopped to take $1 from a spectator who offered to pay him to drop out of the race.
The Chicago Cross Cup has been racing in the Dan Ryan Woods for the past five years. The South Side race was among the first cyclocross events to offer free food to participants, which helped boost attendance.
In a nod to the sport's Belgian roots, the racers will be treated to crepes made on site this year. Organizers have also brought on Imperial Oak Brewing from southwest suburban Willow Springs as a sponsor. Thus, free beer will also be perk for racers, which Murray expects will further fuel the heckling.
"It's all about fun," he said.
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