Cyclocross riders say they’ll never get too tired of Marymount venue

As far as cyclocross bicycle racers are concerned, the Marymount Event Center in Spanaway could hardly be better for their fast, muddy sport.

The 80 acres of lawns, forest, meadow and trails had racers enthusing during Saturday’s Waves for Water UCI Cyclocross Race.

“It’s one of the funnest courses I’ve seen,” said rider Mike Brazel of Federal Way, who said he takes part in from 18 to 25 races at different locations every year. “It’s got a nice mix of everything.”

Zac Daab, cofounder of MFG Cyclocross, the company that organized the race and designed the course, declared the Marymount site “awesome.”

But as 750 cyclocross racers from around the country churned up the show field in front of the garages housing the LeMay Family Foundation Collection of classic cars and turned trails into muddy ruts, managers and staffers at the event center weren’t so sure it was a good idea.

Trudy Cofchin, the foundation director, was visibly anxious as her volunteers tried to corral swarms of bikers onto designated paths and keep them from washing mud off their bikes in the front parking lot.

“This is the first time, so it’s a test drive for everyone to see if this is right for us and if it’s right for the racers,” Cofchin said.

The grass might not be as bad off as it looks, she said. “They’ve agreed to come back on Monday and rake and reseed, and we have six months to get the place back in shape.”

Saturday’s races at Marymount were the first half of a two-day Pierce County event. The second half takes place Sunday at Fort Steilacoom Park in Lakewood.

The races are a cut above the usual cyclocross events because they’re sanctioned by the International Cycling Union. That means many of the racers are racing for points to qualify for the national championships Jan. 7-11 in Austin, Texas.

Dean Burke, executive director of the Tacoma South Sound Sports Commission, which promotes Tacoma and Pierce County as a venue for amateur sports, said it was a tremendous coup for Pierce County to land the prestigious races.

“UCI events don’t happen very often in this neck of the woods,” he said, “and Marymount really fits the vibe of the sport well.”

Cofchin and Marymount saved the day for the races, Burke said, after organizers in Bend, Oregon, announced they would not be able to host the races this year and then a deal with Pacific Lutheran University fell through at the last minute.

“Basically, we had 72 hours to get breath back in the lungs of this thing,” Burke said.

“This has made our phone ring more than anything in the year,” he said. “We’re hoping it’s an annual event. We want to make Tacoma and Pierce County the sweet spot for this sport.”

Cofchin said she’s keeping an open mind about whether to rent out the center for another cyclocross event.

“Actually,” she said, “the terrain isn’t getting as beat up as I was afraid it would.”