Outdoors

South Sound pro cyclocross races successful enough to inspire plans for 2015 encore

Answers to important questions nobody has asked me yet:

Q: How merry is the Western Washington cyclocross community this Christmas after hosting pro races in Spanaway and Lakewood?

A: Very merry.

Now that two weeks have passed, the numbers have been crunched and the mud has settled, it’s safe to call the South Sound’s big weekend of bike racing a success.

In fact, key players — Seattle-based Low Pressure Promotions and Tacoma South Sound Sports — want to do it again next fall. With more time to promote the race, they believe they can draw more participants than this year.

Organizers say 1,023 riders competed at Marymount Event Center and Fort Steilacoom Park on Dec. 6-7, and about 424 were visiting from more than 50 miles away. The pro race included riders from Belgium, Denmark, Great Britain and Canada.

Tacoma South Sound Sports estimates an economic impact of $350,000 for the region, but that’s likely on the high side considering most of riders participated in both races, effectively cutting that rider count in half.

Still, a pair of 500-rider events was enough to make organizers happy, considering they only had about a month to pull together the Waves for Water Cyclocross Collaboration. The race filled a hole in the International Cycling Union’s calendar created when a race in Bend, Oregon, was canceled in October.

“We loved being in Tacoma,” said Zac Daab of Lower Pressure Promotions. “We had great venues both days.”

Fort Steilacoom already had a reputation as a marquee cyclocross course, but Marymount Event Center had never hosted a race.

Marymount offered to host on a trial basis.

A wet weekend meant Marymount’s manicured upper lawn muddied up pretty quickly on race day, making some of the event center staff a bit apprehensive.

But Marymount’s Trudy Cofchin said she was pleased with how Low Pressure Promotions handled the event. She was happy with the cleanup done immediately following racing on Dec. 6 and the work that was done by a three-man crew that returned Dec. 12.

The crew rolled and raked the lawns and cleaned up the trails. They also paid for grass seed that will be spread on the lawn in spring.

Daab says Low Pressure Promotions, which also stages the MFG Cyclocross series, places an emphasis on course remediation. Simply put, it’s the best way to ensure they’re invited back.

So far, so good. “Yes, we are open to doing it again,” Cofchin said.

Before the Waves for Water races, Dean Burke of Tacoma South Sound Sports said he wants Pierce County to become the “Wrigley Field of cyclocross.”

The pairing of Marymount and Fort Steilacoom did nothing to hurt that aspiration. Marymount gave riders a technical challenge, while the faster Fort Steilacoom course made for a more tactical race.

But what really set Marymount apart was its distinctive setting. The old cars and other vehicles from the LeMay car collection lining the course and the old buildings that were once used as a military school then a retirement home for nuns created a setting much different than most cyclocross races.

Cofchin was bombarded with email messages the next week from riders and spectators heaping praise on Marymount for the event. “I … must say that the course laid out on your property was one of the most challenging and fun courses I have been on,” wrote a rider from Fircrest.

With anther proven, top-notch course in the region, Burke said he’d like to pursue even bigger cyclocross dreams. Like being the first American city to host a World Cup race.

Q: What’s the toughest race in Washington in 2015?

A: There are plenty of candidates, but I’d give the nod to a new race put on by Port Townsend’s Northwest Maritime Center.

Here’s how it’s described on its website: “It’s like the Iditarod on a boat with a chance of drowning.”

Participants in the inaugural Race to Alaska shove off from Port Townsend at 5 a.m. June 4. The first one to reach Ketchikan gets $10,000. Second place gets a set of steak knives.

You can paddle, row, sail or even swim the 750 miles, but you can’t use a boat with an engine. The race isn’t supported and you can’t have any prearranged food and gear drops.

Wondering what the odds are you could finish in the top 12 in such a challenging race? Pretty good at the moment. As of Dec. 17, only 11 boats had entered.

The entry fee is $850 per team, plus $20 per person and, yes, just like your local 5K fun run, you get a shirt. Register at racetoalaska.com.

Q: How about something a little easier?

A: One of the South Sound’s oldest races celebrates its 41st running on Jan. 1 in Lakewood.

Fort Steilacoom Running Club’s Resolution Run Series kicks off at 9 a.m. with 5-mile and 5-kilometer races starting at Steilacoom High School.

The racing series started as way to ease people into running. The series has four races, each 5 miles or 5 kilometers longer than the previous. This year’s other races are Jan. 24, Feb. 21 and March 21.

Participants can enter individual races ($30, or $25 for club members), or they can enter the entire series ($85, or $65 for club members). Showers and warm food are available at the school after the race.

For more race information, visit runfsrc.com.

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