You may not be fully familiar with the term ‘Cyclocross’ – it’s a hybrid type of bicycle racing that uses specialty bikes based on old-school road style geometry, competing on cross-country courses similar to those used for cross country running events.
Cyclocross is an activity that happens to be perfectly suited for Missoula’s strong suits of bikes, beer and characters. Our town has strong communities in mountain and road cycling throughout the year. ‘Cross brings the tribes together every fall to compete in a relaxed and (and sometimes brisk) setting, generally just before the racing season ends and the snow begins to fly.
About 23 years ago, a group of Missoula cycling hardcores began gathering on weekly Wednesday night at Fort Missoula to bring this type of racing (originated decades ago in Belgium).
In the past few years, cyclocross has accelerated in popularity here in Missoula as a fun family event. Youth cycling groups like the Zootown Derailleurs, MT Alphas, and NICA high school racing league have developed a tremendous pool of up and coming talent that bodes for a very strong future representing bike racing from Northwestern Montana. One excellent example of our local talent is Ivan Gallegos, who last year held the title of USA Junior Cyclocross National Champion.
Each year, Missoula Cyclocross holds a series of six Wednesday evening races from late September through the end of October. Course locations generally include Lindborg-Craig Legion Field, the beautiful Ranch Club golf course, and Big Sky Brewing. Categories are available for all ages and skill levels.
The Missoula racing season culminates with the Rolling Thunder CX, a prime regional championship event drawing entries from multiple surrounding states. Held on the grounds at Big Sky Brewing, the Rolling Thunder weekend is part competition, part year-end party, and a big social event and fundraiser for the Missoula cycling community.
The one remaining area deserving improvement in our local Cyclocross scene is spectator turnout. Generally, those in attendance watching the action are family and close friends of the racers on the course. All the ingredients are there for CX to be a much bigger deal in the overall Missoula community. There’s bikes, beer, crisp fall weather, and a ridiculously fun family atmosphere! Do we even need to mention there is cowbell in this sport? Heckling (in a kind and creative way) is encouraged, and spectators often deliver little offerings called ‘handups’ to the racers on the course to provide encouragement and comedy. Get out this fall and check out CX in Missoula!
Generous prizes and merchandise support for the racers materializes from many local sponsors including Zilla State, Caffe Dolce, Big Sky Brewing, Grist Milling and Bakery, The Dram Shop, and Missoula bike shops including The Cycling House, Big Sky Bikes, Hellgate Cyclery, Missoula Bicycle Works, Missoula Bike Source, Open Road Bicycles.
Bike industry sponsors for Missoula CX include Shimano, Cannondale, Salsa, Kona, and QBP.
Additional local cyclocross sponsors include Adventure Cycling Association, Big Dipper, Black Coffee Roasting Co., Burns St. Bistro, Endurance Physio, Fair Ends, Five Valleys Urology, Green Source, Grizzly Liquor, Huse Law Office, Kent Bros. Automotive, Little Dumps, Meng Dentistry, Missoula Parks & Rec, Missoula Winery & Event Center, Pedal Missoula, Rocky Mountain Ent., Wild Rockies Landscaping, and Zoo City Apparel.
With the help of generous local sponsors, this affair has grown to include over 100 racers ranging in age from 6 to 60+.