The recipe? Combine one part road bike precision, one part mountain bike climbing, throw in a pinch of hike-a-bike, and stir in mud, sand, grass, and gravel.
For a second year, Boneyard Cycling presents its annual Ride Hard Finish Thirsty cyclocross race, a two-day merry-go-round of 200 or so cyclists hosted on a private, rought-and-tumble ranch off Tumalo Reservoir Road.
"It's a wonderful sport, a great vibe, a great culture," says race director Adam Carroll. "A sense of fun—it's what the cyclocross culture is all about."
A little less than two miles long, the loop takes on varied terrain and a number of 12-18 inch man-made barriers—and, it also provides plenty of full-access, front row, mud-in-your-face spectating. Racers have a designated time (25 minutes to one hour) to lap the course as many times as possible.
"Any location around the circuit keeps all fans and cyclists centrally located," says Carroll. "The level of intensity is pretty cool."
One third of the circuit is paved, one third grassy hills, and one third "unimproved," a catchall mix of dirt, rock, sand and mud. And the irrigated ranch land, Carroll adds, provides ample amounts of mud. But this year, loose dirt corners and bumpy cow-made pasture might be the event's signature test.
Why the seemingly unnatural mix of cycling disciplines? Boneyard team rider Michael Coe says cyclocross is the underbelly of traditional road and mountain bike racing, based on fun with a competitive edge, a tight-knit spectatorship, a compact course, and thirst quenchers.
"When was the last time racing a road or mountain bike someone handed you a shot of whiskey?," says Coe.
If the tire-to-terrain ratio doesn't indicate difficulty, mastering getting in and out of the pedals with timeliness does. Coe's most brutal crash at last year's RHFT was approaching a barrier with speed—clipped in. Projecting when to get out of the pedals to carry the bike over obstacles, while maintaining momentum, is critical in cyclocross. So is shaking off the crash.
"There's nowhere to hide and you need to pick yourself up and move on," says Coe. "There are so many obstacles, it's a tad sadistic."
Grueling as it is, cyclocross' short, looping course layout is the tie that binds cyclocross riders and spectators, making it an intimate race event where heckling, jostling of elbows, cow bells, jeering and cheering are mandatory. Carroll describes it as riding through "a tunnel of noise" while trying to stay on the bike.
"On any cyclocross course there are about 100 things you have to get right," says Carroll. "If you get 50, you feel like a superstar."
This weekend's cyclocross event may be both as simple as its title suggests and as difficult as riding, climbing, dismounting and remounting a road bike—on mountain bike terrain.
But it's all in the cyclocross recipe, a pure mix of pleasure and pain.
RHFT is an event to benefit the World Bicycle Relief, a nonprofit that stretches across 13 countries, including Angola, Kenya, Mozambique and Rwanda and provides tens of thousands of bikes.
"We feel really passionate about the cause and the work they do," says Carroll, noting a photo WBR gave to the team of two Kenyan girls on bikes. "Every time I glance at it, it's a reminder we're doing something really important."
Both race days, a course preview begins at 8 am. with races to follow throughout the day beginning at 10 am. for men and women's classes—beginner, junior and masters. Kiddie Cross takes place at 12:45 pm. Awards (and beer) are at 4:30 pm.
19449 Tumalo Reservoir Road.
$20 adult pre-registration; $10 for juniors
(add $5 for race day registration.)