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Off The Hook: Bend Rocks US Cyclocross Nationals 

Like a snowball rolling downhill, the energy surrounding last week's cyclocross nationals grew bigger and bigger, culminating in an estimated 10,000 spectators for Sunday's races. The combination of tough racing and effervescent parties uniquely showcased Bend as a work hard, play hard kind of town, and has set the standard for other host cities.

"The community of Bend has completely redefined the way USA Cycling views their national championships," said Doug LaPlaca, the President and CEO of Visit Bend. "We wanted to produce the biggest 'cross race ever in the U.S.," said LaPlaca, "and we did that. Bend is, hands down, their favorite host city."

In addition to the action at the race venue in the Old Mill District, 'cross nats sparked many entertainment and cultural events around Bend. The Cross Culture: Bike + Art Love 2010 Walk showcased the work of photographers, graphic artists and custom bike frame builders in various downtown locations. (A poster titled "Poverty with Trails" resonated with many of us at the Artcrank show.)

"The fashion show was phenomenal," said Vanilla owner April Lawyer, a co-organizer of the Breast of Bend Fashion Show, which raised money for breast cancer prevention. "We were blown away by the attendance, and grateful for everyone's generosity."

Saturday night's Clydesdale Championship of the Universe, held in conjunction with the Blowout Bash at Deschutes Brewery, saw many of the sport's heavyweights racing in costumes while riding a thick, muddy course in the dark. A rave-like atmosphere inside the Brewery included performers juggling fire and dancing on stilts.

Spectators were psyched for Sunday's races. While racers navigated the challenging course, which many pros called world-cup caliber, a dynamic crowd ran from one side of the course to the other, not wanting to miss any of the action. The din of cheering, cowbells and horns grew even louder as each Bend racer passed by.

"The fans were off the charts," said local pro mountain biker Adam Craig. "It's like being in Europe, but everyone knows your name and isn't smoking."Craig, who placed seventh in the elite race on Sunday, said the Bend crowd was motivating. "I definitely rode harder knowing that folks were pulling for the locals," said Craig, "and I had a good time returning some heckles along the way!"

LaPlaca, who had a unique perspective as a key organizer and a racer, agreed. "If you race 'cross bikes, the opportunity to race an event of that magnitude in your own town in front of your friends and family, was an event I wasn't going to miss."

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