By Ben Olson
Get ready for a weekend of dirt and fun at the 6th annual Crosstoberfest, an event showcasing one of the more unique bike events; the Cyclocross.
Cyclocross (CX) is part endurance challenge, part mud bath, part race and 100-percent joy. As the second stage of the Wild West Cyclocross Series, the Sandpoint Cyclocross draws hundreds of regional bike racers and spectators who come out to watch them ride, run, steer and power through the University of Idaho CX course on N. Boyer Ave. during the weekend of Sept. 30 – Oct. 1. Races start as early as 9 a.m. and go all day.
But the event is not just about the CX race; it’s promoted and powered by Team Autism 24/7, a local nonprofit organization that helps raise money to fund programs to support families living on the spectrum near Sandpoint.
Wayne Pignolet, executive director of Team Autism 24/7, helped establish the CX in Sandpoint six years ago.
“We love Cyclocross,” he said. “We were driving down to Spokane [to another race] and we thought, ‘There is this beautiful piece of property at the U of I annex.’”
With assistance from a handful of riders, including Charles Mortensen of Syringa Cyclery, and Jason and Kristen Meshberg, Pignolet and company were able to establish a permanent course at the U of I annex.
“The beauty of having the course at the U of I annex is that the venue allows us have a permanent course,” said Mortensen. “Most venues are run out of a city park or other temporary spaces. They aren’t able to develop the courses like we are.”
The CX course is a closed-circuit track that winds two miles throughout the U of I property. It includes ever-changing obstacles, a 50-yard long sand pit that forces cyclists to dismount and carry their bikes, hurdles and bunny hops, long muddy sections and banked turns.
“It’s just as much fun to watch as it is to ride,” said Mortensen.
One other yearly tradition is sighting the course mascot; a six-foot Sasquatch with glowing eyes that is rumored to roam the woods.
“Last year, someone stole him, so we posted a reward offer on Facebook for his safe return,” said Mortensen. “About a month before the race, Charles Everhart and his son, Skyler, who had raced Crosstoberfest the year before found him leaning against a tree in the woods near Sagle off some remote road. They happened to be driving by on the way to a friend’s house and glimpsed the reflecting eyes I had added to the Squatch. The put him in their van and contacted me for his safe return. Free Crosstoberfest entries, food, and beer for the Everharts! Now, Squatch comes out for the race, but we put him into hibernation over the winter under lock and key.”
There are several different categories based on age and gender. Those over 50 years old can ride with the “Master’s 50+” or if you weigh over 200 pounds, you can ride in the “Clydesdale” division. There are also four junior categories for boys and girls between 11-14 and 15-18 years of age. While the adult categories will run you $30, the junior registration is free thanks to a sponsorship from Mountain West Bank – all they need is a parent to sign for them.
There will also be unofficial kids races on Saturday with shorter laps, and a walk for autism where families can walk around the track with their children.
Most who compete in the CX races ride a hybrid bike that has a race frame with knobby tires, but there is only one restriction on what type of bike can’t be entered.
“You just can’t have those cow horn bar ends on mountain bikes,” said Pignolet. “Otherwise, if it has two wheels and can roll, you can ride it. But generally, there are mountain bikes and cyclocross bikes.”
In addition to the racing fun, there will be a host of fun activities for Crosstoberfest, including camping by donation on site, food vendors including Jupiter Jane and Mandala Pizza, bonfires, beer kegs provided by Laughing Dog Brewery and Eichardt’s Pub, wine provided by Pend d’Oreille Winery, and donated beer from Idaho Pour Authority and the 219 Lounge. Also, the master of ceremonies for the event will be the always-entertaining Jason Meshberg.
“There are a ton of volunteers who help make this happen every year,” said Mortensen. “We couldn’t do it without them.”
Winners for each division will receive funky trophies, some of which were created by potter Daryl Baird, others of which are branded individually before the event.
While winners earn bragging rights, the real winners of this event are the students on the spectrum that are assisted by Autism 24/7. Pignolet estimates around $15,000 has been raised from the Crosstoberfest events in the past.
To sign up for the event, go to https://wildwestcxseries.com/races/crosstoberfest/. While registering in advance is preferred, same-day registration is also possible at the venue.
Weather is always a wildcard for Crosstoberfest, so come prepared for anything.
“There’s a buzz for this year’s event,” said Mortensen. “We are reaping the benefits of the course-work we have done over the years. The course is in excellent shape and we are looking forward to great weather. Which could come in the form of sun, wind, snow or rain.”
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