Early in the day the threat of rain was only about 20% but as the start time for the Arkansas Super-Prestige Night Cyclocross Race got closer, the chance of rain increased to 60%. It was cool and overcast when we arrived at Interstate Park in South Little Rock. Last years venue for this race was Kanis Park where the lack of lighting made the event an intimate affair as bike lights were placed in darkened corners of the course and hecklers hid in the shadows to yell encouragement and insults at the racers.
Little Rock Parks and Recreation had all of the baseball field lights up this year and despite the threat of rain, plenty of fans showed up to enjoy the races. Most of the fans stationed themselves near the pavilion that housed the race headquarters, right in front of a couple of race barriers where spectators were promised a view of great two-wheeled and two-footed action.
The Central Arkansas Velo Team (CARVE) set up a great course utilizing some unique features of the park. Starting on asphalt, racers picked up speed quickly before facing some tight turns and heading back toward the pavilion. Greeted by the cheers of the crowd, the cyclists navigated a 90 degree turn and headed to the first two barriers. The wooden walls were tall enough that no one tried to hop them and there were a few missteps early in each of the three races as riders learned just how high they would have to jump to clear the lip of the barriers. A group of women from the Arkansas Heels on Wheels cycling group mixed into the spectators to enjoy the spectacle of the more skilled racers re-mount once they cleared the barriers. They seemed to be developing a rating system for each rider’s jump back onto the bike.
After the barriers, racers next had to deal with a narrow bridge that arched up over a creek with a rather abrupt turn in the course. The penalty for failing the turn on the bridge was a steep slope in to the creek. The section following the bridge was an expansive, flat area with somewhat soft ground that really worked the legs. Then the course turned for a little off-camber riding and another set of barriers, this time on an uphill section followed by some hillside zig-zags and back across the creek via a culvert. After coming around the back of one of the ball-fields and behind the backstop of another, racers were treated to some tight turns, a small climb and some slippery cement before crossing the start line for another lap.
This course would be tough to ride in daylight on a dry day, the racers had neither of those advantages. As the first race went off it started to sprinkle and by the time the last glimmer of daylight had faded, we were getting intermittent gentle rains. Few things kill momentum like wet grass and as the night went on, the turns and corners got a little sloppy from all the tires sliding through. None of this damaged the capacity of the riders or the spectators to embrace the foul weather and enjoy the evening. There were costumed racers in each of the three races but the Joe Dirt and Officer Dangle costumes seemed to be crowd favorites.
The evening started with the Cat 4, Masters and Women’s Cat 1, 2, 3 race, followed by a Cat 5 men, Cat 4 women and Juniors race. This is the perfect opportunity for beginners to give it a try. The fun was amped up a bit with the little kid’s race with kids riding everything from balance bikes to mini cyclocross bikes. It’s always fun to watch the next generation of racers giving it their all. There was a lot of good racing going on in all the races but the Open Class at the end of the night had some genuine battles between individuals throughout the field. These small battles are what make cyclocross really fun to watch as riders at similar levels of skills and abilities begin racing each other.
We’ll have the results posted as soon as they are available. Enjoy the photos on Facebook (we had a little fun with the low light situation) and stay tuned for the excitement that happened the next day.
Here is a cool video that Barton Boma put together of most of his race experience that night. We are both disappointed that we missed getting his crash on camera.