- Associated Press - Monday, December 1, 2014

EUGENE, Ore. (AP) - Sal Collura’s only complaint about the cold weather on Sunday at Camp Harlow was that it meant there wasn’t enough mud to make things even more interesting.

“It’s a fun sport and a good way to stay in shape,” said Collura, 45, of cyclocross. “For me, it’s been a lifelong, positive thing.”

Invented in Belgium in the early 1950s, cyclocross depends on obstacles and tough terrain to challenge competitors.

Bicyclists race through the course and have to carry their bikes over mud, up stairs, in water and through sand, gravel or whatever else a promoter like Collura can throw at them - within the rules of the sport.

The course at Camp Harlow, on the north edge of Eugene, is a combination of grass, gravel, barriers and single-track. One bike owner pointed out a carbon-frame bike of his that cost several thousand dollars but weighed just 15 pounds, a big plus in the sport.

“I’ve been putting on these races for about 10 years,” Collura said. Involved in the sport since 1986, he has been key in organizing such races for the Eugene-Springfield area, under the auspices of the Oregon Bicycle Racing Association.

“We start in September and go through the end of November,” Collura said. “There’s a lot of races like this near Portland, and they’ll get 700 riders for a weekend. Here, we’ll get around 100.”

About 70 visitors and participants stood around the race course in the early afternoon breathing on their hands and talking about bikes - and how cold it was.

The sun was shining in a clear blue sky, but many of the people not immediately taking part chose to stay in their cars, away from the pervasive, numbing chill.

Ken Rodgers, 63, wearing a bright yellow jacket, didn’t seem to mind. He said he didn’t go on a cyclocross until 2008, but has taken first place in the master men’s age-60-and-older category for three years running.

“Last year I won everything, but now there’s a lot of 60-year-old kids trying to get into my category,” he said, laughing.

Rodgers, who owns Oregon Paddle Sports in Eugene, said he first went on a few races after watching a video, then did 25 races in 2009 and several dozen the year after that.

“After a couple of years I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, I’ve found a home.’?”

Rodgers has since joined the Bicycleway.com racing team, which he helps to sponsor and was ranked the No. 1 team in Oregon for 2014 by the state bicycle racing association. The team is affiliated with the Bicycle Way of Life shops in Eugene.

Rodgers stressed how easy it is for beginners to join in the sport.

“I feel like I’m in better shape than when I was in high school,” Rodgers said. “All the racing is just about personal health and how you do against the course.”

“Bicycle is our common language,” said Virginia Xing, manager of the Bicycleway.com team.

“We give the kids goodie bags for participating,” she said. “Our main vision is to keep bicycling alive.”

Xing said cyclocross organizers and enthusiasts try to do that by always looking for young people to get involved and inviting new participants.

“When this team started, we had fewer than 10 people, but now we have more than 110 people of all ages,” she said. A team recruitment is planned for Sunday.

Adam Oliver, 18, a senior at Churchill High School and started cyclocross in 2008, before he even reached his teens.

Skinny and a self-described “good climber,” Oliver set a record last year for biking up Marys Peak, the highest point in the Coast Range.

“Bike racing is just really fun,” Oliver said. “It’s a really tight-knit community here.”

___

Information from: The Register-Guard, https://www.registerguard.com

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