- Associated Press - Saturday, September 2, 2017

CORALVILLE, Iowa (AP) - A permanent cyclocross course in Coralville could boost the Iowa City area’s already growing interest in the sport.

John Stonebarger, involved with Iowa City’s Goosetown Racing Club, said the Coralville Creekside Cross will provide a Johnson County venue for Goosetown’s cyclocross race in November. He also hopes it gives local cyclists the chance to practice close to home before the start of the 2017 Telenet UCI Cyclo-Cross World Cup and Jingle Cross races in September.

Stonebarger said that although the World Cup event will kick off in Iowa City this year, the area is “starved” of permanent spots where local cyclists can practice. He said he thinks a lack of practice space discourages some cyclists from participating.

“In part, this is an effort to kind of get more locals involved in it and get people to try it out,” Stonebarger told the Iowa City Press-Citizen .

The new course opened Aug. 10, west of Coralville Creekside Ballpark, and it will be open from dawn until dusk Tuesdays and Thursdays the rest of this summer and fall, said Sherri Proud, Coralville’s Parks and Recreation director.

Proud said Stonebarger reached out to her in March about a potential site in Coralville for Goosetown’s race. Initially, the city planned to offer the course on a temporary basis, but the project evolved.

“It just took off from there,” she said, adding that the city hopes to open the park full time next year.

The course’s grassy entryway leads up into a tree-lined hillside beside the baseball field. On a recent Thursday evening, several cyclists gathered to try it out.

Curran Beckler, 21, of Tiffin, said Creekside is the only permanent space he has to practice before the World Cup and Jingle Cross races, which start Sept. 15 with the World Cup races on Sept. 17. He said the course, when it opens on a daily basis next year, will provide many cyclists with the flexibility they need to practice on their own schedules.

“I don’t have anywhere else to do this kind of stuff,” he said.

Beckler said cyclists trying the trail for the first time can expect lots of climbing, hills and a fun barnyard area that’s somewhat unique to cyclocross courses.

Chad Mittelstadt, 43, drove in from Cedar Rapids to try the course for the first time Thursday and practice before Jingle Cross and World Cup. Although Cedar Rapids will offer a temporary course for practice, it only opens once a week. Creekside will provide another option, he said.

Mittelstadt, who took an interest in cyclocross four years ago, said he thinks the new course will boost cyclocross participation in the Iowa City and Cedar Rapids areas.

Proud said the space also will provide a permanent site for hiking, skiing and running.

She said the course currently offers a mowed, grassy path that’s about 30 feet wide, narrowing as it continues up the hillside. It offers switchbacks, wooded areas and a terraced hillside design.

The parks department plans to monitor the course as it’s worn in by cyclists and others, Proud said.

John Meehan, director of the World Cup event and Jingle Cross co-founder, said Jingle Cross is in its 14th year and has boosted local interest in cyclocross. Organizers of the World Cup and Jingle Cross carefully design courses each year at the Johnson County Fairgrounds.

The addition of a permanent practice space in Coralville will fill a need created by growing interest in the sport, Meehan said.

“I think it’s an excellent addition to the community,” he said.

Stonebarger said that, although cyclocross is gaining popularity in the Iowa City area, it’s still a niche sport. To a spectator, it might appear too difficult or messy. But Stonebarger hopes Creekside Cross helps convince newcomers to try it out.

“Once people try it, they start to get a feel for just how fun it can be,” he said.


Information from: Iowa City Press-Citizen, https://www.press-citizen.com/

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