One hill of a bicycle race comes to Iowa City

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By Jacob Miller

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Iowa City will host one of the nine Cyclocross World Cup races this weekend at Johnson County Fairgrounds’ Jingle Cross course.

The weekend will feature competitions for racers of all skill levels. The amateur races will begin Friday, and those who place in the top 16 will advance to race again in the championship on Sept. 25. The main event, the Telenet Cyclocross World Cup race, will begin with the women’s race at 3:30 p.m. Saturday with the men following at 5 p.m.

Jingle Cross is known for its many steep and brutal hills, but none are quite as intimidating and famous among cyclocrossers as Mount Krumpit.

“You would never find anything like [Mount Krumpit] anywhere else,” said John Meehan, the Iowa City race’s executive director. “[Jingle Cross] is probably one of the most difficult cyclocross courses in North America — [it’s like] a Talladega with a big hill.”

As races at Jingle Cross normally take place in the winter, the organizers named Mount Krumpit after the mountain the Grinch lived on in Dr. Suess’s classic How The Grinch Stole Christmas.

Meehan said Mount Krumpit is a harsh 100 feet; not only do racers have to go up the face of the hill, they also have to navigate the switchback turns on the way down.

“Whether you’re going up or coming down, [Mount Krumpit] is probably the hardest part,” said Bryan Wenzel, a local racer who will compete this weekend.

Racers, Meehan said, will adopt a variety of approaches — biking, running, and even crawling — based on their varying levels of skill to attempt to scale the hill.

Mount Krumpit and all of the other challenges Jingle Cross poses to its racers force many to make adjustments to their bikes — the lower the gear, the easier the ascent — before they are able to mount their attempts at conquering the hill.

“[Professionals] know Jingle Cross for the steep hills, and a lot of them will be changing their gears specifically for that,” Wenzel said.

The Cyclocross World Cup requires courses to be between 2.5 and 3.5 kilometers long; Jingle Cross’ length is 3.17 kilometers (1.97 miles).

Along with Mount Krumpit, Jingle Cross has a variety of other demanding challenges for racers, which, Meehan said, include a “really deep and really long sand trap” as well as flyovers and log barriers.

Jingle Cross’ flyovers are man-made structures that either have a ramp or set of steps that go up onto a platform and then down a ramp on the other side. One of the courses’ flyovers functions as a two-in-one as riders go both ways over it.

For amateur racers, Wenzel said clearing barriers is similar to high-stepping in football — they must first dismount and shoulder their bike — whereas professionals are able to bunny hop them while still riding.

“The [Union Cycliste Internationale] really likes courses that showcase natural features like Mount Krumpit as opposed to all man-made functions, which you tend to see at other races that don’t have the same terrain that we have,” said Kevin McConnell, a local racer who has competed in the elite race at the fairgrounds for the last five years.

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