Riders compete in a Cross on the Rock event near Qualicum Beach in 2017. (Black Press photo)

Cyclocross returns to Valley with Cross on the Rock event

‘Spectator-friendly’ event goes Sunday at Lake Cowichan

The sport of cyclocross makes its return to the Cowichan Valley this weekend with an event in Lake Cowichan.

Dubbed “Psycho-Cross,” the day of competition will take place on Sunday, based at Lakeview Park. Cycling fans will want take note, as Grant Lestock-Kay of Duncan’s Cowichan Cycles suggests it makes for good watching.

“It’s definitely very spectator-friendly,” he said. “I’d argue it’s the most spectator-friendly discipline.”

Cyclocross is condensed, Lestock-Kay explained, with multiple riders on the track at one time, so fans can watch battles unfold.

The last cyclocross events in the Cowichan Valley took place several years ago at Providence Farm. Lestock-Kay, who has owned Cowichan Cycles for two years, wanted to bring Vancouver’s Cross on the Rock series back. The series includes stops all over the Island, and he felt this would be an ideal place for a new stop.

“The benefit of the Valley is its proximity to both Victoria and Nanaimo,” he said. “There will definitely be a local contingent. It should attract some local riders from the Valley.”

Registration on Sunday begins at 7 a.m., but the actual races start around 11 a.m. with the kids events, finishing later in the afternoon with elite men and women.

“It’s a good family event early in the day,” Lestock-Kay said. “And then later in the afternoon we have the more experienced racers.”

Cyclocross started in Europe with road riders looking for a way to train in the winter away from busy, sometimes icy, roads by setting up makeshift courses. The bikes are a blend between road and mountain bikes, with drop-style handlebars and tires that are knobby but narrower than mountain bike tires. They ride on terrain of all types, but rarely see pavement.

“The main objective is to have lots of varied terrain and transitions,” Lestock-Kay said. “It’s such a powerful sport because it does pull from the road and mountain communities.”

Cross on the Rock is the biggest cyclocross series in Canada.

“The Island is the national hot spot,” Lestock-Kay noted. “Participation is high; most races have close to 400 riders. It’s a pretty cool thing we’ve got going in the Island.”

This weekend’s event should be a big one, he added, as new races tend to attract more riders who are curious about the courses, and the location between Victoria and Nanaimo should also make Psycho-Cross an attractive stop.

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