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The Journal Gazette

  • Photos by Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette Todd Andersen, left, and son Kyle, center, race up a hill during a recent cyclocross practice at Franke Park.  

  • Dave McComb, right, organized a local cyclocross team with support from Three Rivers Velosport. The team practices Wednesdays at Franke Park. 

Sunday, October 22, 2017 1:00 am

Cyclocross making comeback

Local club lends support to 'full-body' bicycling

AUBREE REICHEL | The Journal Gazette

The growing sport of cyclocross has found difficulties, at times, finding a permanent home in Fort Wayne.

Teams have come and gone with leaders fading away from the sport with their interest waning.

Recently, a cyclocross team has been added to the already numerous disciplines at Three Rivers Velosport that competitors hope will provide stability to the team in addition to a separate team supported by Fort Wayne Outfitters.

“I've been on several teams since I started competing in 2000,” Dave McComb said. “One of the problems with the teams is that they're primarily ran by one person and then they have one financial backer. When one of these people decide to go a separate way, it folds the team. With many teams, everyone wants to race and no one wants the administration duties.”

Three Rivers Velosport last had a team in 2001 but was willing to take on a new one when approached by McComb.

“They were looking for a new home,” said Joe Bartels, the club's racing director, “and 3RVS has an administrative board that offers a lot of help, administratively, to manage a team to organize it, things like that.”

McComb said the history of cyclocross is vague, but it started in France in the early 1900s.

“There are not a lot of facts as to what started it, but it seems to have started as a way of a wintertime activity to stay in shape,” he said. “They'd race from one town to another. It was called 'steeplechase' at the time.

“It's primarily a sport that's heavy in Belgium, Netherlands, Germany and France.”

The popularity of the sport is relatively low in the United States compared with the western European countries, but it's growing as evidenced by Louisville, Kentucky, playing host to international competitions.

“It's much like, if you've been to a cross country running event, it's the same kind of setup,” McComb said. “The same kind of park setting where you're racing on pavement, gravel, grass, hills, places that require you to dismount and carry it. The bicycle looks like a road bike but slightly knobbier bigger tires.”

Races are about 45 minutes and require a little bit more than finesse on a bike.

“Unlike a road race, cyclocross is a full-body activity,” McComb said. “You're carrying your bike, the courses are bumpy, you're accelerating and decelerating a lot. It's a full-body workout.”

McComb sees a lot of potential with the involvement with 3RVS with the hopes of getting more people involved and to be able to offset racing costs.

“It's a club-racing team within the club, but it functions as a whole part of the club,” he said. “It's part of the club. Part of what I wanted to bring in starting a new team is a transparency where everyone knew where the dollars were coming from and what it was being spent on.

“(Racing) gets expensive, overnight costs so part of what a team does, through sponsorships it helps cover the costs of those expenses so that people can afford to go to do it especially as juniors.”

Sarah Farver-Staub raced competitively with Men of Steel Racing from 2011 to 2013 and hopes to start back up after giving birth to her son two months ago.

She hopes the involvement with the club will get new riders out and trying something different.

“It's a great opportunity for other riders to get involved in the sport, and to learn more about it or to watch it and enjoy something that's so very popular over in Europe,” she said. “Dave McComb is a great leader, he's willing to help anyone who wants to become competitive or just learn the beginning aspects of training. I'm hoping that this will grow because it's just so much fun. It's a great team aspect because we can cheer each other on and it's a lot of fun.”

McComb has started a practice group that meets at 6 p.m. Wednesdays at Franke Park, where he sets up a course in various points, mostly around the derby hill behind the BMX track. The practices are free and anyone may join and try it out.

“Having it at Franke just makes sense,” Farver-Staub said. “The mountain bike trails are here, the BMX club is here, so it's a great hub for cycling that's off-road or a little more skill oriented than road riding.”

For more information on Three Rivers Velosport and cyclocross, go to www.3rvs.com.

areichel@jg.net