By Jeff Nations
The Super 8 Cyclocross Series is coming back to Jim Barnett Park, and for the first time Winchester will be the opening event.
That prospect has race director Kenneth A. Morris Jr. plenty excited -- and plenty busy -- as he leads the host Winchester Wheelmen cycling club in preparations for the Sept. 29 race day.
"The calendar fluctuates from year to year, and Tacchino Park in Maryland is normally the first race of the year," Morris said. "They're having horse competitions there, so they had a conflict on the schedule and we were next in line."
The Super 8, a elite sub-set series of cyclocross races held at various venues in Maryland, Virginia and Washington D.C., is run under the governing umbrella of the Mid-Atlantic Bicycle Racing Association (MABRA) and includes some of the top mixed-surface tracks in the region.
Winchester's race, the Applecross CX, is in its fifth year since city resident John Hicks founded the event in 2009. The Applecross became part of the Super 8 in 2011 and has been drawing both local and D.C.-area riders ever since.
Morris expects the Applecross, which is a series of races divided by age and experience levels, to draw about 350 to 400 riders, which is slightly less than the Super 8's most popular race, the DCCX in Washington, D.C.
"There should be a few dozen local people in this race," Morris said. "It's mainly people from the D.C. area. This race is about as far west as they come."
Morris, who took over from Hicks as the Applecross race director in 2010, said he will be moving out of the area after this year's race and Hicks will resume leadership duties.
"I'm proud to have helped grow the race over the years," Morris said. "It's been a team effort."
Since that initial race in 2009, Morris said the Applecross has grown at an average rate of at least 10 to 15 percent each year. Cyclocross, a cross between traditional road racing and mountain bike racing, offers racers from different specialities to compete in an event that offers both pavement and earth surfaces -- sometimes even requiring competitors to carry their bikes over rough terrain.
"BMX riders can do it," Morris said. "A lot of mountain bikers will come to do the event. It's very challenging. It's fun and it's short enough that most everyone can do it."
Sometimes, most everyone tries to do it. The Applecross can accommodate beginners, which are classified as Category 5 racers, and also offers Juniors and Masters level races. The top event comes at the end of the day, with the Elite 1-2-3 race scheduled to start at 3 p.m. That race is open to competitors holding Category 3 to Category 1 (the top ranking).
"There's usually a wide range of talent in that race," Morris said. "Normally there's two or three guys who are hands down better, then one step down about a dozen making up the rest of the field."
For more information or to register for the Applecross CX, visit the website www.bikereg.com.
Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or firstname.lastname@example.org>. Follow on Twitter @J_NationsNVD