CORALVILLE — An inquiry about a two-day biking event led city officials and volunteers to — in short order — convert woods and grassland on the southwest side into the area’s first permanent cyclocross racing course.
John Stonebarger, of Goosetown Racing, approached Coralville officials on March 7 seeking options for a temporary location for a cyclocross race in November, said Sherri Proud, director of Coralville Parks and Recreation.
She and her staff identified a patch of unused land acquired more than a decade ago for the Creekside Ball Park.
Stonebarger and his team, city staff and volunteers embraced the idea and got to work, Proud said.
“Everybody has been so excited we’ve been able to do something that will be available for them to ride and train for Jingle Cross,” she said. “Everyone is excited for it to be a permanent park. And that Coralville was able to take an idea, hear what the community wanted and make it a reality in six months. It’s like a small town project.”
Coralville opened Coralville Creekside Cross, 3550 340th St., on Thursday evening.
It’s the first permanent cyclocross course in Johnson County and just the third in the state, said Nick Sobocinski, an avid cyclist and a key volunteer who helped build the course.
"This blows the other two out of the water,” Sobocinski said, adding he hopes all levels of cyclists give it a try.
The other courses are in the Des Moines and Cedar Falls areas, he said.
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The 2.6-mile Coralville course is designed for races but will be open for other uses, such as hiking, trail running and cross-country skiing.
The course travels across sloping terraces, a barnyard, woods, switchbacks, sand and an area that could be turned into a wet muddy obstacle.
Challenging, varied terrain and obstacles are a hallmark of cyclocross, which holds a place of distinction in Johnson County, site of the annual Jingle Cross race.
The area hosted the Cyclocross World Cup race last year and will do so again this year, Sept. 15 to 17 at the Johnson County Fairgrounds.
Stonebarger, who was drawn into cyclocross racing six years ago, thanks to Jingle Cross, raved about the diversity of terrain at the Thursday opening.
"When we saw this course, the quality, and started walking around the grounds, we realized how great it would be to have a course for people to practice and ride,” he said, adding it is a work in progress.
Kyle Polich, 29, of Coralville, was among 100 people or so who gave the course a try Thursday.
"It’s awesome and will be even better when it gets a few lanes burned in,” Polich said. “It’s hard riding when it’s so new.”
Through the fall, Creekside Cross will be open only on Tuesdays and Thursdays, from dawn to dusk, to give the course a chance to get settled.
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This winter, once the ground freezes, and next year, after the course takes hold, the city plans to expand access to seven days a week, dawn until dusk.
Access will be based largely on the weather and course conditions.
The city plans to keep the course closed during the spring when the ground is soft and the track could get rutted, Proud said.
But, if the spring is dry, they could open the course early, she said.
“A general rule of thumb is if you see yourself making a track, you probably need to get off the course,” Proud said.
Special events, three clinics and the race are already being planned for fall.
The city is planning additional land here as future festival grounds, Proud said.
The city invested $4,500, staff time and volunteer time to bring the course to life.
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