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Thousands of fans pack Jingle Cross-World Cup

World Cup cyclocross events bring international attention to Iowa City

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IOWA CITY — Cyclists from kids to pros competed last weekend in cyclocross races that drew international attention to the city.

In a coup for Iowa City, the Telenet UCI Cyclo-Cross World Cup races came to town and ran competitions on the course set up for the local Jingle Cross races at the Johnson County Fairgrounds.

Thousands of fans packed into the fairgrounds to cheer on the races, ringing cowbells and carrying on in an atmosphere evoking football tailgating.

Two cyclists who participated in the amateur flat-tire race on the course — Ryan Grant, 25, of Iowa City and Chris Lee, 26, of Duluth, Minn. — said they were glad for the opportunity.

“It’s not often you get to ride on the same course as professionals,” Grant said. “You can’t play on a professional baseball field.”

Grant and Lee, as well as Chris’s brother Matthew Lee, 22, of Walford, watched the men’s and women’s races Saturday.

They agreed the atmosphere couldn’t be beat, but said the best part was access to professional athletes.

“I’m inches from them,” Matthew Lee said. “They can probably hear me yelling at them.”

Jingle Cross is usually run closer to Christmas but was moved up this year to merge with the World Cup, which was televised across Europe.

Tia and Jim Watson, a couple from Bettendorf, were among thousands gathered on Mount Krumpit — a hill the course winds through.

Tia Watson, 60, said the pair were there to cheer on her nephew, Tobin Ortenblad, a 22-year-old competitor from Santa Cruz, Calif.

“Who would think it would be in the middle of Iowa City?” Tia Watson asked. “We’ve been lucky to be able to come to this. We’re having a lot of fun.”

In the World Cup, Katie Compton from the United States took home victory in the women’s elite race. France’s Caroline Mani claimed second and Kaitlin Antonneau, from the Unites States, was third.

Cyclocross world champion Wout Van Aert of Belgium won the men’s elite race. Two other Belgians — Kevin Pauwels and Laurens Sweeck — claimed second and third place, respectively.

Organizers didn’t have an exact count of those on the fairgrounds, said Josh Schamberger, president of the Iowa City/Coralville Area Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.

They also aren’t sure of the economic impact, but it’s something they plan to study.

“It’s obvious that it’ll be substantial,” Schamberger said.

In a news conference following the race, Van Aert said he was impressed with the Jingle Cross course, saying it was similar to courses in Belgium.

“I think it was worth it to come over,” he said.

Other races took place throughout the day, including the road and gravel course and several kids’ races.

While many in the crowd were cyclocross fans or cyclists themselves, others were new.

“This is my first year (at Jingle Cross) and I’m really surprised at how successful this event seems to be,” said Same Garchik, 43, of Iowa City. “I definitely hope it continues in the future.”

l Comments: (319) 368-8536; michaela.ramm@thegazette.com

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