116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — After a year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Jingle Cross Cycling Festival kicks off Friday and again shines an international spotlight on Iowa City.
The three-day festival will feature cyclocross and gravel races for professional and amateur riders. Cyclists will race on hills, sand, mud, grass and pavement.
Jingle Cross is hosting the Union Cycliste Internationale — or UCI World Cup — for the fifth time. The festival is also part of the USCX Cyclocross Series, which features four cyclocross events in the country coming together with Iowa City being the third stop.
The festival puts Iowa City on an “international stage” and fuels future travel into town, said Nick Pfeiffer, Think Iowa City’s vice president of marketing and communications.
Jingle Cross started in 2004 as a small grassroots event and is in its 18th year, said John Meehan, Jingle Cross promoter and race director.
“We're very excited about what's coming ahead and excited to show the world Iowa City,” Meehan said.
With the exception of last year, Jingle Cross is held annually at the Johnson County Fairgrounds, 3109 Old Highway 218 S. The event is run by volunteers, and proceeds are donated to the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital. Jingle Cross is free for spectators, and there is no cost for parking.
“All the best professionals in the world are all here racing in Iowa City,” Meehan said.
Pfeiffer said the event could bring 2,000 to 3,000 people into town, including cyclists and spectators.
Meehan said spectators are invited to watch the event in-person, and it also will be broadcast by Global Cycling Network and Eurosport. Global Cycling Network will show the UCI men’s and women’s elite racing, with Eurosport broadcasting the C1 events to 21 European countries.
There will be professional races to watch every day, with the World Cup taking place Sunday.
- Friday: UCI Elite Women C1 at 7:05 p.m. and UCI Elite Men C1 at 8:15 p.m.
- Saturday: UCI Elite Women C2 at 3:05 p.m. and UCI Elite Men C2 at 4:15 p.m.
- Sunday: UCI Elite Men Cyclo-Cross World Cup at 2 p.m. and UCI Elite Women Cyclo-Cross World Cup at 3:45 p.m.
Sunday’s World Cup "adds a nice cap to a really big weekend“ in Iowa City, with there also being a Hawkeye football game and UI homecoming, Pfeiffer said.
When Jingle Cross announced its 2021 dates, the festival was scheduled on a bye football weekend, Pfeiffer said. Then the Big Ten made a change to the football schedule, which resulted in the festival being scheduled on the same weekend as the Purdue game and homecoming.
Jingle Cross and football on the same weekend has increased demand for hotel rooms, Pfeiffer said, adding that some cyclists are staying in Cedar Rapids instead. “We’re rolling with the punches as best we can,” Pfeiffer said.
A new gravel race will be added to Saturday’s lineup — the Jingle GX. The 100-kilometer race will take riders along “beautiful and scenic Iowa roads,” Meehan said.
The 75-kilometer gravel grinder featuring craft beer and poker will be returning to the festival Sunday. The ride allows cyclists to sample craft beer from local breweries and collect poker cards along the way that can be traded for swag.
There are events for cyclists of varying skill levels and ages — as well as live music, DJs, a cycling and fitness expo and food. There also will be family activities, including face painting, games and the Grinch’s Kids Race.
The Grinch’s Kids Race is a free event Sunday with three races for children 18 months to 9 years old. Both pedal and push bikes are allowed, but participants are asked to bring their own bikes.
Another free event Sunday that’s returning is the Doggy Cross — a cyclo-dog course with obstacles where it is the owner who is doing the tricks. There also will be a wine walk and Oktoberfest celebration taking place throughout the weekend.
“We hope that we get as many people to come out as possible because once you see this event, it is fun. It's exciting. It's really dynamic,” Meehan said.
Meehan said organizers are recommending for athletes and spectators to wear masks when indoors and practice social distancing. There will be hand sanitizer available.
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