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Iowa City Jingle Cross gears up for more fun this weekend

Beer and poker ride, super hero themed foot race new in 2019

Jerry Full screws down footings of dividers that separate opposing directions for riders going over a flyover along the course as he and others set up Wednesday for this weekend’s Jingle Cross Cyclo-Cross Festival at the Johnson County Fairgrounds in Iowa City. The three-day weekend event also will be hosting the Telenet UCI Cyclo-Cross World Cup. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Jerry Full screws down footings of dividers that separate opposing directions for riders going over a flyover along the course as he and others set up Wednesday for this weekend’s Jingle Cross Cyclo-Cross Festival at the Johnson County Fairgrounds in Iowa City. The three-day weekend event also will be hosting the Telenet UCI Cyclo-Cross World Cup. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — When Iowa City’s Jingle Cross Cyclocross UIC World Cup event was named the top event of the 2017-18 racing season, the pressure could have been on organizers to do even better in subsequent years.

But Jingle Cross promoter and race director John Meehan said it has just made planning the annual race weekend — which takes place Friday through Sunday — even more fun.

“I wouldn’t call it pressure. I would just call it enjoyment,” Meehan said. “We enjoy being at that level. We’re like, OK, we were voted the best, but we still have areas to improve and make better and make it more fun.”

The Jingle Cross, held annually at the Johnson County Fairgrounds for 16 years, is hosting the Union Cycliste Internationale, or UCI World Cup, for the fourth time. It’s part of more than 80 cyclocross races taking place over the weekend, including eight professional races.

Jingle Cross is free for spectators, and there is no cost for parking. All proceeds from the event are donated to the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital. More than $150,000 has been donated to the children’s hospital since Jingle Cross’ inception.

Meehan said two events will be introduced this year with the hopes of reaching new audiences. Among them is the Beer and Poker Gravel Grinder, a 70K bike ride that takes participants from the Kalona Brewing Company in Kalona to Big Grove Brewery & Taproom in Iowa City and then to the fairgrounds, where participants can enjoy brews from the Oregon-based Dechutes Brewery. Along the way, they’ll pick up complimentary beers and poker cards, which will earn them prizes.

“It’ll be a ton of fun,” Meehan said. “It’s not a hard course, just a fun course.”

Register for the Gravel Grinder here.

Jingle Cross also is introducing a superhero-themed 4K cross-country run.

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“You can dress up as a superhero,” Meehan said. “You’ll win prizes based on that, as overall for how people finish in the event.” Register here.

Returning this year is the doggy cross, in which participants and their dogs complete an obstacle challenge, with the caveat that it’s the owner — not the dog — doing the challenges, Meehan said. That event is free. Other activities include a wine walk and screening of this weekend’s Iowa-Iowa State football game. Those events take place Saturday.

For Nick Pfeiffer, vice president of marketing and communications for the Iowa City/Coralville Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, the highlight is Friday Night Lights, a party atop Mount Krumpit on the Jingle Cross course featuring craft beer, music and dancing.

“You have to experience it to understand how cool it is,” Pfeiffer said.

The weekend features races for the underage crowd, as well. In addition to a kids race and a UCI race for 17- and 18-year-olds, this year marks the second year of the Scheels Junior Devo Cup, which will feature more than 250 riders from across the country.

Meehan touted the value of introducing cycling to riders at a young age.

“Cycling, as a sport on the whole, whether it’s cyclocross, road biking, mountain biking or whatever, is an activity you can do for the rest of your life,” he said. “You can do this forever. You can do it recreationally. You can compete. It’s such a part of a lifestyle.”

Meehan said organizers still are looking for volunteers. Anyone interested in volunteering can sign up here.

Comments: (319) 339-3155; lee.hermiston@thegazette.com

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