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Hoard of Costumed Cyclists Haunt Maple Ridge

Close to 300 cyclists participate in the 10th Annual Pumpkin Cross race

The fifth stop in the BC Premier Cyclo-cross Series, the 10th Annual Pumpkin Cross Cyclo-cross, drew more than 300 cyclists to North Alouette Greenway Park in Maple Ridge on Sunday for the Halloween-themed event, which featured costume contest and race categories for all ages and levels of riders.

“We had lots of creative costumes again this year,” said event organizer Barry Lyster of Maple Ridge, who was dressed as a wizard. “Part of the fun of Pumpkin Cross is seeing what the riders will come up with.”

One elite man dressed up as Michael Phelps and competed in only a Speedo, a collection of medals around his neck, and a swim cap under his helmet. Wonder Woman portrayed by Gail Harrison (Speed Theory) of Vancouver received lots of audience votes and took home the women’s costume prize. There were a few bananas out there, a hot dog, Little Red Riding Hood, and various animals and celebrities.

Lyster has found a formula that works, catering his race to those who embrace the silliness of riding around a slippery track in costumes that oftentimes inhibit performance, like men’s costume contest winner Dominic Toa, who was literally enclosed inside a gigantic inflatable Minion getup.

Lyster was pumped that his race drew high-calibre athletes in addition to large amateur fields. “I’m really happy the defending women’s Canadian Cyclo-cross Champion Mical Dyck (Naked Bikes) came all the way from Victoria to race,” he said. The 34-year-old won the elite women’s competition, besting 2015 Canadian Championships silver medalist Sandra Walter (Liv Cycling Canada) of Coquitlam by only three seconds. Kelly Jones (Steed Cycles) of North Vancouver was third. Dyck and Walter will face off again at the 2016 Canadian Championships in Sherbrooke, Quebec next weekend.

The elite men’s race saw Cyclo-cross World Cupper Craig Richey (Garneau Easton) of North Vancouver take victory, as he used the competition as a tune-up for the upcoming nationals as well. He was followed by Ben Chaddock (TaG Cycling) of Whistler in second, with young gun 15-year-old Conor Martin (TaG Cycling) of Kelowna in third.

“It’s great to see the BC Premier Series being used by our top racers to prepare them for national and international level competitions. It’s a real testament to the quality of our events,” said Lyster.

However, for Lyster the goal of putting on his event is just as much about offering a welcoming and positive atmosphere for first-timers. “It’s really great to see the growth in participation at Pumpkin Cross, in particularly in the beginner women’s field,” said Lyster. “We had 39 beginner women compete this year and it’s a trend we’re seeing in this sport in general in the province.”

Lyster attributes the huge increase in female participation at Pumpkin Cross largely to his specific catering to novice women through offering a special first-time racer entry fee that includes a skills clinic with Walter the day before the event. Plus, title sponsor Liv Cycling Canada – a brand that makes bikes, parts, accessories and clothing just for women – has come on board to support the race.

The festive vibe experienced at Pumpkin Cross is a common theme at cyclo-cross events, as the sport appeals to a wide demographic of cyclists. With 30-minute race times for beginners, the effort is achievable, while the short tracks are usually located close to urban centres, offer lots of variety of terrain and sport crowds of jovial spectators. The fact that almost any type of bicycle can be ridden in the race and the added bonus of “handups” – usually treats like candy or marshmallows passed to racers from the sidelines by fans – adds to the appeal of the quirky cycling discipline.

The free kids race attracted 25 enthusiastic kids on all sorts of bikes wearing an array of costumes.

A break in October rain storms ensured a pleasant and sunny race day with a muddy track from wet weather all week.

Next up in the BC Premier Cyclo-cross Series is the final event at Mill Lake Park in Abbotsford on November 20.

Pumpkin Cross was made possible with support from Liv Cycling Canada, TaG Cycling, Giant Bicycles, Jubilee Cycles, Cycles Lambert, Kicking Horse Coffee, doTerra Essential Oils, Team Giant Vancouver, Power2Max, Julian’s Chamois Cream, Cycling BC, City of Maple Ridge, Maple Ridge Equi-Sport Centre.