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Cyclo-cross championships descend on Bend, showcase the sport’s heritage in Oregon

    Although the expected frigid temperatures and possible snowfall might seem better-suited to boards and bindings, a different kind of racer will invade Bend this weekend as the city hosts its second cycling national championship event of 2009.

    Thursday through Sunday a record 1,600-plus racers are expected in the city’s Old Mill District for the U.S. cyclocross national championships, which follow on heels of August’s successful road nationals.

    Competitors in cyclocross, a sport in which riders race — and sometimes carry — their bikes around a course filled with varied terrain and obstacles, are accustomed to harsh conditions. That’s especially true for veterans like Erik Tonkin, who grew up playing hockey in Minnesota and now rides for the Kona/FSA team when he’s not running Portland’s Sellwood Cycles.

    Tonkin is one of the godfathers of the sport in Oregon and in Portland, which hosted nationals in 2003 and ’04 and was recently dubbed the United States’ “capital of ‘cross” by the cycling publication VeloNews. The robust scene is known for high participation, an rich sense of community and unmatched revelry. Combine that powerful cyclocross spirit with a nationally renowned bike town like Bend, and you’ve got a recipe for an event of epic proportions.

    “My confidence level is really high for this event,” said Tom Vinson, USA Cycling’s event manager. “I always love my time in Bend and I expect the spectator base to be incredibly large.”

    — Excerpt from, December 9, 2009


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