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Dick’s Sporting Goods. Victoria’s Secret. Nordstrom. All in a day’s trip to the mall, but `cross racing? The Victory Circle Graphix Boulder Cup takes the dirty sport to the American masses Sunday as the Flatiron Crossing mall hosts a day of amateur and top-shelf UCI racing.
Promoter Chris Grealish masterminded the melding of cult bike racing and the iconic American gathering spot earlier this year when the city of Boulder informed him that without a weather backup for Harlow Platts Park, the race would have to move. Enter Kim Campbell and Flatiron Crossing.
“(Grealish) was looking for other options and ways to grow the race,” said Campbell, the mall’s senior property manager. “He came and solicited us and we immediately saw potential in the event.”
“DBC Events has taken a huge risk in trying to expose the sport to a new user group,” Grealish said. “Initially they were skeptical about our request. They’ve been cautious, but they’ve been really good to work with.”
The race will take up a significant portion of the mall’s frontage road and the parking lot nearest Dick’s and Nordstrom. Even with the closures, Campbell welcomed the event.
“We’re running a business and we have to be sure that our guests have access to places to park and can get into the mall,” she said. “We see tremendous opportunity…. It’s very community oriented and we want to be a good citizen and support events like this.”
For his part, Grealish, while disappointed that a Boulder location could not be secured, was characteristically enthusiastic about the marriage with the mall.
“We’re excited to have people stumble upon the event who ordinarily wouldn’t see it,” he said.
On a cool, damp Friday morning in late October, Grealish and long-time DBC Events course designer Joe DePaemelaere walked the grounds of Frank Varra Park, where the majority of the racing will occur. They stuck flags in a long sidehill, outlining a brute of a track, including two steep run-ups and a low-grade grind up heavy Kentucky Bluegrass to the backside of the course.
“The City of Broomfield, once they understood the scope and the scale, they’ve really gone out of their way to make sure we have anything and everything that we need,” Grealish said as he stood beneath a 30-foot tall sign for the mall.
Boulder Cycle Sport elite rider – and Saturday’s Colorado Cross Classic course director – Pete Webber was on hand with a number of locals to preview the course and lobbied for some of the climbing to be removed from the original design. One rider told DePaemelaere that he was going to get a reputation. Grealish responded that that’s the last thing he needs right now.
Up at the mall parking lot, more riders congregated before taking a hot lap in the park. Campbell hoped fans and riders alike would do the same Sunday before heading inside.
“When we have an opportunity to bring out 800 cyclists and their families and friends, we hope that that is a benefit to the retailers in the mall,” she said. “It’s a great relationship; it’s a win for everybody.”
Campbell will see her first `cross race Sunday on the property she manages and was cautiously optimistic that the event will come off as another is a series of successful community events the mall organizes. “Cyclocross seems to be a sport that is really growing and gaining popularity and we see a connection to the community in this event,” she said. “I guess we’ll all find out together how it turns out this weekend.”
Grealish tipped his event as a sign of things to come if cyclocross is to gain the eye of the American general public. Even when Sunday’s main event likely moves to the new Valmont Bike Park in 2011, Grealish hopes to continue a long-term relationship with the mall for a Saturday race. “Ultimately our goal next year is to work with Nordstrom and have a runway fashion show for fall and winter so that we can truly integrate this as a family fun event,” he said.
Come Sunday afternoon, costumed `cross fans will be able to ring a bell for national champion Tim Johnson, grab an Orange Julius and pick up a new sweater, all in the same place. Throw in deep elite fields, face painting and trick-or-treating and you have the makings for a big day for U.S. `cross racing.