Remember when.... Cyclocross in the 80's

Thanks to one our readers for this story, which will be the beginning of an ongoing series of cycling back the day in Colorado.

Remember one of the first cyclocross series to ever be held in the Boulder area? Chris Grealish put it on in the late 80's. Was David Towle playing MC Hammer on the speakers?

Thanks to Kevin Jordan for this story!

Way back in the late eighties Chris Grealish introduced cyclocross to Boulder. He put on a five or six race series in a small field just south of Colorado Blvd and across from the now US West site. They were building some condos out there and had broken ground which meant small dirt piles and a couple of ditches and such, perfect for a small cross venue. I had no idea what a cyclocross race was but I heard it involved riding your mountain bike through some kind of obstacle course or something. My bike was a 1988 Specialized Rockhopper complete with a rack on the back, a rigid fork and toe straps. I didn't’t realize I would have to actually carry the bike or I may have taken the rack off. That might have gotten it down to 38 pounds or so.
When the gun went off the huge pack of seven or eight of us took off. I was in the lead when suddenly out of nowhere a barrier appeared. Chris had taken a 2x4 and somehow propped it up off the ground a bit. It was a far cry from the barriers that are commonly used today. As I got up to the barrier at top speed I realized I had no idea how to do a high speed dismount. I flung my leg over the top tube but couldn’t get my foot out of the toe strap. I hit the 2x4 so hard that it broke in half. Chris was standing right there and lets just say that the words coming out of his mouth would have made a long haul trucker blush. A couple guys ran into and over me but I managed to get up and peddle my biopace chain rings as fast as they could go and got back to the front of the pack. I remember some ditches with water in them we had to go down into and literally claw our way up the other side and some sidewalk sections to get up to speed on. On the second lap, Chris had somehow fixed the 2x4 together and had it back up. I was determined not to make the same mistake so I slowed down and was able to get out of my straps however when I jumped over the barrier my foot hit it and it broke again. Chris was standing there with a hammer in his hand and although I dare not look back, I’m sure he threw it at me.

I emailed Chris G. to get more information on the race series and here is what he has said...

The 10 acre parcel was an informal series of dirt berms and bumps that we connected up using the sidewalk on Colorado Ave near Foothills Parkway, lt was owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Denver and Peak Properties Real Estate Company. On a few occasions it snowed prior or during and created truly epic mud and snow conditions that some folks still remind me of. USCF official Shawn Farrel had to stand at the top of one of the run ups with a bucket of water and sponge to wipe the racers #'s off in order for the finish line officials to see who was who.For a full day of racing we would get 75-85 people racing. Now the land is covered by townhomes. We raced there for a couple of seasons starting 1989. In conjunction with Velo News we held the first ever VeloSwap on the site. You had to cross over the course several sketchy times to reach the swap meet and everyone's items for sale were displayed on the dirt. Prior to us introducing cross to the Boulder area, the flagship series of cross races up until that time were held exclusively at Chatfield Reservoir and conducted by Mark Schwab and the Hammer Racing Team.

Thanks Kevin and we look forward to hearing more stories like this from you all... you might win $50 in doing so!

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2 Comments

First Cyclocross?

I'll give props to Chris Grealish, have known him for years and he has done more than just about anyone to support cycling and clyclocross in Boulder, but his wasn't the first one. In 1982 Team Monger ran a cyclocross out near Potts Field, before even the US West (now Qwest) Research Center was built. That's just north of the field that Chris used. We had lots of stars - Knickman, Kiefel, Hampsten - out on the less than normal course that went over and back across Boulder Creek. We also had a women's race won by Pam Mathers. Still have news clippings and photos from Rocky Mtn News and Daily Camera. The best session was the fraternity challenge. They had 4 man teams (like the Little 500) racing for a $250 bar tab at Tulagis. They all wanted to win that event! Remember, that was before Mtn Bikes had even taken off so we had every imaginable kind of bike out there. Aisner was on hand to do some announcing and a great time was had by all.

Monger Cyclocross Update

Just noticed the David Towle comment...well, actually David would have been about 13 or 14 at the time, just about ready to start volunteering at the Coors Classic office and get a serious case of cycling jones. Just look at him now!

Oh, and Knickman won the Cat 1 event, he was about 18 at the time I believe. He was called Roy the Boy.