West Michigan’s growing sport: “They say it’s the most painful thirty minutes of their life”

Posted at 5:40 PM, Dec 14, 2014
and last updated 2014-12-15 05:12:31-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- Crossing international waters about 55 years ago, cyclocross is a downright dirty, muddy, and sometimes bloody sport. Spreading throughout the nation, the sport landed in Grand Rapids as the Midwest Regional Cyclocross Championships were held at John Ball Park.

Rebecca Wissman, race eirector for Tailwind Racing, explained cyclocross to be a marriage between road cycling and mountain biking. “It takes a bike, a helmet, and basically just the determination to get through the course,” she said.

It’s a sport taking off throughout the nation where bikers of all different backgrounds ride through difficult terrain. Hailing from Belgium, cyclocross could very well turn Grand Rapids into Endurance City.

"They say it's the most painful thirty minutes of their life, but also the most fun," said Wissman.

Originally created for road riders to stay fit during winter, bikers maneuver steep hills, climb over barricades, and bike as many laps as they can within a certain amount of time.

Races typically take place in autumn and winter, seasons Grand Rapids is noted for. But race day weather forecasts called for 50 degrees, adding the element of mud, which Wissman believes cyclocross racers love.

Tom Burke, an elite-amateur racer, took first place in his heat. His entourage proved the sport can get expensive, "definitely at the level that we're racing. I mean, we got two bikes and six sets of wheels, and a mechanic,” said Burke.

Tristan Greathouse, 16, says it’s all about having fun and enjoying the great outdoors. “So I just started doing this last year just for fun during the off season,” said Greathouse. "I’m a mountain biker normally."

Grand Rapids is home to many passions, earning names from Brew City to Spin City. And races like cyclocross just might make it an endurance paradise.