One of the largest Cyclocross bike races in the world is happening in Iowa City this weekend, and perhaps the only thing better than being an athlete participating in the 12th annual Jingle Cross at the Iowa City fairgrounds, is watching those world-class athletes bike, run, and wrestle their way through the challenging (and muddy) course. To give you an inside perspective on just how much fun this event is to attend, and give you a little insight on how Jingle Cross originated in the home of the Hawkeyes, we interviewed John Meehan, Founder and Race Director of Jingle Cross and he was happy to give us the inside scoop on what makes event so special:
John Meehan is a pediatric surgeon that currently resides in Mercer Island, Washington and attended medical school at the University of Iowa. John went on to complete 9 years of training in General Surgery, Surgical Critical Care, and Pediatric Surgery before returning to his alma mater, the University of Iowa, and creating Jingle Cross.
Fin & Feather: What is the brief history of the Jingle Cross event in Iowa City?
John Meehan: I started the Jingle Cross in 2004 as a charity event for the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital. It was a one day small event with a bunch of my friends…60 riders. We were on Ashton field for the first two years and moved to the fairgrounds in 2006. As the race grew, we made it into a two day event, and Chris Horner showed up to one of the races (he won the Vuelta Espana a couple years ago…the Tour de France of Spain). Then we made it three days in 2009 and it has grown ever since. It is now the largest Cyclocross event in North America. I moved away to Seattle after 2007’s race but kept on as race director and continue to run it to this day. I have a great army of amazing volunteers who are just the most incredible people and best friends I could ever imagine. It would not be possible without them.
*Editor’s Note: “Cyclocross is a very specific type of bike racing. For the most part, the course is off-road but there are sometimes portions of pavement included in the course. You can expect to encounter grass, dirt, mud, gravel, sand, and a whole slew of other assortments and combinations.” – Cyclocross Magazine
F&F: What’s in it for the spectators of this event? (i.e. what are a few good reasons to come watch the event?)
JM: This is an amazing spectator bike race. At the Tour de France, a race will pass you only once in a 120 mile race, but this is circuit course that’s only two miles around. Plus it winds back and forth up and down and all around. You see the riders many times every lap and then see them again lap after lap every few minutes. It’s so exciting because it’s like a steeple chase with barriers and sand and steep hills and obstacles where the rider has to get off their bike, get over the obstacle and then get back on the bike. Plus there’s a wheel pit just like in NASCAR where a rider can get a new bike or fix a problem. It’s wild to watch!!! AND IT’S FREE. Pro races consist of the best of the best with Olympians and riders from all over the world tackling the course. Some of the previous year’s participants have ridden in races like the Tour de France. These guys are the best in the world….and did I mention it’s free to come?
F&F: Jingle Cross has many different course elements and races with varying names including Geoff’s Bike and Ski Flyover, Sugar Bottom Bikes Master Men 35+, and Fin & Feather Holly Jolly Hell-Hole; do you have any favorite races or course sections you’d like to highlight?
JM: They’re all good…and it’s a huge loud crowd cheering them on
F&F: Are there any non-riding events that riders and spectators should be aware of? i.e. after party/celebration?
JM: ABSOULTELY…The party starts as soon as the first rider goes off and builds and builds until the last events of each day. Pro races are from 6:30-9:00 p.m. on Friday and 1:30 to 4:00 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday…and we WILL NOT interfere with the watching of Iowa’s big 10 championship game. Come out Saturday and start your tailgating party with us! We have plenty of beer and food on site. No need to bring anything!
*Editor’s Note: This year’s food vendors include Jimmy Jack’s Rib Shack, Maggie’s Farm Pizza, Local Burrito, Dumpling Darling, The Crepe Guy, Get Fresh Smoothies, Hoard’s Bakery, Wake Up Iowa, and the Chocolate Manor. Not mention the beer stations throughout supplied by Kalona Beer Company!
Jingle Cross this year is kicking off Friday, December 4th and will feature night riding sponsored by Musco Sports Lighting. Come on down to the Iowa City Fairgrounds anytime this weekend to catch some of the action, eat some local food, and have perhaps the most fun you can have outside of watching the Hawkeyes clinch the Big 10 Championship. Fun and friendly for all ages, this year’s Jingle Cross won’t be something you want to miss, and for more information, be sure to check out www.jinglecross2.com before you attend the event.
You can check out a sample schedule of Sunday’s Jingle Cross Here: