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Racing through the mud and muck

  • Eric Brockway jumps a puddle Saturday during the Santa Rosa Cup Cyclo-Cross at a Place to Play in Santa Rosa. (KENT PORTER/PD)

Peanut butter. Tacky. Cake-powdered glue.

Those were the words bikers used to describe the muddy conditions at the Santa Rosa Cup CX, where cyclo-cross bikers raced through a course of mud, grass, sand and obstacles to designed to test their mettle.

“There's a whole lexicon for biking in dirt,” said Laura Schniedwind, 30, a lawyer from San Francisco. “Beer, bikes, mud, good combo. It's like you're a little kid, you're going out there and getting dirty, and your mom's not yelling at you.”

The race, now in its fifth year, was held at A Place to Play, a park in West Santa Rosa with an appropriately gritty history, considering that it was built on former wastewater storage ponds.

The sport began as a way for racers to stay fit in the winter, when the roads are muddy and wet, said Greg Fisher, 37, marketing director for Bike Monkey, which co-organized the event.

“There's dismounts, there's mud, there's sand in places,” Fisher said. “The idea is to challenge the body in a way that you don't normally see.”

The coveted muddy conditions changed quickly throughout the day. The course's sandy patches were wet enough in the morning that cyclers had to carry their bikes through the muddiest stretches, sloshing and panting, some drooling as they raced, testing and pushing their limits.

“Ignore the pain. Ignore common sense. Persevere,” said David Gill, 43, an architect from Berkeley who spent his birthday at the race.

“You have to really think about what you're doing, and you have to keep your momentum going to keep the mud flying off,” said Thom Fox, 59, an executive chef from San Francisco. “And don't be afraid to let the bike move around.”

With mud speckles on his eyeglasses, Fox finished first in his category.

Early morning races started at 8:30 a.m., before the ground had a chance to dry out from yesterday's rains. Organizers expected 250 to 300 riders throughout the day.

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