It seems that cyclists can’t get enough of the terrain in northeastern Pasco County.
San Antonio has long been a popular destination for cyclists looking to train on hills. Now, Stanley Park in Dade City gets its chance.
The park, 38724 Mudcat Grant Blvd., will host the Wicked Hardah CX, or cyclocross, Saturday and Sunday starting at 10 a.m.
Organizer Josh Thornton, a two-time professional cyclocross state champion and instructor, expects more than 200 cyclists to try the course.
So what is cyclocross?
Cyclocross is a form of bike racing that uses just about any terrain — from dirt to grass to hills — to form a course. Participants traverse a roughly 2-mile route, but the tricky part is riders must sometimes dismount their bike, carrying it or running beside it to get past obstructions, then hop back on, continuing the race.
The sport has its roots in early 1900s Europe.
This weekend event is new and was created to replace a race that was to be held in Clermont, Thornton said.
Florida Cyclocross holds a series of races from September until January. Race locations include Tampa, Dunedin, Gainesville, Melbourne, Ocala, Tallahassee and Winter Garden.
From what Thornton has observed, central Florida appears to be a growing location for the sport.
“It seems like the central Florida location is really where, I guess you can say, it’s kind of blowing up more,” Thornton said. “You have Gainesville to the north and Tampa to the south. This whole central area seems to be where the most amount of promoters that want to do these types of races are putting them on.”
Little Everglades, another Dade City venue, will host the 2014 Florida State Cyclocross Championship Jan. 18-19.
There are several different race categories for the Wicked Hardah event, including: 35 years old-plus, 45-plus, 55-plus; Pro 1, 2 or 3; open, and kids, to name a few.
Thornton, a Providence, R.I., native — hence the pronunciation of hard in the title Wicked Hardah — and resident of Dade City for the past 15 years, is actually a favorite in the older division race. He said the biggest growing segment in cyclocross is the women’s divisions.
“Those categories are growing very quickly,” he said. “There’s quite a bit of competition in those categories.”
Racers must have a USA Cycling license, which can be obtained at the venue or online.
“We’re right at that cusp right now where people like myself and a lot of the other promoters are starting to really up the bar because they see the growth and they’re starting to understand the demand for it as well,” Thornton said. “So it’s nice to see that. It’s kind of coming together. ... It’s getting a little more serious now and the courses are getting better along with that.”