Cyclo-Cross World Cup Attracts Top Cyclists and Spectators From Around the Globe to NWA | New

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The sound of cowbells filled the air at Centennial Park this weekend as cycling enthusiasts gathered to cheer on marquee riders and watch them tackle tough obstacles during the World Cup UCI OZCX cyclo-cross.

Spectators watched eagerly as the riders leaned into tight turns, maneuvered up and down steep hills and even swung their bikes over their shoulders as they walked up a flight of stairs. Crowds lined the finish line as riders sprinted to beat the clock, their bike wheels often inches apart, as an audience from more than 75 countries watched from afar.

The OZCX UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup included professional and amateur races, the latter being a new addition to the three-day festival. This allowed young riders to share the same start and finish line as world-class riders, said Fayetteville cycle touring director Brannon Pack.

The UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup concluded the festival on Sunday. It was one of 14 events held around the world this year, and only two were in the United States, Pack said. Athletes from more than 25 countries participated in the races.

Belgian cyclist Eli Iserbyt won the men’s elite division, followed by Laurens Sweeck and Michael Vanthourenhout. American cyclist Eric Brunner came fourth.

In the women’s elite category, the Dutch cyclist Fem Van Empel came first, followed by Lucinda Brand and Annemarie Worst. Van Empel returns to Europe with two World Cup victories to his name this season, with his victory in Waterloo, Wisconsin on October 9.

“I didn’t expect this before coming to the United States, and it’s very nice to come to the United States and come away with two wins,” Van Empel said at a press conference on Sunday.

The cyclo-cross courses are action-packed short courses specially designed for enthusiasts. Centennial Park spectators could use tunnels or stairs creating a bridge to move easily to different parts of the course.

Centennial Park was built with cycling in mind and features both an Olympic-style mountain bike racing course and a cyclo-cross racing course. The venue is one of a kind in the country, Pack said.

This weekend’s festival included free admission, shuttles from Baum-Walker Stadium, and plenty of food and merchandise vendors. Instead of selling tickets, organizers asked attendees to consider donating to Arkansas Children’s Northwest.

Spooky decorations placed throughout the park gave the family event a Halloween theme. In one tunnel, a Pennywise plushie sat on a bicycle and spooky skeletons hung from the windows of a vehicle parked near the course. Kids could also grab a bag of candy and visit the exhibit to start their Halloween candy harvest early.

Jason Brummels, 44, of Lincoln, Nebraska, sat on a rock near the stairs, cheering on the riders as they slung their bikes over their shoulders and tackled the obstacle. As someone who has been involved in the sport for 18 years, he knows how tough racing can be. The Fayetteville course stairs were “overwhelming and fun to watch,” Brummels said.

Brummels also appreciated that the event had a charitable purpose, he said.

“It’s great to have a goal that’s a bit more than the fastest moving one on any given day,” Brummels said. “Racing is great, but I think having a higher goal is a phenomenal thing.”

Representatives from entities such as Walmart, the UofA and OZ Trails were present at the event, demonstrating their involvement in the cycling community.

“This opportunity to take an event like this, to showcase it to the world, is truly an opportunity to showcase the investment that has been made in cycling here in Fayetteville and in Northwest Arkansas” , Pack said.

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