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A new bicycle racing event has gotten started in Sellwood, at Oaks Amusement Park....

DAVID F. ASHTON - Some carry their bikes, while others ride along the Willamette River beachfront, in the inaugural BCCX Cyclocross at Oaks Amusement Park. Normally quiet and peaceful this time of year, the southern grounds of historic Oaks Amusement Park in Sellwood was teeming with people – and bicycles – on Sunday, November 24, as the first-ever "Bridge City CX (BCCX)" got underway.

In this "Cyclocross" sporting event, riders power their bikes on a track featuring fast grass straights and turns, pavement, punchy run-ups, fast single track, and rough riverside sand.

"This is an off-road cycling discipline, on a close course that we've laid out, in which racers do as many laps as they can in the allotted amount of time," explained the event's creator and organizer, Erik Tonkin of Sellwood Cycle Repair.

"This sport dates back, in Europe, to as early as the 1940s, and after World War II. It has gained in popularity in the United States – in fact, it's long been well-liked here in the greater Portland area!

"But, today's BCCX is the very first one 'close in' to where people live, here in the city," Tonkin said. "We didn't know how well it would be attended, but as it turns out, we have more than 500 people here today!"

Starting that day fairly early in the morning, under a passing shower, the competition consisted of seven "start time-frames" for various classifications of riders, and well as four "course open" periods between races, when participants could warm up, or just have fun on the track.

Asked why it was being held in late November, Tonkin replied, "Cyclocross is ridden in all kinds of weather: Rain, sleet, snow, ice; and yes, even in sunshine, like we're getting this afternoon!"

There's no penalty for hopping off a bike when it's bogged down in mud or sand, then pushing – or even carrying – it, to reach better riding conditions on the course. A wooden board obstacle completely blocked the narrowed track at one point, forcing participants to hoist their bikes over it to continue.

Cyclocross is a "lifetime thing" for him, Tonkin told THE BEE. "And, because it's my passion, I wanted to have one right here, in my neighborhood."

Oaks Amusement Park provided good support. "Actually, they've been great to work with; they know how to host events," acknowledged Tonkin. "And, they've already been talking like 'When we do this next year', which is a good sign!"

It was a lot of work putting the Cyclocross together, Tonkin admitted. "But the best part for me today is seeing all the people out here, together, having fun."


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