After four years of spreading the cyclocross stoke through DamCX, Michael Jaffray is still just hitting his stride, and keen on bringing his double-header event back to Woodstock for another year.
The venue has grown over that short time, adding the Thames River sandy banks, a giant stairs flyover and, new this year, a kids race course.
“I saw John Hauser made one at Silver Goose last year, and it just made sense,” Jaffray says of the latest addition. “Give the kids a little course they can rip around on, and a little prize after and the smiles on their faces are priceless.” This year tiny racers earned a Beanie Baby beaver for their efforts.
A massive wooden stairs flyover is still the most distinctive feature at DamCX, though. “This thing is huge.” At 16’ long across the top deck, another 16’ ramp to get back to the ground, and 12’ long stair treads, the flyovers initial construction three years ago took a full two weekends. “Now, it takes 6 guys minimum with 5 hours of time to assemble it” says Jaffray.“We’re fortunate to have great working partners at the Upper Thames River Conservation Authority, who let us store the pieces at their shop yard every year.” DamCX also gets support from United Lumber and Truss Home Hardware, who provide the materials needed to assemble the outsized course feature.
Of course one flyover isn’t enough to build a cross race, even if it is huge. DamCX also features several sand features several sections of sand, one over 125m long. “I wanted to make a race similar to Koksijde once I saw that the water receded in the Thames River and exposed a massive sand beach perfectly timed for our race.” Says Jaffray. “We have lots of challenging cyclocross courses in Ontario, but I didn’t want to make one that is similar to all the rest. Our race challenges your technical ability to flow through sandy ruts or, failing that, will test your running ability.”
This year, Nicole Bradbury (Ncch P/b Franklin Templeton Investments) and Trevor O’Donnell (Lakeside Storage / Bicycles Plus) were best able to tap into the flow on the banks of the Thames. Siobhan Kelly (Black Dog Racing) and Erica Leonard (Highgate Raing p/b/ D’Ornellas Bike Shop) followed Bradbury in the women’s race. On the men’s side, Peter Disera (Norco Factory Team XC) and Anton Varabei (Toronto Hustle) followed O’Donnell.
“We’re not the biggest in Ontario, but we’re happy with what we’ve done and are excited to keep going where we can,” Says Jaffray. “We have gone from 60 people racing in year one to over 300 racers between the two days.”
Jaffray joined forces with Mike Aston, his teammate on the TO Wheels Epic Sports Performance Aylmer Express race team, to host the first edition. After the first year at a horse training farm in Delaware, Ont., Dam CX moved to its current location in Pittock Park Conservation Area.
“At the time, I had recently fell in love with cyclocross, and I was looking to give back to the cycling community.” Says Jaffray of his start in the organizers chair. “I’d raced road for a few years before that, and had never volunteered or did anything to help grow the sport aside from signing up for races.”
One of the standouts from year four of hosting the race is seeing how smooth DamCX ran with a returning core of dedicated volunteers. “The same people help out every year,” say Jaffray “Spending their day in the cold October wind and rain with a smile on their faces.”
Many of those volunteers race, too. This year, one announcer hit the podium in the E1/2 race. “Guy throw everything they have in a morning race and then spend the rest of the day fixing stakes and tape,” Jaffray says, “I can’t say enough how thankful I am to have such a giving racing community in the London / Woodstock area.”