OGDEN -- Not a single club was in sight as hundreds of athletes from around the state converged on Mount Ogden Golf Course for the Utah State Cyclocross Championships.
Popularized in Europe, cyclocross combines mountain biking, street bicycle racing and cross country disciplines, incorporating obstacles and portions of the course where riders must quickly dismount and carry their bicycle.
Instead of judging by a rider's time, winners cross the line first after riding the course as many times as they can for a set increment of time.
Matt Ohran, Utah Cyclocross series owner and one of Saturday's event organizers, said he has seen the sport's popularity explode during the 16 years he has been involved.
"We've been doing this for a long time because of our love and passion for cycling," Ohran said. "There have been a lot of growing pains because of the increase in interest, but it's so worth it when you see how much joy it brings people."
Saturday's event capped an 11-race series and hosted 17 divisions of riders pumping, jumping and crashing down the rolling hills of the 18-hole course.
Ogden resident Dev Letendre was instrumental in bringing the race to the foothills above the city after other events had been held at sites like the Weber County Fairgrounds and Fort Buenaventura.
"They have several events in Ogden each year, and a couple years ago I was thinking 'man, this would be the best place ever to have a cyclocross race,'" Letendre said.
He worked with Ohran and city officials, and eventually met with golf course staff to talk about the actual course.
"The city was so enthusiastic about it," Letendre said. "And the golf course guys Todd Brenkman and Jeff McFarland were understandably hesitant at first with having bikes on the course, but they've been really great to work with."
Ohran and other course designers worked closely with Brenkman and McFarland to create a challenging, technical cyclocross course that created minimal impact on the hard-to-maintain features of the golf course.
McFarland and Brenkman felt that offering riders the opportunity to hold an event at their facility was something that fell in line with the recreation theme Ogden city is promoting.
"We're big on high adventure in this city, and where this is part of that activity, obviously our guys were on board," Brenkman, the head golf pro, said.
"We thought if the mayor and the city were interested in doing it, we should give it a shot and see what happens."
Brenkman explained that the golf course has always looked to maximize the potential of the terrain and said they're looking at more enhancements for the winter months, including groomed runs for cross country skiers.
A highlight of the day was a group of more than 50 youngsters of all ages -- on bikes that varied from cyclocross optimized to training wheels -- riding the course in their own race.
"I like it because it's a mix of road biking and mountain biking," 9-year-old kids race winner Cole VanOrman said. "The grass made it harder because it's pretty long, but it was fun."
Riders praised the course as one of the best of the series this year and say it's rare that a golf course will let them use their facilities for cyclocross.
A typical cyclocross race requires such criteria as barriers, grass, dirt and pavement terrain that adds variables for riders to navigate.
Ohran said Mount Ogden offered all the ingredients for a great course and he was happy with the results.
"Obviously we have plenty of grass and a lot of pavement because of the paths, and up top there's dirt as well, so we get all three elements, which makes this a really cool venue."
On the women's side, Kelsey Bingham riding with team Roosters took the top spot as the fastest female in the women's A race.
"Its fun racing in Ogden, and it was exciting to be able to race this course," she said.
Salt Lake City's and 15-year cyclocross veteran Bart Gillespie earned top honors in the men's A race and publicly thanked the city and golf course for hosting the event.
"The beauty of cyclocross is that every course presents a new challenge, and this course was awesome," he said. "There are very few cities in the country that have several different courses in a 5-mile radius, and it's so cool that Ogden does."
Cyclocross action continues Nov. 27 at Wheeler Park in Salt Lake City and will feature a special race to "Cross Out Cancer," with all donations benefitting the Lance Armstrong--Livestrong Foundation.