Pumpkin cross brings record numbers

Pippi Longstocking with braids to the breeze, Gene Simmons’ demon biker, barbarians, brides, and Burt’s sidekick Ernie were all part...

Sandra ‘Pippi Longstocking’ Walter of Coquitlam flies into a corner pursued by a racer dressed as Ernie from Sesame Street during Sunday’s Pumpkin Cross event. Walter won the elite women’s class. Costumes and socializing were the order of the day

Sandra ‘Pippi Longstocking’ Walter of Coquitlam flies into a corner pursued by a racer dressed as Ernie from Sesame Street during Sunday’s Pumpkin Cross event. Walter won the elite women’s class. Costumes and socializing were the order of the day

Staff reporter

Pippi Longstocking with braids to the breeze, Gene Simmons’ demon biker, barbarians, brides, and Burt’s sidekick Ernie were all part of a the fast-growing Pumpkin Cross bike race held in Maple Ridge over the weekend.

The event swelled from 150 riders to a record 260 in its seventh year, and the costumed competitors took to the course around North Alouette Greenway Park on a sunny Sunday.

“I believe in building more than a race, I want to make an event,” said organizer Barry Lyster, of the Local Ride Bike Shop.

He said in Europe, cyclo-cross events are known for their social nature, and he has tried to emulate that with his Halloween-themed race. It has worked, and his event is now the biggest in the cyclo cross series.

Pumpkin Cross was the sixth round of the Vancouver SuperPrestige CX series presented by Shimano.

Coquitlam’s Sandra ‘Pippi Longstocking’ Walter of the Liv/giant Canada team took her first elite women’s Pumpkin Cross victory, leading from start to finish.

“I’ve raced every edition of Pumpkin Cross and this is the biggest I’ve seen it,” she said. “It felt like a big party out there, with all of the costumes, music, and spectators.”

Walter is fresh off winning the Canada Cup Mountain Bike Series, and is one of the top women in Canada. Kelly Jones (Steed Cycles) of North Vancouver secured second spot, with Maple Ridge’s Maggie Coles-Lyster (Local Ride Racing), just 14, powering into third place while wearing her Mother Nature costume.

The elite men’s race was an exciting and confusing battle for cyclo-cross fans, as the top two contenders, Kevin Calhoun (Rocky Mountain Bicycles) of North Vancouver and Kevin Noiles (Rock Lobster Factory Team) of Vancouver, dressed as one another. Noiles even carried a small stuffed dog in the back pocket of his Rocky Mountain cycling jersey, to represent Calhoun’s beloved Jack Russell terrier Tucker.

The two Kevins have been neck-and-neck all season, with Calhoun eking out narrow wins. On Sunday, Calhoun did it again over Noiles, despite the swapped identities.

Third place went to speedster Chris McNiel (Soul Sportif) of Kamloops.

Although they didn’t race, Maple Ridge’s Dave and Cheryl Hardie were among voters’ top picks for the coveted best costume prize. The duo cruised around the race expo on their tandem bicycle, dressed in dapper 1920s garb as period-appropriate music sounded from a wicker basket on the back.

However, it was the creative team costume of “Bacon Hand Up” that won the voters’ hearts. Four riders, two dressed as strips of bacon, one wearing a giant foam hand, and the other dressed as a man-sized blue upward facing arrow, completed the costume. In the cyclo-cross world, a “hand-up” is a mode of introducing audience participation to the zany niche cycling discipline. A hand-up is when a spectator offers something to a racer during the competition, from bacon to brandy.

Ten-year-old Kaelen Coles-Lyster took home the best kid’s costume award as an “old man.”