Crossing bicycle boundaries

The seventh annual Gene Galindo Memorial Turkey Trot Cross took a holiday tradition a step further, hosting a leg of the Southern California Prestige Series of Cyclocross district championships.

"So many people don't even know what [cyclocross] is yet," said race director Dorothy Wong.

The number of competitors has doubled in four years for the race — with 300 competitors this year — that traced out a complicated pretzel shape across grass, paved road, sand, dirt, trees and speed bumps at Verdugo Park.

The course, measuring just under two miles, involved nearly four miles of tape and required race coordinators to begin clearing biking hazards, such as sticks along the course, on Friday.

"It always takes a bit of hard work," said Matt Gunnell, former race director who now manages the race. "But this is the sixth year we've had it on this holiday weekend, and it's become a tradition."

Brothers Tristan, 12, and Nathan Hickey, 9, represented the Pablove Foundation during the non-championship race for their age groups.

Nathan, who won the California State Championship for mountain biking in September, and his brother both asked their mother for Pablove jerseys to wear while biking.

"Becoming involved then opened up cyclocross to the boys," said Lisa Hickey, Tristan and Nathan's mother. "This race was sort of a coming out for the foundation in cyclocross."

Sunday's race was Tristan's third.

With growing attendance and interest each year, the event hosts one of the largest races for kids, Wong said.

"It doesn't quite feel like a race because it's very family-oriented," she said. "I think that has to do with Thanksgiving and families being together."

Entire families in racing gear and others armed with cowbells, whistles and loud voices crowded along the course to cheer on racers who leapt over obstacles and trudged through the playground sand.

"When we started doing cyclocross, we might have had 80 people at the first event," said Montrose Bike Shop owner Jonathan Livesay, who is responsible for selling Wong her first bike. "And now we have at least three times that amount — that's all Dorothy [Wong]."

When Wong, a state champion in cyclocross, isn't on her bike, she's advocating its use.

"The race promotes a really great entity called the bicycle," she said. "And it's just a great tool for so many things."

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