Cyclo-cross races at Zilker Park finish amid controversy

Athletes compete at the Cyclo-cross championships at Zilker Park. (Steve Benson/ReportIt)
Athletes compete at the Cyclo-cross championships at Zilker Park. (Steve Benson/ReportIt)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The final races of the Cyclo-cross National Championships at Zilker Park wrapped up Monday, a day later than planned.

The city’s decision to postpone the final events drew criticism from both the cyclists and advocates for the park’s heritage trees. The city initially wanted to cancel the races, but Lance Armstrong intervened and convinced the city to have the races Monday.

Cyclo-cross is unique form of cycling that is a mix between mountain-biking and road racing, but the race course through Zilker Park drew concern from the city’s Heritage Tree Foundation. Members stepped in over the weekend saying the roots of the trees were being damaged. Crews reconfigured the track to avoid the roots and moved the races back a day to allow the park to dry out.

The delay had different effects on riders.

“I ate my pre-race food and I had everything prepared,” said Jonah Mead. “And to just come in and stop me, it really discombobulated my physically…I would say it messed me up a lot.”

It was a different story for Alijah Beatty. “I think it really helped me just because I feel like yesterday, I was a little bit more rushed when I woke up. I got a lot more rest this morning…I was just really ready for this today.”

The extra time paid off for Beatty. She got third place in the 15-16 girls division.

Even before the Heritage Tree Foundation spoke out, neighbors told KXAN they had concerns the park was being overused, hosting one big event after another. Some complained the races would damage the grass in the park and other features of the park. A city spokesperson said the organizers plan to restore the grounds after the event.

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