Ohio’s John Gatch may be one of the most qualified people to take command of the organization of a cyclocross race in all of North America. Gatch has decades of experience at the top levels of cycling, including stints as a mechanic on Lance Armstrong’s Team Motorola and as Technical Director for the Tour Dupont and other events with Medalist Sports. He also carries a double-barrel shotgun at his race and wears lederhosen.
He can be forgiven for carrying the shotgun (the lederhosen not so much); it’s the “Gun Club Cyclocross” after all, and the shotgun start, in lieu of a starting pistol, is one of the unique traditions of this increasingly popular event that is part of the Zipp OVCX Tour presented by Papa John’s and is held this year on November 7 at the Sycamore Gun Club in the Cincinnati, Ohio, suburb of Miamiville. Showing evidence of a demented mind that is the character trait of many great cyclocross or stage race organizers, Gatch has hired the 13 member drum line of the Cincinnati Traditions Drum and Bugle Corps. “They’ll play a long drum roll, executioner style, before we shoot the gun to start each race,” he says, before adding that they will also be marching to other areas of the venue to offer attitude enhancements throughout the day.
The Gun Club Cyclocross is an event that’s become as well known for its food as it is for its racing. That’s not a knock on the quality of the on-track action, which this year features chip timing so that officials don’t have to pull lapped riders. And it’s not a knock on the race organization: Gatch has three staff members on race day dedicated only to parking and has contingency plans for, well, everything. The knock is actually knockwurst, and the huge quantity of food that is prepared and sold for the benefit of a local church youth group in the hunting lodge that is the central gathering place for the race. “We have a full kitchen in the lodge,” says Gatch. “My wife actually prepares breakfast food in the morning, then transitions over to other kinds of food toward afternoon. We have some of the wurst food: Bratwurst, Metwurst prepared by our grill master Earl,“My Name is Earl”. I’m a vegetarian myself, so we have a variety of Vegan and Vegetarian foods, two kinds of chili, pasta salad and enough baked goods to keep a school PTO happy.”
Another way that Gatch is looking to improve his Gun Club Cyclocross this year is by taking a ‘last, but certainly not least’ approach to the amateur classes. “Look, the amateurs are the bread and butter of the sport, and we want to reward those classes for their efforts. So we’ve gone out and solicited a ton of merchandise for prizes. Nice prizes. If you place in one of the races with merchandise prizes, your prize will be worth at least as much as your entry fee.”
Gatch is emulating Cincinnati’s UCI3 Festival and moving the Category 4 racers to the end of the program. But he is going one step further by splitting the age group Cat 4’s and open Cat 4’s into two separate races and using chip timing so riders won’t be pulled if they get lapped. “Having the Cat 4’s at the end of the day was a lot of fun at the UCI3,” said Gatch, who was one of the race announcers at the Festival. “It made the day flow really well, and it was fun for the Cat 4’s to be the center of attention after the Elites, when everyone could relax a bit. It also makes sense from a logistical point of view because most of the Cat 4’s are typically local, where the Elite riders often come from long distances and could really use the extra time to get home after their race.”
Perhaps the surest indication of the quality of Gatch’s Gun Club Cyclocross is that, months before the race, volunteers call him to make sure they can be a part of the race again and to make sure they don’t schedule any other personal events on race day. “Earl, our grill master, people from our church, the kids in the youth group, they’re not cycling people,” says Gatch, “but they call me to make sure they can come out and cook all day for bike racers because they want to be a part of this race.”
Have an Explosive Name and Race Free at Gun Club ‘Cross. Is your name Gunnar, Boom or Cannon? For the second consecutive year, Gatch, half of the Two-John’s Podcast and promoter of the Gun Club Cyclocross, will give a free complimentary entry to his race to anybody with a name that can be connected to guns.
Anybody who thinks their name qualifies for a free entry should contact Gatch at firstname.lastname@example.org by midnight Thursday, November 4 for an official determination. Gatch has one word of warning, however, “If your name is ‘Smith’, don’t even think about getting a free entry unless you’re entering the Tandem race with somebody named ‘Wesson’.”
The Gun Club Cyclocross is round 10 of the 2010 Zipp OVCX Tour presented by Papa John’s and features chip timing and the biggest food concession in midwest cyclocross.