On Saturday, more than 100 adults and children travelled to the north Anniston park to compete in Anniston Cyclocross Under the Lights, an intense, two-mile-long natural-terrain course, from 3:30-7: 30 p.m.
The course tested riders’ strength, resolve, and just how much heckling from the announcer they could handle.
Cyclocross, Wigley said, is equivalent to steeplechase on bicycles. Competitors are judged by how many laps they can make in a certain amount of time around a course filled with challenging obstacles such as mud and sand.
The owner of Wig’s Wheels in Anniston began setting up the course Tuesday with the help of his partner, Curtis Cupp. The two are cyclocross veterans, so they take pride in knowing what their riders like.
This year’s course featured six different pockets of obstacles including steep hills, tall grass and a sand pit. Certain areas forced riders to negotiate turns or dismount their bikes to make it through.
Wigley said Saturday’s cyclocross event could very well be the last one held at Woodland Park, as the Anniston City Council voted to close it in October. The softball complex will be moved over to McClellan, a move that will save the city more than $200,000.
Wigley said Woodland Park is an ideal area for cyclocross because of its bowl-shaped terrain, which is difficult for cyclists to navigate. Wigley added that because it is so ideal, he doesn’t know whether he would want to hold an event anywhere else.
“The thing that keeps the racers coming back is the difficulty of the course. I personally don’t want to put on a race that’s going to be inferior to this venue. I would rather just retire, if you will, on top,” Wigley said.
Gadsden resident Jeff Barber, 54, who won the Men's Category 5 race, trains three to four days a week. Barber started racing four years ago, around the same time the first Anniston race was held.
Barber said he comes to Woodland Park to race because the courses tend to be technically difficult and include lots of climbing — his favorite part of cyclocross aside from the people.
Barber said he is upset to hear the race might take place somewhere else next year because he thinks the current track is perfect.
"The lay of the land is great. You've got so many good obstacles you can go with," he said.
Jan Jenkins-Ardovino, 41, from Birmingham, hopes that because Anniston has become such a cycling community, that the races will continue no matter the location.
Jenkins-Ardovino's teammate, Holly Carmichael, 29, agreed.
"This is my second time to come so I'd be really disappointed," she said.
Wigley said regardless of the council's decision, he hopes the potential renters or buyers of the park will continue to let people race there.
“I just can’t see them — being the city — letting it go to waste,” he said. “I think somebody will take over the fields, and shouldn’t be hard to persuade them to let us come out.”
Staff Writer Madasyn Czebiniak: 256-235-3562. On Twitter: @Mczebiniak_star