Cyclo de Mayo IX5/6/2015
When you’re a kid, hopping on your bike and riding with no destination in mind was commonplace. Sure, you probably got lost, but you also rode away with a story to tell your friends. This Saturday, the Cyclo de Mayo IX offers a bit of this nostalgia with a race that keeps riders entertained and on their toes.
“This is the ninth iteration of Cyclo de Mayo,” said Graham Johnston, event creator and host. “I thought it was a really clever name when I thought it up, and even when I kept thinking of other names to use, I kept coming back to it.”
Johnston comes up with a clever theme for the race each year. Themes have ranged from bridges to murals to parks with slides, but they all have one thing in common: a goal to show off parts of Des Moines that are sometimes forgotten or otherwise unknown.
“Last year there was a group of women who arrived to checkpoint one, and they said to a volunteer, ‘I know it’s a race, but would you mind taking a photo of us by this mural?’ And that’s exactly what I want people to do — get a little tour of the city people may not be as familiar with,” Johnston said.
For those who have never participated in the Cyclo de Mayo or are worried about the competition factor, don’t be. At each checkpoint, riders receive a playing card, so even if you’re not the fastest, you can always win for having the best poker hand.
This year’s theme is “Buildings-With-Architectural-Significance-With-A-Strong-Emphasis-On-1946-To-1948.” It’s a bit of a mouthful, admits Johnston. He’s also toying with, “Architectural Odyssey, with a strong emphasis on 1946–1948.”
“Of the seven checkpoints, five were built during that time. It’s a pretty cool course, and I’m pretty excited about it,” he said.
And this is how the entire race plays out. Riders don’t know where they’ll be heading next until they’ve reached the checkpoint. What makes this event a little more unique is there is no set route — so if you know a shortcut, go for it! Just remember to play it safe.
“I typically will produce cue cards of a map of the next leg of the race. Well, not so much a map, but at least where you are and where you’re going,” said Johnston. “Part of the challenge of the event is figuring out how to get where you want to go. You go however you want. Some people are more adventurous than others.”
This really is anyone’s race. You might not be the fastest, but you might know the best routes. Or you might go all outlaw-country and create a route of your own.
“Year five I did a theme of bridges around town. Well, part of the Trestle Bridge on the Neil Smith Trail was out so the riders had to find another way — unless you’re the guy who decided to shoulder his bike and run the levy,” recalls Johnston. “The levy-running, bike-carrying racer was a legendary participant.” CV
Cyclo de Mayo IX
Saints Bar & Grill (pre- and post-race party location)
Saturday, May 9; Registration at 11 a.m. Cost $25
Register in advance at www.bikeiowa.com/Event/8430
David Rowley is an Iowa native with a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Iowa and a master’s in film journalism from the University of Glasgow in Scotland.