The grounds around QBP’s main office and distribution center here in Minnesota are beautiful, with natural prairie, tons of trees, a big pond, and the 2,565–acre Hyland Lake Park Reserve right in our back yard. But it was missing something: a fall cyclocross race! Luckily for us, inside Lazer reps and ’crossers Matt Leizinger and Will Greenwood stepped in with a plan.
It’s after work on a crisp October evening, and the trees around Q-Central are wrapped in tape while cowbells ring through the air. Veteran cyclocrossers and first-time racers log off their computers, put down their packing tape, and head outside to throw a leg over a bike. Others grab a beer and prepare to cheer for (or heckle) their coworkers.
“I'm the volunteer coordinator for MNCX, an organization that supports the cyclocross scene here in Minnesota. I enjoy helping to grow the sport I love.” says race organizer Matt Leizinger, who doesn’t hide how he feels about ’cross—the racing, the bikes, and the culture. “After taking inspiration from the folks around me that promote sanctioned races, back yard training clinics, and the controversial bandit-style ’cross events, I knew it was my time to give a little back and put on a race for my fellow QBPers.”
Leizinger isn’t the first person to organize a ’cross race here at QBP. “I am told there was a cyclocross race when we had a bit more land to play with, back in 2005, and it’s rumored that an-all company paintball game once took place,” he says. “QBP employees talk about the chance to race each other all the time, so we just needed someone to set an event into motion.”
Leizinger presented the idea in 2012, and it took off from there. He set a date for the first main event, and even held a clinic to get first-time participants ready for success. After that, he took a couple of walks around the building to envision a course, and then put in a call for volunteers. Leizinger got help right away from Will Greenwood and Rachel Thoe from Human Resources, and Bob Heller from Facilities.
Leizinger and Greenwood got out their landscaping clothes and went to work. Greenwood says the mapped-out course took about 14 total hours to prepare. “Last year the brush mower was broken, the weed whackers were straining, and we had to do everything with a riding mower—which had a leaky tire—and a push lawn mower.”
Despite the sometimes-uncooperative machinery, Leizinger and Greenwood came up with a small course that had all the flavor of bigger weekend races. Leizinger made sure to include tents, a wheel pit, cured meat hand-ups, “and an atmosphere that gets spectators pumped to show some enthusiasm for all the racers.” After all, he had every intention of racing too.
“The excitement building up to that first race night was good, but like anything you put yourself into and offer people, there is always hesitation in the back of your head,” Leizinger says. “Mostly I just wanted people to show up!”
The first race in 2012 had 18 racers split between two groups; 2013 saw 28 racers. “The fan energy was amazing,” says Greenwood. Support from coworkers and family members who came out might be what helped Greenwood win in 2012. “There were about four fast riders who all flatted,” he says. “That night Matt was the fastest man, but he flatted too. There is Go Pro footage of his heart breaking as I pass him!”
“I got a flat,” Leizinger affirms, “and to be funny, someone gave me a replacement bike with two flat tires. I was super-far ahead at this point, but you just cannot run that long or fast and expect to stay in front when someone is riding behind you. It was a great time, though. 2013 was a different story and I came with thunder to take the win in the advanced category.”
Looking back on these races, Leizinger says, “The experience of seeing people try something new was great. I learned that people want to be challenged and are totally up for trying something hard and uncertain. We had a lot of people who had never raced cyclocross come try it and we had even more people come watch that had never seen a race.”
Greenwood feels the same way. “The overall experience was great! There were tons of people who gave us positive feedback and want to help out next year.” Leizinger is thinking bigger could be even better. “We hope to keep growing the numbers and allow more people to experience cyclocross. The race is only open to QBP employees now, but it would be great to someday have a larger event. There has been talk about making a mini-series, inviting local shops to come join us, and maybe even making this into a bigger weekend event. The possibilities are endless. I guess we will see where it goes from here! I cannot express how happy it makes me to work for a company that allows me to share my passion with others. I just want to say thank you to all the folks that have helped me put the cyclocross race on and all the racers and spectators that participate every year.”