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fifth street history

The promoters Beth and Bill

It's not like we engineered the Franco-Prussian War or anything, but back in 2005 Bill and his friend Ray walked out a quick course on 4.5 acres up on private land on Fifth Street in Emmaus, Pennsylvania. The idea was...nobody knows. Have some fun. We invited some friends, and they invited some friends. Fields grew from five to twenty to fifty or so, and in the final year on private land we were also getting fifty or sixty spectators a night, which meant more than a hundred people were hanging out at Bill’s house every Thursday night from October through December.

Fun, yeah. But unsustainable.

We also had something called the PBR Shortcut back then. Pretty simple: Chug a PBR and you could take a route that cut the course by about thirty seconds. That was fun, too, but that became unsustainable, as well. (The PBR thing, by the way, was not some hipster, boho-fashion, ain't-we-ironic take on Americana. We like Pabst Blue Ribbon. It's a great American beer.)

Somewhere in there we started giving prizes to the winners — though who wins is an admittedly subjective and notoriously unpredictable conceit — and a special Fifth Street Cross jersey to the rider who turned out to be in fifth place according to our horrendously quirky scoring system.

And, for about two years, we were the coolest cross race anyone had ever been to. It wasn’t us saying it: It was the Olympians, the pros, the national and world champs, the genuine badasses, the mentally deranged, and even some regular people.

We’re not that cool anymore, since we went legit and got insurance and set up on public land and can’t beer the shortcut and all that. But a bunch of people rediscovered their love of cycling through Fifth Street Cross. A few have gotten back into competitive racing. Some not small number have fallen in love with bikes right in our dumb race. It sounds goofy — corny, even — but Fifth Street Cross has helped create, shape and strengthen our local cycling culture, and that's a really important thing, even if it's a small thing.

Paul Taus was the first Fifth Street Cross champion. Lath Carlson was the second, Brad Ford the third and Mike Yozell the fourth. Beth Strickland was the first women’s champion and, as near as we can tell, Selene Yeager has won it the last three years.

They're all pretty damn good, and we're proud that they kicked our asses.


About Cyclocross
There are many stories about the origins of cyclo-cross. One is that European road racers in the early 1900s would race each other to the next town over from them and that they were allowed to cut through farmer's fields, over fences or take any other shortcuts in order to make it to the next town first.

This was a way for them to stay in shape during the winter months and put a twist on road racing. In addition, riding off road in more difficult conditions than smooth pavement increased the intensity at which the cyclists were riding and improved their on the road bike handling abilities.

Daniel Gousseau of France is credited as having inspired the first cyclo-cross races and organizing the first French National Championship in 1902. Géo Lefèvre, the originator of the idea for the Tour de France, also played a key role in the early days of the sport. -from Wikipedia