Haynes first encountered Cyclocross, a breathtaking blend of road racing, mountain biking and stunt riding, in 1996 at a course in rural Kansas. Exhilarated by the competition but frustrated by long drives to suburban locations, Haynes devised unsanctioned events at Volker Park, Hyde Park and other spaces in Kansas City's urban core. There were no entrance fees, and the winners received no prizes, but riders enjoyed the outlaw aspect, which recalled the punk shows Haynes had hosted at unofficial venues a few years earlier.
In 1999, though, Haynes went legit, merging his talents with those of an established organizer. Two years later, he unveiled Boss Cross, a three-weekend series that kicks off the sport's short season. (Cyclocross runs roughly from September to December.) Haynes doesn't ride much anymore -- he says he's mounted his bike just ten times this year -- but the grandfather of the area's urban Cyclocross community still oversees Boss Cross, which took place in October at Alvey Park in Kansas City, Kansas.
Just a few miles from Alvey is Pierson County Park, site of this year's Kansas State Championship. On this Locke-concocted course, riders must grit their way through sandy playground pits, roll through rocky terrain near a riverbed, navigate steep grassy peaks and hurdle woodpiles, either by hopping over them without leaving their seats or by dismounting and leaping with their bikes in their hands. All this happens at speeds upward of 25 miles an hour, which leaves a margin for error of exactly zero.
Though he has broken 12 bones and suffered several concussions during his biking career, Locke isn't likely to fall at Pierson. He has not only a home-course advantage in his favor but also a winning streak, having recently earned top honors at the regional Haven's Park and Kansas City Cup events. Besides, most of his injuries occurred earlier in his career, when he was more reckless.
The Pierson course's relatively pleasant closing stretch owes more to official regulations than to Locke's maturation. Excitebike architects might have enjoyed setting up spectacularly difficult obstacles at the end of the course to ensure maximum damage. However, the Cycling Federation, which governs events such as the State Championship, has rules about this type of thing. Specifically, it dictates that the race must end on a paved surface without any booby traps that could lead to an ugly pileup. Locke's course ends with a gradual climb that will test sprint strategies; racers who start their mad dashes too early will likely tire before the finish line.
It might be slippery on Saturday, and hydroplaning bicycles can be a scary sight. But the race won't be canceled because of weather conditions, even if early December brings snow. Cyclocross is a foul-weather sport, known for its massive mud splatters and occasional accidents.
"That just adds a little excitement," Locke says.