Rarely has a song been more appropriate.
How do I even begin to do justice in my description of the anarchy that is Single Speed Cyclocross World Championships? After missing out on the opportunity to witness the 2015 iteration in Victoria, I knew I had to make the pilgrimage down to see this year's quote-unquote race at Kruger Farms in Portland.
Qualifiers were held on Saturday morning, but seemed to lack the feats of strength competition. I had no idea what was going on. Potato sack racing was apparently involved, but I got too distracted by the dual slalom course and the dude paddling around in a canoe in the flooded section of the field. I was able to catch a few people sending it off the jumps at the end of the slalom, but had arrived a little late to the party so things had mostly wound down.
As my friends and I were leaving the course, we spied a familiar face walking by with one of the riders from the American Trek Factory Racing team. Having been without data since crossing the border and really shitty/spotty wifi at our AirBNB when we finally arrived at close to midnight, I hadn't seen any of the social media coverage of Friday night's package pickup/party at this point. Could it be who we thought it was?
"Sven?" I questioned as he walked past. He looked up in acknowledgement and continued on, debriefing the Trek rider. Yep, definitely Sven. I asked a buddy who had come down from Vancouver to race if he knew what was going on and was told Sven had ridden qualifiers earlier. Interesting...
Fast forward to Sunday morning and after a decent rain overnight, the course had been moistened to a state that everybody knew would only get worse after the three PDX Trophy Cup races for those who'd brought geared bikes and the loser's race for everybody who'd failed to qualify for the championships, just in time for the main events.
I'll say it again: this race was total sensory overload for me as a first time spectator; I can't imagine what it would be like to be in the race itself. Let's see if I can rattle off all the ridiculousness:
- Le Mans start (with a twist!)
- Mud ranging in consistency from chocolate pudding to peanut butter, mixed with grass, leading to chain retention issues even for some of the proper SS setups.
- The aforementioned dual slalom course
- Optional take-off ramp into the pond
- More mud.
- Exercise-ball-pit of doom
- Smoke grenades/machines
- Snow machine
- Smashed pumpkins
- Ginormous water balloon slingshots fashioned from Yakima car racks
- A drum line
- Stripper bus shortcut with both male and female strippers.
- Heavy metal Hodala corner
- Copious amounts of free-flowing booze of every kind
There was so much going on and I feel like I spent all of my time running around trying to decide whether to sit back and soak in the atmosphere or try to capture it. Looking back now, it feels like I failed to do either to my full potential. Honestly, even if I had a dozen cameras on remote and maybe a drone, I'm still not sure I'd be able to do this event justice. If you're after a more comprehensive report, Anne-Marie Rook and Adam Kachman have done the best job I've seen so far of hitting all of the event's important parts on Ella.
Some random thoughts:
- The Le Mans start was cool, but the organizers threw a wrench in everybody's plans by randomly hiding and relocating competitors' bikes. I get that this isn't a traditional race and that hijinx are to be expected, but felt that the random nature of this took a bit away from the competition. Maybe I just don't get the spirit of it and I'm guessing that there are only a handful of racers in each category who are for-serious racing for the win, but it would suck to have your race blown right after the gun goes off because it takes you a few precious moments to locate your trusty steed while your competition rolls away.
- Somebody actually tried cheating in the men's championship race by hiding in the corn field while the rest of the group went back to the staging area to wait for the official start, but this story has a happy ending: two bad-ass ladies laid him the fuck out by tackling him mid-run while he was looking for his bike. Karma is a bitch.
- The ball pit did not unfold the way I thought it would. I thought that racers would have to drop in and then simply wade through a muddy pit, but neglected to take into account what a few hours of day-drinking would do to the crowd. Remember the rubber dodge balls of olde (as opposed to the foam ones schools are now forced to use)? Now scale those balls up a few hundred percent and put them in the hands and/or feet of a bunch of drunken hooligans. It started off harmlessly enough early in the day, but became much more violent as peoples' BAC went up. See photo of Adam Craig tackling a spectator who got too enthusiastic in his kick ball game and took things a little too far.
- I am sad that it's all the way in Verona, Italy next year :-(
Anyway, without further ado, here's the gallery. Photos will open in a lightbox if you click on them.