Several riders including the author took dives into the river. Photo courtesy Laura Valaer

Several riders, including the author, took dives into the river. Photo courtesy Laura Valaer

by Brian Graves

I’m typing away with a sore neck and limited range of motion in the left shoulder. All complements of last weekend’s race: the soon to be world-famous Bandido National CX Race…our own little Natz race for those of us who couldn’t make the trip to the big event.

Colorado sent a large contingent to CX Nats out in Bend, Oregon to represent and they truly got the job done. But Saturday was also Bandido Cyclocross Natz here in CO where blood would be shed for the honor of donning the coveted Bandidio CX jersey.

The Bandido course is a 1.3 mile loop that starts at this author’s back door. It has a great mix of sand, single-track, sidewalk, and gravel path. Mixed in each lap are (at least as it changed mid race) four obstacles: two traditional dismounts, the Ditch of Death and the North Rio Grande (NRG) river crossing. The course was modified slightly for Natz. Added was a “dry foot” option where one could avoid the river crossing. The dry-foot added another half mile to the course and the price of admission was to drink a shot of El Compadre Tequila. The river level was down compared to the last race. However, erosion from earlier snow-melt made the drop-in much more complicated (read steep with a big hole just before the water) and you still had to dismount in the stream and run up the 2 foot step to get out.

The weather was good…..sunny skies and temps nearing 40. The group vote was for this to be an eight lap event with a “1-2-3-Go!” start. The early laps saw nearly everyone forgo the dry-foot and hit the river. On lap three, Garret from HART, Rich and I dropped into the river. On the mid-river dismount, Garret pulls the hipster leg over the handlebars dismount. On lap four, Garret and I are away and I tell him that I am going to stop for some El Compadre and take the long loop so that I can see some new real estate. But when we get to the river option the call goes out that El Compadre is now on both sides of the river and available no matter what option you take. I am immediately paralyzed with indecision!

Garret on the podium. photo: courtesy

Garret on the podium. photo: courtesy

At the very last second I decide to go wet foot and proceed to drop in with my weight way too far forward…over the bars I went! 34 degree water hits my my entire body and it shrivels. I crawl out of the NRG in search of tequila. A shot of El Compadre relaxes a few muscles and I am off. On lap six, two new obstacles are added to the course in the form of logs across the single-track. On the drop-in to the NRG, I drop the front wheel right in a hole and enter the river crossing back first. More tequila follows the extraction of my water-logged carcass from the river. By race finish, the only thing warm on me was my stomach lining.

Congrats to Garret on the win. For his efforts, he bagged a used Smooth Away leg hair remover system (I wonder which moron donated that?), a used set of Cross-tops and several pints of Belgian beer. We soon found out that part of his secret to speed was that he does not let alcohol cross his lips. This made him much faster on the river crossing as the calls that El Compadre made to him landed on muted ears. It also meant that some of his winnings were of limited use. So he became our best friend ever when he donated the Belgians back to his adoring hordes.

We may not have won stars and bars jerseys but the racing was just as serious as that in Bend, and for a few of us, a lot colder. Next year, you have a tough decision. Bend or Bandido?

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