Portland may be ready to pass off the SSCXWC (SingleSpeed Cyclocross World Championships, that is) after playing host for the past three years, but the city sure as hell gave the race a royal send-off. The day’s prelude was round seven of the Cross Crusade series, a full day of races from 9am to 4pm that typically attracts 1,300 to 1,500 racers. Although those numbers might represent the annual attendance in some cyclocross regions, today it was just the hors d’oeuvre.
On the line were both the coveted Golden Speedos with world champion rainbow stripes that go to the winners of the men’s and women’s fields as well as event ownership for 2010. 2008 champ and Canadian Drew MacKenzie, fresh off of his win at NISSCCOTU repeated to keep his title with a substantial margin over the chasers. 19 year-old Portlander Joshua Berry came in 2nd. Kari Studley (VeloBella / Ellsworth) took home the women’s crown and her hometown Seattle brought the heat to the cold, wet weekend to take over as event host. Frankly, it was the latter competition that seemed to be the priority for most. That and having a chance to let loose, parade around in costumes and on various rigs, and, generally, enjoy.
San Francisco and Seattle were locked in a three-event battle to pick up the reigns and bring the race back home. Two cities enter, one city leaves. There was some pseudo-logic about using the Pythagorean theorem to decide the winner but, basically, there was a beer-fueled debate on Saturday night, the main event race, and a gladiator face off in the Thunderdome to make the final determination.
After a couple of days of solid rain, it looked like clear skies and a whole bunch of racers laying tracks would dry the course out to a tacky, rideable consistency. Then came the afternoon downpour to make sure the off-camber sections became diagonal glissades and the several steep run-ups slow-going, laborious affairs.
250 racers toed the line to take their shots at the championship and the accompanying Golden Speedo. Women started at the same time as the men, but had a slightly longer prelude so that there was a gap between the two groups.
The start was anything but customary. Not only was there a Le Mans style run across a field to the bikes, racers then had to do a 180 – through more oncoming runners – to get back onto the course. Needless to say, it was mayhem from the gun.
US National champ Ryan Trebon won his warm-up race, the Cross Crusade singlespeed event, as well as the A race with his Kona teammate Barry Wicks just behind. Trebon then lined up for the SSCXWC race, and his post-race comment via Twitter reveals the event’s character: “Best part of the SSCXWC was putting my muddy glove and $5 down the stripper’s pants at the Webcyclery shortcut.” UCI sanctioned event this clearly was not. A cryptic message to racers before the event advised that they bring five one dollar bills. Those properly prepared could skip out on a segment of the course, hand their bike off to a volunteer, run through a full-sized bus past a, um, dancer, and resume the race. The shortcut in last year’s race, a tequila shot, had more potential performance drawbacks after a few laps.
There were scant moments between the end of the Crusade’s A race and the start of the SSXCWC. Trebon’s stars n’ stripes beside dudes wearing nothing but a banana hammock was a bit incongruous. Wicks threw tweed knickers and a white button down over his Kona kit and, before long, the previous race’s mud began seeping through. Wicks, clearly, was there to enjoy the ride. He carried a bottomless musette full of beers, which he dutifully passed out to the crowd as he rode (the increasingly common “beer hand-down”).
In homage to the final Mad Max movie that SSCXWC 2009 was themed after, the course featured an honest-to-goodness geodesic Thunderdome with fans both hanging from the rafters and dangling above competitors on makeshift swings. Event promoters were fully decked out in costumes straight out of Tina Turner’s realm.
The race offered both a visual feast – with drag-nuns, schoolgirls, ridiculous rigs including a tandem where the stoker faces backwards, and mud draped over all of it – as well as walls of sound from every direction. A rockin’ band belted out Black Sabbath covers on a stage by the Thunderdome, a bagpiper serenaded riders on an otherwise deserted run-up, and a drum line had things thumping for the prime spectator spot with hurdles and a run-up on one side and an off-camber, muddy, sweeping downhill left-hander on the other.
On Saturday night, Seattle’s Brian “Sally” Fornes, marketing coordinator for Raleigh USA, squared off against San Fransisco’s cycling apparel maker Sheila Moon to debate which city was best suited to host the next event. Although Moon is a Portland native and Fornes represents Portland’s rival Seattle, the two were quite a contrast. While Moon wore a poofy skirt, prefers champagne, rides a custom Steelman singlespeed, and touted her city’s greater likelihood for sunshine, Fornes sported a cycling cap with a Seattle sasquatch doing unsavory things to a Portland unicorn, quaffed a bunch of beer when asked about his favorite beverage, rides his company’s Raleigh Rainier, and spoke to this group’s longing for inclement weather. Combined with Fornes’ own energy and his enthusiastic entourage and Seattle looked to be gaining momentum early, but Raleigh’s close ties to the event through the limited-edition SSCXWC frames had some Bay Area racers skeptical of a level playing field.
But the next day, Seattle brought both the unstoppable force, in Kari Studley, and the immovable object(s) – the sheer numbers of exuberant and vocal singlespeeders determined to have their shot at hosting SSCXWC 2010. Studley’s win was the final factor that will bring the event to Seattle.
The gladiator mud wrestling event was the only slight hiccup in this transition as a young woman from San Francisco survived a hefty body slam to prevail in the best-of-five sumo-style match.
The two race winners will receive their tattoos before being eligible for their prizes – MacKenzie will receive a custom Pereira frame to go with his Vanilla Speedvagen from last year, Studley won a custom Spanner.
Racers left the event battle-weary, smiling, and dreaming of doing it all over again under new management in Seattle next year.
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