by Dave Queen
Jim Croce taught us in song that you don’t step on Superman’s cape and you don’t spit into the wind. Sunday reinforced why you don’t challenge Portland when it comes to cyclocross. The Single Speed Cyclocross World Championships (SSCXWC) was, thankfully, just like every cyclocross event in Portland, a ‘cross racers dream. If you take Belgian cyclocross and remove most of the cigarette smoke, you have Oregon cyclocross. Cowbells, screaming fans, frothy refreshment, even frites to be had for hungry fans. It takes very little to believe the actual translation of Hoogstraten is, in fact, Portland.
There has been some question as to who ‘owns’ the SSCXWC. Most Portland riders have other things to worry about. Others cities pretending to have their own championships have gained some exposure and rightfully deserve a condescending pat on the head. But ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, accept no substitute, this was the genuine article. This was a race that had to be reported in the first person. Reading a report of this event from someone who was just watching is like reviewing a restaurant by watching someone else eat there. As I type this I still have mud in my teeth and my washing machine is straining to get all the mud out.
The fraternal order of Single Speeders is a welcoming clan. Friendlier than someone with a burgeoning Amway franchise; single speeders just hate to say no. The pain and blasphemy of turning away their brothers and sisters last year drove the decision to skip the qualifier and open the doors wide to allow a large field to join in the festival that was the 2009 version of the SSCXWC.
Although there was the banner theme of Thunderdome, complete with the dome, the finality of Portland hosting this race made it a religious event. I counted two Popes, several friars, a nun, a handful of missionaries ready to hand out pamphlets, and the Raleigh team came as catholic schoolgirls in matching plaid skirts. Bagpipes, a drum corps, and fire batons were among the unique sights and sounds greeting riders and spectators alike.
The pre-race festivities took a few extra minutes and this caused those who chose riding outfits that were barely there to battle to endure the chill. Finally, the whistle blew and the party was underway. The mud was thick like warm cream cheese, stuck to everything and made turning a challenge. A hundred meter pond (if a puddle can be a hundred meters long, and up to your hubs – then call it a puddle) helped riders keep their cool.
Ryan Trebon was present and rode, making everyone feel good about riding with, or even in front of, the National Champion (albeit he does most of his racing with gears). The Kona tent was handing out hot strips of bacon right off the griddle. There was no shortage of aid stations handing out all manner of grain beverages.
For those keeping track, and frankly few were, Drew MacKenzie of Canada and Kari Studley of Seattle took home the coveted Golden Speedos (complete with world champion stripes).
There was little confusion about who was the first woman as those riding in drag were very, very easily identified as males. Just in case the race organizers had all real women wear a strip of course tape on their helmets to make sure, time will tell if the winners will honor the proud tradition and accept the winner’s tattoo, emblazed on them forever to commemorate their muddy victories.
I can’t believe that every rider from the Cross Crusade races held earlier in the day stuck around. The spots of mud on the faces of the SSCXWC spectators indicated hundreds did stay on to witness, no, to celebrate, the spectacle that was the SSCXWC. More than a few of the riders in the SSCXWC started the race with mud on them from earlier battles in the day. These proud warriors wore their spots like badges of honor.
It is always hard to decide when to leave a good party. Like many riders, I had to drive home (for me that means Seattle) to clean bikes, wash muddy clothes and prepare for work on Monday. No doubt, the party continued long after I left, and perhaps it continues still. The 2009 edition of the SSCXWC was an intimate experience shared by hundreds of racers and thousands of cyclocross lovers. Although only the winners get (free) tattoos, everyone there took something away that can’t be replicated.