by Lee Slone and Andrew Yee
After two years of planning and ten years of dreaming, the inaugural Clif Bar CykelScramble relay race and festival brought a new kind of event to NorCal this past Saturday. Two hundred forty cyclists of varying ability and diverse outfits converged on the Marin County Fairgrounds in in San Rafael, California to compete in what was billed by ClifBar as “The Totally Awesome Bike Relay Race.”
Cyclocross pros, including Katerina Nash, Georgia Gould and Todd Wells made the trip to compete, and Cyclocross Magazine even toed the line next to some of these pro racers, albeit the “next to” part was quite brief.
What’s the CykelScramble? “I don’t know how to subscribe it. You’ll just have to come here and check it out,” said Katerina Nash.
Clif Bar company founder Gary Erickson was on hand to kick off the festivities, turning what was just an idea into a reality.
How did it come about? Erickson, told Cyclocross Magazine, “Ten years ago, I was looking to do something like the Little Indy , part of [the movie] Breaking Away… just do a relay race for fun… have beer, have wine, have food…”
Erickson told his marketing group at ClifBar, asking them what they thought of his idea, and they told him, “We’ll take it from here.” Two years later, the event was a reality and a success, entertaining a few hundred athletes and a few thousand spectators.
The oval track of Indiana’s race was traded for a course that benefited big tires and bigger risk-taking, more RAD than Breaking Away. A festival surrounded the race, with a climbing wall, a junior pump track, a wide range of food trucks and a bandstand featuring performances by Geographer and Cold War Kids to keep the crowd entertained.
Although there were no 30-foot drop-ins, the course featured two flyovers, two huge banked 180-degree wall-ride turns, a long BMX rhythm section, Lagunitas kegs and other buried obstacles, several wooden ramps for the brave to launch aerial stunts from, sand pits, and a genuinely hazardous gauntlet of sandbags hanging from ropes across the course that required expert timing (or ducking) to negotiate. Freed from the bounds of being a BMX or a cyclocross race, the CykelScramble team created a terrifically memorable course that will surely be an inspiration to promoters in the future.
Like much of Northern California’s racing, categories were self categorized into groups called Coasters, Toasters and Roasters, with Roasters being aimed at pros and experts who “Live to Bike” while Coasters being folks who simply “Own a Bike.” Sixty teams (twenty per category) of four riders each were invited to race on the feature-packed 1km course in heats of ten teams at a time, with the top five teams from each heat going on to the finals and the bottom five heading to the four-lap last-chance qualifier round. The fastest team in the LCQ as well as a “crowd favorite” would move on to the finals as well.
Riders had to share the same bike, and each complete at least one lap in the heat. Almost every type of bike was represented, from mountain bikes and BMX, to CX, clunkers, and even 12″-wheeled kids bikes. All manner of apparel was seen, from Pro-team skinsuits to pirate costumes, animal mascot suits, and even a team dressed as Cru Jones from the movie RAD, surely very appropriate for a course that was described by some as “like a real-life HELLTRACK.”
See the racing action from one Roasters team in the video below:
2015 CykelScramble Relay Race Video from Team BAGS:
The Specialized’s pro cross country mountain bikers had a good day, with Olympian Lea Davison leading a Coasters team to victory, surprising many recreational cyclists who had no idea they’d line up and race with a six-time National Champion.
In the top Roasters category, Todd Wells teamed up with BMX and freeride pros in Carson Storch, Eric Porter and Kirt Voreis to literally jump over the competitors and bring home the win.
Yet for more racers, the goal was not to bring home a trophy or a year’s supply of ClifBars, but to try a new event with friends and have a good time. To that end, most teams displayed creativity and effort in terms of their costumes, including the elaborate pirate team of Luna Bar pro mountain bikers of Katerina Nash, Georgia Gould, former MTB World Champ Catharine Pendrel and Maghalie Rochette, called the Luna Prozers.
Their team, like Cyclocross Magazine’s own group, were shut out of the finals, but had fun in the six minutes of riding, and the hours of cheering, eating, drinking and enjoying Erickson’s invention. Hear Nash recall the event (and talk about her season’s plans):
The team is already planning for next year, and there seems to be a chance that ClifBar may eventually take the event on tour. Start planning your team, and stay tuned. Full photo gallery below.