With the announcement of the dates for the SSCXWC, we reached back out to the motley crew running the show and got ahold of John Walrod. He’s been a part of the event since its start and is the self-described “bad idea guy.” We spoke with Walrod about the his thoughts on the race’s 10th anniversary and here’s what he had to say, below.
Cyclocross Magazine: When we spoke with Dani Dance recently she told us we absolutely had to talk with you about the 2016 SSCXWC. What is your role with the event?
John Walrod: We have a great blend of reasonable people, dreamers and utter morons in our crew this year, so it’ll all be fine I’m told. I think my role is to be the ‘bad idea guy’ who throws a ton of those out there and gets 90% [of them] shot down but gets one or two accepted. Also, I keep the crew on their toes with intermittent good ideas and follow through. I suppose I’m a bit of a roulette wheel with very bad odds.
CXM: With the dates set, December 3rd and 4th, can you tell us where the venue is?
JW: It will be on Sauvie Island right outside of Portland, Oregon, specifically Kruger’s Farm. That was the major hangup, finding a venue. Portland has changed so much in the last 10 years, it’s hard to find a spot right in town where we can do whatever it is that we do. We found some stellar spots that would have been perfect, but really wanted to focus on riders and fans being able to ride to and from the venue and go car free for the weekend. That is the only nice thing we’ll be doing for everyone, so I hope they appreciate it.
CXM: Tell us a little about the venue. What can racers expect?
JW: It will be different from any of the previous venues to be certain. If I have my druthers, it’ll still be an adventure to get there. I don’t want to totally tip our hand until we have the weekend totally designed and my bad ideas all get shot down.
CXM: And what about spectators? Will the venue provide plenty of viewing and heckling opportunities?
JW: That was pretty much the hold up on getting a venue. So many great ones that would’ve missed that element of the race. For me, SSCXWC isn’t about the race and the winner. We’re all losers by definition. So making sure that ambiance is more of a celebration of stupidity is the goal.
CXM: Have you mapped out a course at the venue yet? What sort of gearing will racers need to tackle the course?
JW: Just one gear. Y’all will only need one gear.
CXM: What about any special course…modifications? Can you share anything with our readers, or is it all top secret?
JW: Short cuts will be gone. We’ll still have some detours, but they’ll be more along the lines of lifestyle choices that showcase our local virtues than a way to shave a few corners off.
CXM: Dani also mentioned that one serious goal for the race was to bring the racing back, that maybe in the intervening years the party had somewhat overshadowed the competition. What’s your take there?
JW: Both winners will be legit. The course will be designed to produce worthy champs. They’ll still need to navigate chaos to win of course, but the winners will be legit. If they’re not, I’m doing their tattoos myself.
CXM: Knowing it’s not a single person’s decision, what’s your take on those who have foregone the traditional winners’ tattoos? Keep them banned or welcome them back into the fold?
JW: Singlespeed riders are nothing if not stubborn and unreasonable with a strong propensity for holding a grudge. I once spent six years trying to ride over one uphill root section on a singlespeed mountain bike ride here in the coast range. Then I did it, and now I can’t ever do it again. But I will be thinking about it on my deathbed. I don’t particularly care about the tats on those people, but I do love a good grudge. So yeah, they’re out.
CXM: Do you think a little more focus on the racing will bring out more racers?
JW: I don’t know if we need more racers as much as we need the spirit to be there. Singlespeeding isn’t about shortcuts. It’s about taking on all obstacles and either beating them or not, and then trying again.
CXM: Like the tattoo “issue,” what’s your personal opinion on dedicated singlespeed bikes versus geared bikes with zip-tied levers? Should the latter be allowed?
JW: When we started the race you couldn’t just go out and buy a singlespeed cross bike and race it, so they were all pieced together. Some even lovingly. At this point, if you can’t get your hands on a singlespeed, and need to zip tie your gears…that’s ok. But it means that we get to put some zip ties on your bike too.
CXM: Ten years on, did you ever think the race would get this big?
JW: I can’t believe that it ever even happened in the first place. Then people decided that they wanted to put it on elsewhere. The most shocking part is that we chose to bring it back. So no, I hoped it would die.
CXM: What’s your hope for the 10th anniversary race?
JW: I want to adjust the singlespeed clan mentality/party/frat party/legit race ratio back to a level that reflects our original intentions.
CXM: We’re looking forward to a great race. Thanks for taking the time.
JW: You’re welcome.