After a blowout 2016 Singlespeed World Championships in Portland that brought out notable riders such as Stan Nice, err, Sven Nys, the 2017 SSCXWCITA flew a bit more under the radar. After closing shop in Portland, the party and mayhew packed up and headed to Verona, Italy for the race slash party on December 2 and 3.
After a decade in the “New World,” SSCXWCITA had a very “Old World” feel. The race was held at the Porta Palio and Bastione di Santo Spirito. The Porta Palio is a gate of the medieval walls of Verona that dates to the 16th century and the Bastione was built in 1836. One could argue it was real old-school cyclocross.
The winner of the Women’s race was Megan Chinburg, an American-born and trained ex-pat currently living in Torino. As she noted, ironically, Chinburg never raced the SSCXWC when they were in Portland, even though she raced in the Cyclocross Crusade for a number of years before moving to Italy last December. When she heard the news the race would be held in Italy, she figured why not go for the coveted tattoo.
We reached out to Chinburg to ask her about her journey to becoming an ex-pat singlespeed specialist, the experience of racing and winning the first SSCXWC held outside of North America and of course, the tattoo.
Interview with Megan Chinburg, 2017 SSCXWCITA Women’s Champion
Cyclocross Magazine: You’re no stranger to cyclocross success and even have your own Cyclocross Magazine tag, but now you’re a World Champion, winning on European soil. How did this come about? We understand you’re living in Italy?
Megan Chinburg: I grew up in Eugene, Oregon and prior to December of last year, I spent the last 11 years in Portland. A year ago, my partner and I picked up our lives and moved to Italy. Not entirely on a whim, but also not for any one reason I could name. We were looking for a change, a different challenge and a friend of ours convinced us to give Italy a try. In retrospect, we probably could have chosen any other country and found a far easier immigration process but the commitment had been made and we’re powering through it.
CXM: How many SSCXWCs have you competed in before? When you learned SSCXWC was coming to Italy, what was your reaction?
MC: Ironically, despite living in Portland since before #SSCXWC was a hashtag, I had never raced a SSCXWC. Every year I was either not racing bikes or out of town. When I learned that the race would be in Verona for 2017, I knew I had to be there and see just what this bad idea of a race looked like, Italian style.
CXM: Besides winning, what was the highlight of this year’s event? Memorable feats of strength, qualifying activities or course obstacles? What made the event uniquely Italian?
MC: If you’ve spent any time in Italy, then you know if there is one thing they take seriously here, it’s food. Even at this very non-serious event, dinner at the start of the Saturday night party was amazing, delicious and uniquely Italian with primi, insalate, secondi e dolci courses. I heard the Belgians shared their own “special” biscotti post-dinner, but I missed that hand-up.
CXM: What this a goal for you this season?
MC: Yes and No. I’ve coveted the SSCXWC tattoo for years now, but this was the first ’cross race I’ve participated in since Jingle Cross in 2015, so I wasn’t going into it expecting to win. I suppose at the beginning of the race, it wasn’t my goal, but by lap 3 it decidedly was.
When I moved from Oregon, I left a solid group of friends behind who have provided constant support through life and racing. This win is dedicated to them.
CXM: What was the competition like? How many racers, both women and men, and what was the party to race ratio of the actual race? Lots of costumes? Hand-ups?
MC: As has been my experience racing and riding here in Italy, the women’s turnout was quite low in comparison to the U.S. Participation was lower in general, with around 120 or 130 total people, but only 10 women signed up. Cyclocross racing for women in Italy is not a big sport, and I have been told the majority of women who do race have their focus elsewhere.
There are wonderful groups like Bik(H)er, Gravity Italian Ladies and Ride Like a Girl Project working to promote more women on bikes, but women representation on bikes lags behind here. I’m hopeful that with time, and invested energy this tide will begin to turn as more women ride, race and encourage their friends to do the same.
The costumes and antics were solid. It’s comforting to know that singlespeed debauchery looks and feels just about the same in Portland as it does in Italy. There wasn’t a shark to jump, nor a thunderdome, but there were required beer stops, a burning log pile to jump, human barriers, paper-ball peltings every lap, a priestess blessing mid-pinwheel and of course, mad heckling and cowbells.
CXM: Any idea of where you’ll be defending your title in 2018? Is that already in the plans?
MC: It’s been rumored that 2018 will move to Belgium …
CXM: For the bike geeks out there, what gear and tires did you use?
MC: I rocked my Sellwood Cycles Issued Kona Major Jake CX bike with HiFI MixTape aluminum clinchers and Challenge Grifo tires with too much pressure. There were cobbles I didn’t want to flat on.
I wasn’t able to get the bike set up properly, so I zip-tied my shifters and moved the limit screws so I couldn’t shift. I have no idea what my gear was, I think 39 x 18, but I’m not sure. I gave up trying to count the gear teeth. It felt fine at the beginning of the race, but by lap 4 it was feeling too hard, which makes me think it was just right for the terrain.
CXM: When you’re not winning World Champ ink, what keeps you busy?
Riding the trails around my new home in Torino, eating too much good Italian food with my partner Gerow, learning Italian, trying to make Italian friends — which would get far easier if I could learn Italian faster — playing my violin as much as I can and working full time as Director of Engineering at Help Scout.
Stay tuned for a photo gallery from the 2017 SSCXWCITA in Verona, Italy.