Invading a crusade is no easy task: riders in the first race of the Cross Crusade. © Pat Malach

Invading a crusade is no easy task: riders in the first race of the Cross Crusade. © Pat Malach

by Adam McGrath

So sometimes I like to think of my little homestead like a place where I’m building my own world. You know, like my own little kingdom…

Then it’s fun to think about how my little kingdom is going to survive the zombie apocalypse. (I assure this will include a moat and some sort of donkey driven chariot.)

What does this have to do with cyclocross? Well, I’ve also correlated some of my fellow cyclocross goons like to think of their local club or even local race series akin to a kingdom or clan if you will, although I think they might not be thinking about the apocalypse as much as myself.

Most certainly the fine people of Portland think highly of their kingdom, they even call it a Cross Crusade. Portland might be an odd likening to the Holy Lands for crusaders, but they put on a hell of bike race, their army of participants is in the thousands and aren’t yet killing anyone so perhaps I can forgive them. At the very least I had to go check out what might be the capitol of their kingdom, what follows is the tale of the Invaders from the North.

All funny stuff aside I did want to take the time to write a column on the Cross Crusade Series, and how from time to time if you’re in relative proximity to it, you simply have to invade. You probably won’t win, you probably will get your ass kicked, but you’ll have a hell of an awesome time doing it.

There are a few facts everyone should understand about our most recent invasion. One: the cross crusade since I’ve been doing it has never done a double weekend, when traveling for a raid this is a plus. Two: there are lots of people into cyclocross there, I mean lots, like 1,200 plus clowns in skin suits. Three: it was at Alpenrose, pretty much the capitol of the cross crusade series. This place is a classic, its hosted hundreds if not thousands of bike races, its hosted UCI races, and it’s like Portland’s point of singularity where more peoples souls are crushed and converted to cross than any other. Oh, and when it rains, it’s on like donkey-kong.

Did I mention there are cows too? What’s not to love?

As the above points show a double weekend cross crusade is like getting two checks off a crossers life list. An important fact about invading is you’re reliant on a few things: transport, your bros, and your base of operations (in case you get your butt whooped, and can’t party all night long). Transportation for a proper invasion must be pretty close to bush-league. No team trucks, no hot set ups, were talking mid size fully packed sedan. Totally incognito, and dialed enough to get it done quick and dirty.

Step two is having a buddy or buddies. Doing dumb stuff with friends is better, some how if you’re a bike racer there’s a good chance your significant other thinks your nuts, and thus a bro-mance is born. Once you have these things sorted you need a safe base. Its best to get in with one of the higher ups if you will and claim your flying the white flag. Try a race promoter, host house, local legend, or doughnut shop.

I pulled out all my farmer stops on this recent trip, and dialed us in a proper weekend. The bromance was on strong, my fellow Port Townsend Farmer/Biker Zach and the true teammate Steve Fisher made the crew. Zach is a giant man, like real big 6 ft plus (pretty good to bring one of these types of goons on a raid) and he drives a civic, so rig sorted. Four bikes on roof, two bikes on trunk, all wheels in back seat for Steve to snuggle with, super pro! Zach was forced to drive for that was the only place he fit, the cooler and beer were under my feet up front.

Were we comfortable? No. Did our butts go numb and was there some rest stop moaning? You betcha. Was there cursing and man talk and farts? To top it off, we flamboozled the hairiest, beastliest, Neolithic period bike race warrior ever: Eric Tonkin the Caveman into being our host. Also as professionally as possible we arrived at 11pm, ate some of his food, drank his beer, and ate his butter.

As for the actual plan to overthrow these crusaders: Eat tasty breakfast, drink Portland’s reputable coffee and lots of it, and, well win, follow with recovery burritos and beer, repeat and claim second victory.

Did it work? Hell no. Like I said earlier, you’re probably not going to overthrow them, they are plentiful, and as we learned, fast. But what we did do was get treated to one of the best bike race weekends I’ve had in a long time.

We may not have won, but it just poured rain for about 20 minutes before the start on a humdinger of a course, and well I don’t think anyone didn’t crash. I had a pretty good race going but I got crushed by a junior, and I mean crushed. He put a dagger in me on really awesome hard cross course. Zach faired only slightly worse smashing himself into a barrier.

Having the base to wallow home to proved to be rather key. Much thanks must go to Eric for being our host. It’s always great to lick you wounds comfortably, clean your bikes, and do some laundry after a day like that. Plus Eric is truly a great friend of mine. I’ve actually known Eric for 10 seasons of cross, and we got to drink too much wine and talk about when I was junior and racing with himself, Trebon and Wicks at the Cross Crusade. That was a bit mindboggling for me, I guess I have been racing cyclocross for a long time.

Sunday’s battlefield was near perfection. It was such an outright ball to ride. It even featured this awesome rutted downhill corner thru cow poo (this is, I assure you is quite EURO incase your wondering, over there you will do a cross through a muddy field of poo). The farmer in me was so happy to roost thru the dung heap, yea haw. We once again failed at the plan, not the coffee bit, but the crushing souls part. Steve got close by racing at the front and finishing 3rd. I had to settle for a top ten ride, but the good part was Tonkin lined up Sunday and he and I ended up racing together for much of the day. In the final laps I got to put on a clinic for the old dog, riding the run up and hopping the barriers.

In the end we failed, our team did not devastate the evil Southern Cross Crusade Empire. We crammed back into our rig, north bound, licking our wounds and longing for our homes by the ocean in Washington. It must have been good because the guys next to us Sunday were driving all the way back to Boise, ID. The trip reminds me that cross crusade is should pretty much be on most west coast racers to do lists, but more importantly it’s a better reminder of how awesome a wee road trip to a race can be. Say thanks to your bromances, your teammates, the race promoters, and your fellow competitors. It would be nothing without them. Get out there and plan your own raid.


Adam McGrath

Time for these columns comes from the support of: Full Speed Ahead components and Raleigh Bicycles along with TRP brake, Feedback Sports stands, Vision Wheels, Fizik saddles, and JL Velo kit.