Ryan Kelly - Cyclocross Magazine ContributorRyan Kelly is a roadie who owns a ‘cross bike and loves racing it. After a successful season in the Bs last year, he’ll likely be spending this season at the back of the New England Elite races, exploring his pain cave and enjoying every hour-long sufferfest. As long as others are finding entertainment in his suffering, he’s happy. Ryan joins our growing list of columnists documenting their season racing real ‘cross, and when he can, spans a few photos as well. His first entry is here.

by Ryan Kelly

I hope that you’re not tired of reading about Gloucester.

Oh, you are? Well that’s too bad. But read on, as this post is about so much more than one bike race—the lessons learned within can make life better for all of us cyclocrossers.

As I was thinking about my upcoming race plans (If you’re wondering, Downeast Cross and the Canton Cup, as I’m a broke New Englander who doesn’t want to travel hours to get his butt kicked by Tim Johnson), I was saddened to realize that these venues do not have the one element of course design that could elevate them from a decent event to a fantastic event. An element of course design that the New England World Championships had: A beer tent at the top of the barrier section.

This really made the weekend for me, as a racer. I was horribly out gunned in the elite race—the only times I saw the top five was at the start line when they were called up, and when they lapped me at an astoundingly high pace. My race started as a fight to not get lapped, as opposed to a fight for a single UCI point.

But it eventually became a struggle to not finish dead last. A struggle that I, miraculously, managed to win each day.

Needless to say, I wasn’t racing for the big-money finish.

So, back to the beer tent. Its placement was beneficial for both spectators and racers alike.

For those at the beer tent, there was plenty of action to watch: The chaos of a 124-rider category 2/3 race must have been entertaining from that vantage point. Later, throughout the race, the barrier section insured that riders wouldn’t be racing by, and that those in the beer tent had plenty of crashes and “rear-wheels-in-faces” to watch for.

Plus, people were allowed to drink in a civilized fashion—as opposed to the old “beer-in-water-bottle” trick. Which, while effective, is annoying, as beer flavored-water is not very tasty. Ever.

But the beer tent was even better from my point of view—on the other side of the fence, where I was getting smacked in the face with rear wheels and hoping I didn’t trip and get trampled on the first lap.

First of all, riding into the barriers was like riding into a wall of noise. It’s always pretty noisy by the barriers, which is where people tend to congregate. But throw a few kegs of Erdinger into the mix, and the volume may start edging towards 11. Even when I started finding myself in the back (which was pretty quickly into the race) the barriers area was still just as loud.

Second, and most importantly for a rider very far out of the money, were the fists of dollar bills that were being handed out over the fence.

Yes. You read that right. Free money.

This little surprise had an effect on my racing style. Originally, my barrier tactics were:

1. Dismount.
2. Jump over the first barrier.
3. Run.
4. Jump over the second barrier.
5. Run.
6. Remount

But once I saw that someone had a handful of money extended over the fence, my barrier tactics became:

1. Dismount.
2. Jump over the first barrier.
3. Run.
4. Jump over the second barrier.
5. Run, while scanning ahead to see who has money.
6. Remount.
7. Ride towards money, grab it out of hand (to the cheers of spectators), shove it in the front of my skinsuit.

The free money didn’t start until a few laps in, when I was solidly sitting at around 42nd (of 52 starters). And after a few laps of grabbing money, I started looking like some sort of modest stripper. Fully clothed, but with money poking out of the top of my skinsuit.

I’m not sure why the beer tent people were handing out money. Maybe they actually thought it was entertaining to see people in so much aerobic pain reach out for four dollars. Maybe they actually felt bad for those of us towards the back that were obviously not going to win any prize money. Or maybe they thought that we were some sort of high-speed waiter service.

Whatever the reason, I was very thankful. On Saturday I made $13. On Sunday, my take wasn’t as good. All I scored was an apple (which was very tasty) and $1.

Total take for the weekend? $14 and an apple. Total entry fees for the weekend? $90. I came no where close to breaking even, but the look on my teammates faces when I started pulling sweaty dollar bills out of my skinsuit was hilarious and worth it. And the $13 managed to pay for my dinner and gas money on Saturday night!

I already knew I was going to get my butt kicked at Gloucester. The real lesson I learned over the weekend is that all promoters should have a beer tent by the barriers or at the top of a run-up. It not only makes the spectators happy, but us racers too.

And to the promoters reading this: Please make sure these tents are filled with rich people. Because next year I’d love to be grabbing at handfuls of 20 dollar bills! Thanks for reading.