Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Green means GO!

Woody Allen once said "80% of success is showing up" This applies so much to CX. And certainly was the mantra for MRC CX. There were lots of excuses I could have used to NOT go to MRC. Frankly I was so close to not going. I worked Night Weasels and had promoter legs. I had woken up at 5 am on Saturday to take Syd the kid to hockey. I was out late the night before at Roger Williams Park at the Pumpkin Festival. It was pouring rain and the bed was so cozy. On and on. Actually the rain is what got me out of bed. I would have been so mad if I missed this one. Luckily giving zero fucks about how I perform at a race makes it much easier to get out of bed and go race. I get it. If you care about your placing and feel work and life will limit your placing in the bicycle-pedal contest perhaps you will hate yourself if you don't place in the top ten. Or beat your rival and leave their cross results page one big flaming couch. But honestly I gave up worrying about beating people at races years ago. #Dadlife really is freeing. I only care about the actual racing part. How I do is meaningless.

But I definitely pushed it. I slept in. Had coffee with my wife. Left way late. Luckily the bike was already dialed and everything was in the van. Still it was probably the least prepared I was to race in a while. This happens with races that are close to home. So I went full couch to SSCX. I had switched my gearing to 42 x 19 from 42 x 18. Not a big difference but frankly I am so happy I did. Despite how I may appear I am not a masher of gears. I spin. And like to flow a bit. Having to get on top of a big gear doesn't really work for me. And the cog is green so it was a slam dunk of a decision. I was very #hyped to race in the pouring rain and mud. I didn't get to pre-ride so I had no idea just how incredible it was going to be. Frankly after a month of racing in a dust bowl these conditions were like a 50 year storm of CX. You had to be there. It is like when Mavericks goes off for surfers. CX racers love mud. And nastiness. It is why we got into this oddball sport in the first place. No sane person would choose to ride a glorified road bike on grass and run up hills with said bike on shoulder all while being elbowed, punched and chopped by 50 over hyped racers unless there was a real payoff. Playing in the mud is that payoff. 

Todd driving by Katie Busick

How often do you get to get that dirty and basically engage in an adult slip and slide on two wheels? There was a great crew of SSCX racers at MRC. Even Gewilli was there! It was so good to see him back out on the SSCX bike! Gewilli is built for these days. All power and bike handling skills. He smashed it and came in top ten. So happy for him. Lancaster is a really cool place to race bikes. It is always funny having two such different races at the same venue in the span of two weeks. Midnight and MRC couldn't be more different. Its weird. I love both. And both have a tendency to shred me to pieces. Luckily the mud and nastiness slowed things down a touch and made it a bit more manageable especially with my current state of fitness.

Pete in the pain cave by Katie Busick

I can't remember the last time I raced in actual rain. Maybe SuperCup out in PDX years ago. Maybe Downeast one year. But it was not only raining it was pouring rain. The start was the usual insanity. I didn't honestly notice any difference between the 18 and 19 tooth cog. I like how the start at MRC works. Straight away into a nice turn onto "grass" then back out on the pavement. In this case the "grass" was a mud bog. I came in way too close to the trees and actually took a branch to the head. Which is saying something as I am so short. How I didn't get knocked off the bike is beyond me. I try and chase and hold on to the fast people. We hit another heavy section with a climb and I am doing ok all things considered. Griggs comes flying by. We get to the top and start flying down a nice greasy section. 

HUP there it is by Katie Busick

We get through the first trip into the barn without incident. I come through the weird turn heading to the Go Cart track and see Eric on the side of the course. Flat. Myette was out right at the start. Such  bummer to see fast friends out of the race so early. I could tell it was going to be one of those days. Attrition is always a factor in any CX race but on days like this the toll gets high on bikes and riders. I was riding well which was weird. Maybe it was all the cider donuts I had eaten on the way up. There were some really fun features on the course. A sick horse jump was definitely one of the highlights. On the backside I came through the coral and not having ridden the course before had no idea how deep the "puddle" was. Now calling this body of water a "puddle" is an understatement. I went too far outside and found out just how deep it was. It also smelled bad. Like really bad. After that first lap I did all I could to hug the inside as much as possible.

With a couple to go my good friend 20 Pound Skull caught me. Right after the nasty puddle. As he came by he said "BATTLE OF THE GREEN BIKES" We both ride super nice green bikes. I tried my best to take a page out of Resultsboys CX race tactic book and just sit on Todd's wheel. I think for this to work you have to actually stay on the riders wheel. Todd out drove me why lie. He and I are so well matched as riders. I love racing with him. I tried to hang and came close to reconnecting a few times but it was over. At that point I did my best to just hold off anyone catching and passing me and tried to keep riding as smoothly as possible. Really though it was just one of those courses were racing was secondary and ripping around the course became what it was all about. I had some weird flashbacks to racing at the Watsonville Fairgrounds in NorCal.

Women's podium by Lesli

Watsonville was one of my favorite places to race. NorCal when I first started CX was in a rainy cycle. There were so many mud fests when I first started racing CX. Sunday was such a reminder of why I fell in love with CX. After the race finished up we all hung out and ate frites under the Landrys tent and drank 3Cross beer. This is why I love the Zank SSCX series. It was freezing. Racers were shivering and cold. But we all huddled together and shared fries and drank beer. People had huge grins on their faces. Mike Wissell our Middle Earth Spirit Animal smashed it again. Leslie Lupien came back and took the top step in the women's field. Such a great day.

Captain Morgan Podium by Lesli

Next stop on the Zank World Tour is Hanover CX. This course is a classic and not to be missed. After that we have Cheshire. Cheshire is literally one of my favorite races of the season and happens to be on Halloween weekend. You know what that means. Special secret prizes to the best costumes at Cheshire. Thanks once again to all the SSCX racers who are coming out and making this season so special. See you all at the next race!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Nacht Van Weasel

Shane on the top step photo by Katie Busick

This post may be a bit of a hot mess. I apologize in advance. Basically I have "retired" from bike racing, bike race promoting and the bike industry about a million times. But its like the mafia. You can retire but they keep bringing you back. Well in the mafia there really is only one way to retire. And its permanent. I would rather be funemployed  as they say. And honestly as hard as promoting races and bike racing can be it has to be fun. I have always sort of celebrated and struggled with the idea that my only friends are bike racers. If I actually retire would I have friends. I am sure I would but I would miss so many people. Its ok to be slow and getting older. I can deal with that. What I can't deal with is not seeing my friends. They are like a second family. Always have been. P-Bob once told me that. About 30 years ago. CX is a family. And it truly is.

Alex doing some course destruction by Jon Nable
 Night Weasels is on its seventh edition. I don't even know how this is possible. It has flown by. Night Weasels has endured a lot of challenges. Bog Weasels was probably the toughest one. I am shocked we kept going after that. But to my early point. Night Weasels is a family. Ski Ward, our host, is a family run business. They are amazing. They work so hard on the event and are always so stoked to see us and seem to enjoy the race almost as much as we do. Its awesome. Honestly it is what keeps me so stoked to put the race on each year. So this is a post about friends and family. I hope it isn't too over the top.

Bandit SS by Jon Nable
I will just say it. This Night Weasels was the best ever. We had one bummer over the course of the evening but it is bike racing and these things happen. Frankly, how we responded to that incident made me even more proud to be a part of this Night Weasels family than I already am. Like I said we have been putting on this crazy night CX race at Ski Ward for seven years. Colin, Sara and I are a really funny team. I maybe didn't notice it until this year but we really compliment each other so well.  So it in a way is "easy" Bike race promoting is never easy. It is way harder than racing or working to be honest. Its like hosting a huge keg party for all your best friends. You don't know who will show up and you don't know if you have enough beer or red solo cups. You stress about whether you picked the right music and hope no one gets in a fight. We have a whole legion of other supporters that maybe most people don't even "see" but who we could never do this without. Ryan Kelly is on the top of that list. Frankly I don't think we could do it without him. He is so critical. JD is another one. I don't even know how he does it. 400+ racers go by with folded numbers in a night race. How do you even score that? But he always sorts it out.

Pie Plates are for the cool kids by Doug Kwan
Michele and her "NO" t-shirt always keep things dialed at registration. The whole crew at Ski Ward is amazing. I have worked on World Cups and big events like the Sea Otter and I have to say the people at Ski Ward work harder than any other host I have ever worked with. They help us build the course, they open up the lodge and have worked with us to build a beer garden and offer food bike racers love. Its awesome. I can't think of a lot of CX races that have a heated lodge with a beer garden right on the course. It is pretty special I will just say that. And we really have gotten to know them well. Its like a family reunion in a way when we roll into Ski Ward each year. 

Joanna Wang by Chris McIntosh

Each year is different of course. I keep coming back to help with Night Weasels because I want to support my friends and help grow grassroots cyclocross. If you know me that is my white whale. I support the highest level of CX and am stoked to see Hyde and Noble et al crushing it. But I love seeing the grassroots grow and flourish. Honestly I have so many highlights from this year but I think the one that stands out the most is Joanna Wang. I walked the course with her and my good friend Guthrie. Guthrie gets me going. His pure stoke on bikes is infectious. We walked the course and talked a bit about it. I had never met Joanna. She is a friend of a friend so she is a friend. Then she crushed it. And waited sooo long for the podium. All the other ladies for the Cat 4 podium had gone home. I get it. It was cold. The temp had dropped about 20 degrees. But Joanna was a champion. She stuck around for her podium. Ryan and I were so amped. I am pretty sure I owe her a pie. We will make it happen.

Dragon Breath by Chris McIntosh
 The biggest changes this year were the death of Holy Week and a new title sponsor! We have never had a title sponsor. We have always worked with friends and relied on those we really believe in. We do this as a labor of love. We have never been in this for anything other than throwing a rad CX party for our friends. But a partnership arose and it happened to be with friends I have known and trusted for a long time. Verge is synonymous with New England Cyclocross. They have been a part of this scene forever. I reached out to them and they were so into it. They have been the best sponsor ever. The podium jerseys are off the charts. People were so stoked to win them.

Podium Pie by Chris McIntosh
 Speaking of winning jerseys. I rolled up to the race a tad early for me. The #CBL can get kinda hectic. I am basically a stay-at-home dad. Why lie. I have been a stay-at-home dad for 16 years. Its nuts. Best job I have ever had. But it is my job. And I treat it as such. But the kids have gotten older so I have some flexibility. The first thing I hear is there is a French kid here who wants to pre-ride. I mean its like 1:00 PM. Cat 5s don't even show up that early. We sort of joke at his expense. "Is he Quebecois?" Mais, NON he is zee FRENCH. God we are such ugly Americans. He gets his laps in and we build the course and get things set up. And then I forget about it.

Resultsboy by Chris Macintosh

I am way too occupied being FULL Podium Boy at this point. I sort of suffer from ADD. I probably should have gone into the trades. I need constant supervision and stimuli to stay out of trouble. Bike Race Promoting is actually very good for me. I run around setting up podiums, prize bags, etc. We decide to do some fun primes. And as I am up on the hill judging the first stair prime I get a text from Michele. It is a picture of a pie plate. Hahaha. #occupynightweasels is now in full effect. Four hearty, dedicated aka crazy single speeders have decided to #makesinglespeedgreatagain and go Full Crusty Cruiser Cup on us. I of course support this 100%. What is the Crusty Cruiser Cup? The CCC was basically the first SS race series. The Zank SSCX Series is inspired by the CCC. The CCC was a race series within a series. They didn't have a dedicated SS category in Norcal in the late '80s early '90s. People showed up on single speeds. They raced. Then they did their own little weird podiums and kept points. It was beyond awesome. It is how I got into riding mountain bikes and single speeds.

Odin's Spear about to smash by Chris McIntosh

Mike Wissell has embraced our weird band of misfits with open arms. I am not sure this is a smart life choice on his part but I never flinch in face of genius. He raced Midnight on a hybrid. Ok that is Thom talking. He is racing a BALLER 29er SS. I like to call it Odin's Spear. He won Midnight CX. He smashed the top ten of the f'n ELITE race at Night Weasels on a 36 x 15. I can't even fathom that. I love that Mike is smashing it. We had three other rad riders racing SS. Kevin Church, Tyler Knapp and Matt Myette.

French kid doesn't play by Chris McIntosh
 The evening of racing was so exciting. The women's elite race was won by Kate Lysakowski. The men's race was won by, wait for it..... the French Kid. I mean he literally destroyed all the local riders. I am not sure if Lindine were here that he would have beaten the French Kid. People better be watching this kid at Gloucester cause he looks like a kid but he is not playing. They just make them faster in Euro-land. Maybe its in the water. Who knows. But it was so cool once again having a French speaker on the podium at Night Weasels. This is a new Weasels LLC rule. There has to be a French speaker on the podium. If it is not the Luna crew or a Canadian it better be an actual French rider.

Elite women podium by Chris McIntosh
We could not do this without the HUGE support of our sponsors: Verge, Mad Alchemy, Scratch Labs, Landry's, Shimano, Mighty Leaf Tea, Jakes, Pedro's, Drink Maple and of course our host Ski Ward. The amazing volunteers, the Pedal Power Team, JD, Ryan Kelly (ISMYHERO) and all of you bike racers that come out on a Weds night and make CX amazing. Thank you all. You ALL rock! I know I can't stop talking about podium pie but seriously. Podium pie.

Podium Pie was a huge hit by Chris Macintosh

Friday, September 30, 2016

Captain Underpants

There really is only one way to write a blog post titled "Captain Underpants" and that is drunk. But it is 3 pm and I am on dad duty. So I am drinking Chamomile Tea. With Honey. HST is rolling in his grave somewhere. I will do my best even under these sub-standard conditions to relate the Legend of Captain Underpants. The OG Captain Underpants was always a fan fave of my kids when they were young. Who doesn't love a giant baby superhero in underpants who fights crime. I mean come on. That is way better than Ant Man. Or Hawkeye. Certainly better than Aquaman. I mean get Aquaman out of water and it is all frickin over. But onto our very own Captain Underpants. 

Johnny Utah is a man of mystery. You never know what he is gonna come up with. He started texting me missives about foot down contests and all other manner of shenanigans leading up to Midnight Ride of CX. Midnight is a fantastic race. It was the opener for Holy Week. #RIPHOLYWEEK. Even with Holy Week dead and buried Midnight is on its own a fantastic evening of CX in the #NECX. Who doesn't love a mid-week race under the lights? It is probably one of the best tailgaters of the entire season. So it is always special no matter what. I sort of ignored Utah's texts as I know there is so little time at Midnight for anything but the races. I felt a little bad as I always like to encourage any and all antics when it comes to SSCX.

A mid-week night race is always a challenge. Everyone is rushing out of work or school. Racing at 5 pm is stressful. But I got there around 3 pm and set up shop next to the Chainline Pain Train. I bumped into Utah right before getting called over to staging for the SSCX race. He kept mentioning this "amazing" costume he had to show me. And something about "it is going to be epic. Like a 50 year will NOT want to miss it brahhhh" I gave him a big hug and headed over to the start grid. I honestly had no idea what he was up to but knew it would be something fun. Midnight always has a big field of singlespeeders. The start of this race genuinely scares me. You go from 0 to 25-30 in a blink of an eye. It is a straight start on pavement that turns into gravel and a chicane of death. There have been some pretty bad crashes. This year to mitigate that they avoided the right hand turn onto gravel and had us basically funnel straight into the grass and make a wide left turn. On your own or in a small group this was all totally manageable. In a pack of maniacs going 30 mph it had some serious mayhem.

I survived the initial surge and got to the grass intact. Made the first turn. I heard braking and the tell tale sounds of bikers going from 25 to 10 to 0 mph and got excited thinking I could take advantage of this crashing and scrum and put a gap in between them. Well in my over excite mode I failed to factor in all the fast guys I was around with way better skills than I have. I ended up going right through the tape in the next corner and basically t-boning my friend Myette. This is not what you are supposed to do when people say ride "tape to tape" Although, frankly my course destruction made the course way better. That corner shouldn't have been there. See I am a giver. So I avoid killing Myette and myself. Which is shocking. Then Rosey sneaks under me in the next turn and I smash into some other dude. It is getting very Talladega Nights very fast. I somehow pull it back together but to say I am off my game is an understatement. 

The new course layout is fantastic. I am not so great at fast, turny grass courses but there are so many elements of this course that are just so awesome. I try my best to bridge up to some friends but all the turns and wood chips make it so tough to make up those seconds. That is truly one of the beautiful things about CX. It is all these little mistakes or great moves that add up to either moving forward or going in reverse. I was pretty much going in reverse. But about mid-way through the race I see Utah on the side of the course. It is not unusual to see a friend off the course in CX. But he is doing something. What is it? And of course I snap out of this and go back to the task at hand which is trying desperately to suck less than I am currently in technicolor. I come around again and I see what Utah was up to! He is in his underpants. Tight blue underpants. And a buff. And helmet. That is it. I almost fall off my bike laughing. Now this isn't my first time racing men in underpants but it can be awkward. You never want to have a man in tighty whiteys in front of you. You can't unsee that. So I say screw cross results points and series points and beating frenemies. MY ONLY GOAL IS NOT TO BE PASSED BY CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS. Now for full disclosure Captain Underpants is way faster than me. And fitter. I mean just look at the photos? Jesus. 

So I have to dig deep into my tool box and use some quasi dirty tricks to stay ahead of him. Honestly its not Utah I am running scared from. It is the 6 guys that are glued to his wheel coming for me. I somehow get to the final paved straight and get in before being reeled in by Utah. It was hilarious to say the least. Team Zank rules. And Utah brings it to everyone of these Zank SSCX races. Other than Agent Utah's performance the highlight of the race was at the front of the race. Midnight brings out some talent. And we had some really fast people in the SSCX race. Bob Stine was running away with it but being closely matched by Mike Wissell and Pete Smith. At the last barriers Bob's chain fell off. Mike and Pete were able to slip around him and go in for 1 and 2. But Shawn Mottram caught a running Stine on the pavement. Instead of doing what 99% of every other bike racer would do and blow by Bob and take the 3rd spot on the podium Shawn pulled up and started pushing Bob into the finish. The classiest move I think I have ever seen in a race. Shawn pushed him all the way to the finish line then launched him to the last step on the podium. Pure 100% sportsmanship. That is why SSCX is so great. Especially here in the #NECX. Shawn I salute you my friend.

Ok so that was the race report. Onto the other aspect of the race. Shenanigans are a very important part of CX. As is tailgating. After 11 years of this you would think it would be obvious to me but it dawned on me Weds night that CX is just an excuse to tailgate with my friends. I am damn lucky. My friends kick ass. Michele kept looking for me at the end of the race. This isn't unusual. Lots of business happens at the races. But she had sort of a devilish look in her eye. When you are named Chip, Chip jokes just tell themselves. And of course at Midnight we had Chip timing. Jimbo created a precedent a few years back at Dirty 40 of picking me up at the Chip Pickup. I was probably a tad lighter back then. And Jimbo is a strong dude. So when Michele told me her plan to put me in the "Chip Return" I thought oh christ we are definitely going to get hurt. It was really just a matter of who was going to end up in the er. Michele when her back gave out or me when she pile drived me into the chip return.

Michele is very strong. I mean obviously. Her first attempt at lifting me was shockingly effortless. We enlisted Shane to be our camera guy. I love Shane. The whole Shenny project frankly is one of my favorite new aspects of HUP. Shane and Jenny are so rad. And I LOVE Shane. But art direction may not be his forte. I mean I spent five years at one of the finest art schools in America. Granted most of that was spent trying to sneak into Brown frat parties and working at Geoff's superlative sandwiches and taking life drawing classes. So as Michele is picking me up for the tenth time and I am doing my best Bill from Bill and Ted's excellent adventure I notice Shane is holding the phone horizontally. We make a quick adjustment and boom. Pure cameraphone magic. The Chip Pick Up tradition invades CX. Midnight Ride of CX was a HUGE success. Epic as Captain Underpants would say. I don't think it was the 50 Year Storm. Like Maverick's you have to be ready. It will happen this season I can feel it.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Make Singlespeed Great Again!

I know, I know wasn't singlespeed always great? Umm yeah sure. Its always been a blast. But it has taken a while to really take hold here in the #NECX. Colin and Thom got this party started at Ice Weasels and it just took off like a zombie pox from there. We have run our little Island of Misfit Toys series with pretty much one principal race hard, have fun, drink beer. Each racer can decide in what amount of those three they would like to participate in. This past weekend saw two NH races. Stop #3  in the Zank SSCX Series p/b Mad Alchemy was at Sucker Brook. Sucker Brook used to be the traditional opener for the NECX. It is still one of the classic New England CX courses. It has evolved a bit over the years but retains so much of its character. And for a race that is basically a fast flat course it can be a buzzsaw. I have had more friends get chewed up and spit out on this course than most others combined. I think probably because it is the "opener" people come out of the gate flying. If you don't have at least one race under your belt Sucker Brook is going to be a rude awakening. Going couch to Sucker Brook is not a good idea. Trust me. 

I was pretty hyped for this race. What is new right. Mad Alchemy's return has really gotten me pumped up. Pete and Janet are just awesome. They are so fun. And just bring so much to the events. I forget at what point Pete either created a hashtag or mentioned #makesinglespeedgreatagain but when I first heard it I totally cracked up. And when I saw he had made bumper stickers I almost lost my mind. So rad. Hit Pete with $3 via paypal to to get your very own #makesinglespeedgreatagain bumper sticker. Every one I see this season on a car, bike or body gets some swag, or beer. Or both. Now on to the race report for Sucker Brook!

I love Sucker Brook. It was one of the first CX races I did when I moved to the #NECX from SF. It was very different than Watsonville I will say that! Super fast and flowy. Some fun woods stuff. And a massive sand pit. I love/hate sand pits. Riding them is amazing. Running them? Wow. Yeah it is part of CX and you have to embrace it but I am not a runner so it becomes a bit of a sufferfest. We had 40+ racers in the SSCX. See we are making singlespeeds great again! The numbers are definitely up this season which makes the racing so much more fun. My friend Myette had to frankenbike a rig together just to get into the race. He was literally tearing the bike apart and setting it up 30 minutes before the race. And having done day of reg he was on the last row. Which is hilarious as he is one of the faster SSCX racers in our series. The whistle blows. We accelerate up the paved straight away at warp speed. Myette comes flying by and goes into the hole shot in the top ten. Well done my friend.

It is predictably utter chaos for the first three to four turns. I somehow survive and am dangling off about 15 seconds to a group of my friends. SSCX is incredible. But it is sort of like racing with a restrictor plate. In this case you have the gear you chose. You live and die by it. I had a 42 x 18 which is great for the straight aways and pavement. But meh for the corners. I sort of prefer spinning to mashing. Although this gear is making me a masher that is for sure. So I am killing myself trying to catch Eric from Chainline and Grant. Colin from Bikeman is so close its insane. Like one corner away. But no matter what I do I can not close that gap. This goes on for pretty much the entire race. The only spot I am able to kind of sneak up is in a little woods section. But then he would get on the gas and that gap would be back.

It is so fun racing against friends. The SSCX crew is just awesome. I finish up in my mid-pack spot and head to the tent to see how everyone is doing. I learn that Mellisa won and will now be the overall leader and wearer of The Vest. I am so happy for her. Cathy was so great as previous wearer of the vest. She raced in it and added some awesome flair. My favorite of course is the I am Canadian button. Because yes, I love Canada. Sucker Brook crowned a new Power Couple of the NECX in the SSCX series. We have had some badass Power Couples. But these two rock. They bring so much energy to the races and to SSCX. Honestly between them and Pete this season is shaping up to be the best season we have ever seen. One of my favorite parts of the SSCX category is that we all hang out after. No one just jumps in their car and heads home. We sit around and drink beer. Share snacks. Heckle the later races. We just have a hell of a time.

Speaking of ideas. At Sucker Brook Kevin from Chainline launched a new SSCX Association. It is called OGRA. One Gear Racers Association. Many bylaws were written on Sunday. It is going to be epic. Once we write all the bylaws up we will print them up on Koozies and hand them out at the races. The next race on the schedule is Midnight Ride of CX. It kicks of #Unholyweek. And it is only fitting that the theme of the SSCX race will the The Upside Down. If you haven't already watch Stranger Things please do so between now and next Weds. All will be revealed. Things are going to get weird. But if you see a Demogorgon do not take his hand up. I can't be responsible for what may happen to you. Am I saying we will have a Ouija Board at the race? Maybe. Dungeons & Dragons? Probably. We are doing this one for Barb. Ok party people. Thank you all for making this series so rad. See you on the Darkside in a week . 

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Welcome to the Terrordome

Photo by Russ Campbell

This past weekend was on of my favorite double CX race weekends of the CX season. CX at White Park and Sucker Brook. Two TOTALLY different courses. Both a little over an hour from Boston. This is what makes CX in New England so incredible. Nick Czerula does an amazing job with a small park in Concord, NH. He really gets every bit of shredtastic CXyness out of this little park. This year he reversed the course and promised to up the gnar factor. When I say this course was the toughest course I have ever raced I am not being my usual over enthusiastic self. This is the most "euro" course I have ever raced. Nick put in two legit run ups. And one legit euro chute. Everyone always watches the european races and complains that our races don't have cool features like they do. Well here you go. CX at White Park did not disappoint.

Photo by Russ Campbell

What I loved about it was the mix of brutal sections and fast open grass. It really was the perfect course. I am a horrible runner so in a sense should have hated the course. But I love hard CX courses and the run ups and features had such great flow to it and the pay off for those run ups were so worth it I actually enjoyed the run ups. This was stop number two on the Zank SSCX World Tour p/b Mad Alchemy. Once again we had a big field of SSCX racers. As I was talking to Becca at staging she asked me "All these people are here for the SSCX race?" Yep. It is kind of a thing now. It really has grown this year. I think it is because Pete is back. He's brought so much awesomeness with him. It was also the comeback for Agent Utah. Matt Aumiller broke his leg back this past summer. He's been itching to get back to racing the bike. He finally made his debut at White Park. He brought a whole crew of his BC High kids to do the Junior/HS race. During the SSCX race they planted themselves at the top of the steepest run up and created Heckle Hill. Part of the motivation was Nick had put up a $40 prime for the first man and woman in the SSCX who could ride the run up.

Photo by Russ Campbell

I have no idea how anyone could ride that run up to be honest. It was made of moon dust and had a ton of hidden roots and rocks. Aumiller brought a gun to a knife fight though and was not leaving without that prime. He rode it every lap. Dude is a beast. From broken leg to smashing run ups and getting paid. He's my hero for many reasons. Smashing is one for sure. But what he has done with his BC High junior team is right up there. Those kids were awesome. I think Utah caught me on the second lap. In the picture above he is just flying up that run up as I bury myself to try and get up that steep pitch without stroking out.

Photo by Russ Campbell

The other side of this brutal course were some legit descents and technical bits. Nick carved a brand new off camber euro chute on the far side of the course. I loved this section. This type of riding is really what I am built for. Again in this euro theme you had to really think about this section. You entered into it off a grass off camber climb. You had to get off and run a chopped up dirt entrance into the woods. Then you had to remount while in the drops and then just go full rodeo down the chute. The chute was super steep and all rutted out. There was a drop off to the right and then trees all over the place. The potential for mayhem was high. It was so much fun. There were a few moments each time where I thought "oh god this is not going to end well" But each time I was able to clip in and get waaaayyy off the saddle and just let the bike do its job. Drop bars are better than dropper posts there I said it.

We have been in the clutches of a drought. It was really hot and dusty and I pretty much couldn't breathe the first two laps. Jerry caught me at about lap two. He made a sick inside pass right before the first run up on the pavement. We rode together for about a lap or two. When we came through after what felt like four laps and saw four to go we both kind of cracked. I think I said "no way I can do 4 more Jerry" as we were running up a run up. He just shook his head and remounted. I thought to myself fuck it just look at this as CX practice. Or a chance to ride a baller course. Stop thinking about the pain. It pretty much became a race of attrition at that point. Eric flatted. Grant flatted. So many people had problems. Bob Stine lapped me right before the second run up and I won't lie I breathed a sigh of relief for not having to do another lap. I have never been so happy to be lapped in my life. I came through and collapsed in the tent. It was the best CX race ever.

We had a great hang out in the tent after. The Vest had changed hands and was won by Cathy Rowell. Its been such an exciting battle for the vest on the women's side of the Zank Series. Bob Stine is riding like a man on fire and looks like a man who is not ever relinquishing that leaders vest. Which is beyond awesome. Who knows it is a long series but Bob and all the women who have worn the vest have been doing such a great job of bringing such a great competitive spirit and energy to the series. We had a dog on the podium. Literally. Bradford Smith was out racing the elite race so a dog was his proxy on the podium. Podium 3Cross growlers were handed out. The vest ceremony took place. So much radness.

The series is just heating up. Look for a post Wednesday about Sucker Brook. Sucker Brook was amazing as well. Very different type of course. But again a big crew of SSCX racers. In 8 days we have Midnight Ride of CX. It is the beginning of #UnHolyweek. And we have some pretty special things in store for you for that night race. Thank you to Nick, Russ and all the volunteers who made White Park so awesome. Good luck to our Vest wearers. And thank you to all of you for Making Singlespeeding Great Again!

Thursday, September 15, 2016

We don't need no stinkin badges

A good friend once told me "It is SSCX there are NO RULZ" Well while we love that idea in spirit in reality to have a race series you have to have some rules. So here we go.

Rule #1 Don't be a dick. Dave Pryor taught me that one. It is a good mantra for life in general. Do I need to explain this? Be nice. Race hard but this is not the Cat 3 race or masters 35+ race. Those categories exist. Pretty sure both are called elite in some circles. How can you be an "elite" master? Or "elite" Cat 3? No idea. But if that is your jam knock yourself out. Literally. But please keep that elbows out nasty, swearing, fighty style out of SSCX thank you very much.

Rule #2 Have Fun. Racing is hard but if you aren't having fun what is the actual point? So do some weird stuff. Wear a costume if you want. Decorate your bike with Pokemon. Hand out treats. This series was built by a community. We always welcome new and fun people and ideas.

Rule #3. Zip ties are always welcome. We have had some drama around this rule but we are sticking to it. It is how we grew this series and we will always welcome zip ties. Or tensioners. Or basket bikes. Or unplug your Di2 wire. We don't care. Just race with one gear. We won't judge how you end up with one gear. That said at Quad CX I only counted 4 zip tied bikes out of 42. FOUR?!!! That is amazing.

Ok that is it for rules. Wait there are only three rules? From us at the Zank series yeah. From USAC there are probably a ton more. All our races except for Ice Weasels are sanctioned by USAC. They have very specific rules about lots of things. If you are a rules person you should read up on them. I am not a rules person so....ok onto some housekeeping.

As stated above we are a points series. We award points at each race. The points go 25 deep. The point schedule looks like this and are updated on

1 = 60
2 = 50
3 = 45
4 = 40
5 = 35
6 = 30
7 = 28
8 = 26
9 = 24
10 = 22
11 = 20
12 = 18
13 = 16
14 = 14
15 = 12
16 = 10
17 = 9
18 = 8
19 = 7
20 = 6
21 = 5
22 = 4
23 = 3
24 = 2
25 = 1

The Vest-This year we have a denim leaders vest. The first two leaders were very stoked about the vests.

The Vest is awarded at each race to the leaders. The leaders are asked to take the vest home and decorate it with some flair. It can be anything. Buttons, patches, make it fun.

The Vest must be returned to the next race. If The Vest holder can't arrange to be at the next race please let us know and we will arrange pick up and delivery of the vest to the next race.

At the conclusion of the series the overall leaders will keep the vests as trophies of their handwork

The schedule is always a bit fluid. We try our best to set the schedule and not change it but things happen. This is cross racing after all. When a promoter texts me "Imagine Orchard Cross and Ice Weasels had a baby. That is what it will become" And that is how Secret Squirrel gets added last minute to the Zank SSCX series.

2016 Zank SSCX Series presented by Mad Alchemy

9/11-Quad CX
9/11-Hartford CX
9/17-CX at White Park
9/18-Sucker Brook
9/28-Midnight Ride of CX
10/9-MRC CX
10/22-Hanover CX
10/29-Cheshire CX
11/5-Paradise CX
11/6-West Hill CX
11/26-Secret Squirrel
12/10-Ice Weasels-The Macdaddy of all SSCX series finale

Monday, September 12, 2016

The Quest for The Vest

Johnny Utah had this crazy idea to add a leader's jersey to the series this year. I wasn't so sure about it. And then he told me it should be a cut off denim vest. My first image was of Dee Snyder of Twisted Sister. My roommate in college Rat Dog (actual nickname) was a HUGE '80s metal fan. He introduced me to so much good metal at RISD. I was even at a young age a classic rock guy. The Doors, Hendrix, Led Zep, CCR. I was a product of my parents. I even went to Morrison's grave in Paris when I was an exchange student. But Rat Dog took me to Judas Priest, Twisted Sister. He introduced me to the joys of airbrushing denim jackets. I know, I know that seems like waisting your time at one of the best art schools in the nation but those are life skills man!

But I digress. Utah got two denim vests. Pretty sure he found them at Salvation Army. He held his Feats of Strength the week prior to the season opener at Quad CX. One of the Feats was sneaking up on my house ninja style and saran wrapping my manvan. That in itself is some kind of SSCX wizardry. I was literally in the garage bay with the door closed setting up my brand new Zank SSCX called Jager. I bow down to them. The whole idea was to put the fun back into SSCX. Our series has always been fun but we want to really kick it up a notch. Make it more bandit. But still racing. So the denim leaders vest was born. Jesse and Christine won the vests. The rules of the vest are simple:

Winners don the vest on the podium. Winners take the vest home for the week. Winners are asked to add some flair to it. Patches, pins, leopard print fabric. Really anything. Make it fun. Don't deface it obviously. Respect the vest. Leader must bring the vest to the next Zank SSCX race. If you can't make it please contact us and we will arrange pick up. At the end of the season the two overall winners of the series will win the vest and keep it!

I was surprised at how hyped people were getting about the vest and the kick off of the season. When I saw 42 pre-reg'd riders in the SSCX category at Quad I was blown away. That is next level. I thank all of you for making this so rad. On Thursday before Quad I went out to Zank's to pick up my new team bike! I named it Jager. Jager is German for Hunter. It is also the name of a rad robot who smashes alien monsters in the movie Pacific Rim. And of course the bike is sort of the color of a bottle of Jaegermeister. It just fit. Mike built up his new bike later that evening. We both had one ride on our new bikes before the race. It is truly a testament to Mike's ability to build a bike that I literally didn't have to do anything to the bike. One of the cool new things I stumbled upon on my phone is an app for Bike Gears. It lets you geek out on gear choice without knowing how to do actual math. And if there is one thing single speeders geek out on it is gearing. If you only have one gear you pretty much want to be happy with it. Well as King of the Apples would say you actually have three gears in SSCX-sitting, standing and running.

Quad was like a SSCX reunion. Quad is the season opener for the #NECX. After a winter and summer of not seeing anyone we all get together and its like we never missed a beat. Sure we see each other once and a while at mtn bike races or gravel rides but we aren't all in one spot in a rad tent city hanging out. It was so great seeing so many people. And it was beyond rad seeing Pete and Janet of Mad Alchemy and their family! Pete and Janet moved away from the #NECX for a for years. They were always a part of us even when they were in Colorado but they are the best. It is so awesome having them back home! Ted and his crew do such a fantastic job at Quad. It is held at a Gun Club so it just has a great vibe to it. It is one of my favorite races. Full jungle cross course. Hard as hell. Challenging sand pits and wood sections. A great gravel road false flat. One of my favorite courses. And I love the tent city and the lodge. How many races can you get a burger and a gin and tonic and take it to your tent and watch the race happen right in front of you? Yeah, Quad rules. 

Mad Alchemy made us some sick Koozies for this year! They are designed with the same art that Stevil did for our hoodies and t-shirts last year. They are super cool. If you want one hit me with $5 to my paypal at or find us at the races. Our next race is at White Park in NH. And then we will be at Sucker Brook the following day. The NH double is not to be missed. Kevin from the Chainline Pain Train also made us some custom crocheted Koozies. Those are going to be some secret squirrel prizes for the next couple of weekends. Maybe it will be for anyone who races SSCX in the geared race. Or worst mechanical. We will come up with some cool ideas for them.

One of the coolest parts of Quad is also all the families that come out. HUP has become one big family. Not just in the metaphorical sense but literal sense. A bunch of us have kids of varying ages. And its so nice when we can bring them to a race. Now if you told your spouse you were taking your kids to a gun club to race bikes and they didn't know about cross or Quad they might call DSS and have you arrested. But this race really is one of the most family friendly venues around. Zank brought his whole family. And Dr Zank raced! Rebecca smashed it. It was so rad seeing her out there racing. Her kids were so cool cheering her on from the top of a hay bail.

As always the Zip Tie Fairy, aka Lesli Cohen brings it to all the Zank SSCX races. Her game was at mid-season form at Quad. She honestly is the soul of the series. Everyone does a ton for the series and the community but Lesli just always is so positive and brings so much energy to the races even when I know she has had so much going on. I love that women. And it makes me so stoked that she loves the series so much. Speaking of zip ties. Of the 42 people lined up I counted 4 zip tied bikes. You know my opinion. I welcome all to our table. No bike or no set up is better or more valid than any other. That is what this series was built on and that is what we always will push forward. Its the racer that matters not the bike setup. As long as you can't shift you are cool with us. But that means the other 38 people had dedicated bikes. That is amazing.

The race itself was so rad. I won't lie I was actually nervous. 42 is a big crowd for a SSCX race. And there was a lot of nervous energy. People were AMPED. As was I. In the start grid I leaned forward and asked Leslie Lupien from Green Line Velo if she liked denim vests. She sort of laughed. I had a feeling she was going to win the women's race. Not sure why but I could tell. The gun went off and we took off in a cloud of dust. I literally could not see a thing for the first half a lap. I took on so much dust I couldn't even swallow. That was less than ideal but the course was so rad I forgot about that. As the dust settled, literally and figuratively I found myself locked in between Leslie and Mellisa Lefluer battling for the women's podium. Now I certainly did not want get in their way so I was paying more attention than usual to a) not screw up and crash one of them out b) not embarrass myself hitting a tree in front of them and c) keep Zank from catching me!

Zank was hot on my heels. I think he would have caught me if he didn't face plant on the barriers. The barriers at Quad are legendary for feasting on bikers. It is a faceplant waiting to happen. They are on a slight uphill. And the transition is odd as you come screaming down a sand chute and then do a 180 on sand and then have about 100 feet to get your act together, dismount and run over them. I clipped a foot on the first lap on them. But Zank's crash looked and sounded bad. I had just remounted at the top of the runup and heard what sound like a baseball bat. I look and Zank is crumpled over his bike and the barrier. Not to worry Zank is tough as nails and was back up and on it. Much respect to that man. We duked it out for the next two laps. That was probably the most fun I have had racing in a long time. And that is what CX is all about. Racing with friends. Battling. Having fun!

The season is just getting started. I hope I see a ton of you at White Park and Sucker Brook next weekend. Who will be in the vest at White Park???