Espn has the ESPY's, MTV has the moon man, Velocb has the Golden Hupcake. The 2009 cross season was magic no other way to describe it. We may never be able to recreate what just went down. Or maybe we are just hitting our stride and next year will be completely mind blowing...what could possible make next year better?
Perhaps a HUP sprinter van, a 3 story UCI C1 flyover at Ice Weasels, michelin mud 2s on FMB casings, Masters Worlds on the eastern seaboard. That short list would be a start but who knows even those dream scenarios couldn't upstage what was from start to finish the Best. Cross. Season. Evah!
And what made it so goddamn special were all the cross freaks just getting their cross on. It seemed that the rivalries were hotter, the attacks fiercer, the courses more epic...To mark this season Velocb busted out all the stops, scoured over iphoto, blogs, race results, race reports and just thought back to the general mayhem that was the 2009 cross season and came up with awards to honor those people, places and moments that just stood out and demanded another look as a recognition of their greatness. It is part recap, part awards show. Obviously these are the opinions of velocb and no one else...with no further ado I present the Golden Hupcakes for 2009
(photo by Rob Bauer of doublehop)
1.) Photographer : Natasha McKittrick. Rosey dubbed her "The official photographic master of 2009 cx." This was right after Noho and I totally agree with that statement. What is amazing about the photo of her above is that she is being photographed by Rob Bauer (who is a great photographer himself and has captured some incredible images this year) and Ryan Kelly, who is no slouch as a photog, is pictured behind Nat taking a beer feed. There are so many great photographers shooting cross right now both amateur, professional and semi-professional. The list is long and I don't want to leave anyone off but suffice it to say the level of photography right now is at such a high level it isn't easy to pick just one.
What separates Natasha from the rest is that above all she is an artist. She has an incredible portfolio of art. Her Beer. Cupcake. Mustache photo journal set the bar for cross photography high. She has proven her ability to get photos from perspectives that you don't often see with cycling photography. This is probably in large part due to her being a fierce competitive cyclist as well as a photographer. Meeting her you'd be like "fierce?" Trust me she is fierce. She's also started to break in to the mainstream press which is incredible. Her race reports at CXmagazine bring a freshness and edginess you don't often see in cycling reportage.
So kudos to Nat she kicks ass no other way to describe it and as well as being tough as nails as described above she is totally fearless. During the Shedd Park race I almost ran over her in the Forest of Lowellenberg. It was real close. I was going warp speed, lost it in that nasty gravel went totally out of control towards her and thankfully was able to crash myself out before impact so I didn't run over her. After the race when I went to apologize to her and say sorry for almost killing her and making her dive behind some debris, she said she was only trying to protect her camera.
Once her gallery of the race went up at pedalpower photography I saw just how many riders almost ran over her. She captures all those crashes like a veteran WWII war correspondent as the kamikazes are crashing into the carrier deck. Fearless and willing to sacrifice it all for the photo that my friends is PRO.
2.) Course Feature of the Year: Kevin Sweeney's Euro Chute @ IWC. This was a tough call. It was a toss up between Kevin Sweeney's Euro Chute at Ice Weasels and Matt Spait's Spiral of Death at Shedd Park in Lowell. If I hadn't read Kevin's blog post I wouldn't have even fathomed just how much work and passion went into making the Euro Chute. Frankly, I was so snow blind at Ice Weasels if I hadn't read about it I would have assumed it was just a natural feature of the course. Silly me that chute was like an amusement park roller coaster fun ride! You'd drop into this prefect berm come out of it at warp speed and carry all of that speed into the nasty ass runnup. It was my favorite part of the course. Brilliant work Mr. Sweeney.
And chapeau to Mr Spaits for bringing a Spiral of Death to the NE. It really was awesome. People had such a hard time with it and frankly it worked in my advantage on so many levels. There are two things I love in a cross course feature, either one they are fun or two they slow down the really fast guys so I can either get away from them or catch up to them when they are challenged by some technical feature. The Spiral of Death delivered both of these criteria in Spades!
Next season who will be brave enough (or stupid enough) to bring a 3-story UCI C1 flyover to the NE? Hup might, we are that gungho enough for cross to build it and see if they will come...or maybe a good compromise is one of those wooden staircases like they rolled up at Bend...We have 9 months to work out the logistics
3.) Hardman of the Year: Pete Smith There was a lot of attrition during this years cross season. Soups broke his leg at PVD, my friend and mentor Derek Griggs was out all season with a blown up knee, this was a season with a lot of hard knocks. Lots of people (both male and female) rode through illness and injury. That is what cross is about and why it is a hardman and hardwomans sport. You don't stay in cross very long if you aren't tough. But Pete....dude takes it to a whole 'nother level.
That x-ray right there is basically a broken ankle. He has been racing on it ALL season. That is like 20 races on an F'd up ankle. He races at an elite level in the 1/2 race for the Embrocation Cycling team. If my ankles get cranky I am out. I am too old to risk it. What makes Pete even more of a hardman in a Jens Voight way is that you never would have even had any idea he was hurt. He was his usual pleasant charming self all season long. If I get slightly dinged up I am a whiny bitch. Trust me its not pretty. And I can't fathom a worse injury for a cross racer. Even with this injury he was able to perform at an extremely high level...check his crossresults.com it is impressive. Pete is also the man behind one of my favorite products- Mad Alchemy. Tough, resilient and just a super nice guy, you know what that does sound an awful lot like Jens Voight now doesn't it. Easy pick for Hardman of the year!
4.) Sponsor of the Year: Planet Bike Sponsors in cross are an enigma. It is hard to get cross sponsorship. From an athlete level and an event level it is tight...and not the good tight like dialed in...sponsorship for cycling is a scramble and cross, well, I have been a fly on the wall in a lot of these discussions and trust me it rarely works out in crosses favor. It usually starts and ends with "what is cross again exactly?"
But Planet Bike has supported cross on a level you just don't see. Katie Fn Compton, Jon Page, our own local grassroots band of brothers, the best first year race in the NE and a sure to be classic Waterville CX...if you really want to give back to cross pick up some Planet Bike lights, fenders etc. Show them the love they have shown us...seriously every bit adds up.
5.) Best internet Celebrity Death Match: RMM vs The Tour of Battenkill This was another really close one. What better use of the interwebs than a good old fashion dust up right? And why not use a public forum to leave a permanent record of your flame...at least in a bar fight you can go with the old he started it or he said "x." On the internet, shocker, once you have pushed send you can't get it back or deny you said some inflammatory remark. You my friend have left a permanent record of your transgression.
RMM is known for stirring up the pot. He is a tough competitor, pretty funny in his own way and has done a ton for cross and cycling in Boston. You only need look at the Cambridge Bicycle team and his superprestige weds night cx worlds to see his commitment and contribution to the sport. But like all shock jocks he lives and dies by his readership or viewership in the age of blogger. Controversy brings viewers. I don't think he even meant to stir the pot as much as he did in this instance. He purely wrote an essay about escalating entry fees in a fairly non-bombastic manner. Well Dieter Drake, the promoter of BK, just couldn't help himself and took it upon himself to have at it with RMM, AM and any and all comers in Mike's comment section. The final tally=87 comments. That has to be some kind of world record for blogger comments. Seriously. Mike should be leveraging that for some kind of subscription fee to his blog or at least ad income. You can't buy that kind of readership..
A close second to RMM's dust up was the Richard Sachs/Dombroski break up. On so many levels that blew RMM v Dieter away. Airing your dirty laundry on the interwebs is bad, bad, bad...the old any press is good press is about a decade old. In this case any press especially emails sent between two parties only makes you and your company seem punitive and bitter. Both have extracted themselves from potentially damaging themselves. Dombroski is a woman on fire and is looking to be the next Katie Fn Compton for years to come. And Richard is just an icon and someone I have much love and utmost respect for. They didn't miss a beat either. So I guess the point is while they seemed to come out of the dust up ok I don't know if Dieter and BK will be able to say the same. So match point to RMM.
That my friends is that. Happy Monday! A Hup NE rap up is in the works. So much to look back on and relive, put in the archive to see if we can make the soup as good next year. I've had a look at a few projects that are in the vault and have to say look out...big things coming together for 2010. Hup Hup