I have had a post cooking for months. It was going to be about how Hupcakes and fun aren't ruining cyclocross. This whole UCI/USAC/USGP debacle kind of blew my whole plan out of the water. Do I really need to go on and on about how Hupcakes aren't ruining 'cross now? No I don't think so. We all now know who and what will kill 'cross in America and it ain't gonna be the hupcake. The enemy or enemies have shown themselves. I witnessed NORBA's death blow to mountain bike racing and it was not pretty....
So let's get down to business! Maybe the Hupcake and the handup can SAVE cyclocross. That is a bold statement but it may in fact be true. But make no mistake about it taking a hupcake/waffle/cookie handup and not dying is serious business. Most handups happen at the top of a runnup or on a barrier section as the rider is going slow enough to manage the feed, and the person doing the handoff can set it up. But the problem is that the rider is likely at LT and can barely breathe. I almost died at Putney this year. I took a hupcake on the top of the runnup took a HUGE bite of that sugary goodness and then realized I had nothing to wash it down with..it took about two laps for it to clear my windpipe.
Once it did and all that sugar hit my brain it was like I had a jet pack on the back of my bike. So in one sense, ironically, maybe taking a cupcake handup is like doping and does give the racer an unfair performance advantage over the more serious straight racer. Perhaps this is the real reason people hate feeds. I always thought people who didn't like handups just hated fun...
The origins of the species. Who invented the Hupcake? That is kind of like who invented the mountain bike...but in my mind Kerry Combs one of Hup's OG members gets that distinction. She created the "Hupcake Express" moniker for a Hup relay team at 24 hrs of Great Glen about 2 years ago. We had so much fun at that race that the whole concept just took hold and we ran with it. I'll be honest those first Hupcakes were mostly white trash Betty Crocker style. Kerry's weren't, she made real cupcakes from scratch and they were delicious and artfully done. But when a bunch of dudes are making cupcakes we go straight to white trash. Its in our DNA.
But we had some mentors along the way. Hannah Kirshner was so nice. She never mocked us. When ever we needed something special she would take the Hupcake to a whole other level. Her creations are like edible art. Mo Bruno Roy would show us just how good vegan cupcakes could be. Kerry was always up for a batch. Lodrina even made Geekhouse minis for Ice Weasels last year. Then Joy, Roni, and Kim joined the team. That changed everything.
The Exchange: This is arguably the most important part of the Handup. It can be a handup, hand down, hand off or even as is popular with dollar bills a stash. In the instance of a dollar bill you can put them anywhere. On a stake, on a barrier, cone, in a beer bottle, in your mouth, etc., the more creative the better. It separates the serious from those looking not only to have fun but to get paid. But lets break it down.
Option A: The Handup. Find a spot on the top of a runnup. Doing it at the bottom won't work. The transition is too tricky. Mid runnup is pointless as the rider needs to be able to set it up. Ideally you will be on the left side (as you look up the course from the bottom ie racers perspective) of the runnup as 99% of all 'cross racers portage the bike on their right shoulder. It can be done on the other side but trying to reach across your body and bike to grab a cookie or beer doesn't usually end well. Ok you have established position. Now you need to make some noise. Unless the rider knows its coming he or she is going to be DEEP in the pain cave. They really aren't able to hear or see anything. All they are able to do is keep from puking and try and keep those feet moving in a painful death march.
Bring Da Noise!: Cross superfans need to be loud. To get a racer's attention you need to be louder than all the other drunken freaks on the other side of the tape. Scream your head off, ring cowbells, heckle, say crazy shit, anything to get the racers attention. Andy Huff may be the master at this. Watching him work at Lowell was like watching a master in action. Obviously after a few laps racers will get the idea. At Putney it took about half the race. We had an official who we weren't really sure how he would feel about the feeds. Thankfully he wasn't a member of the fun police and got really into it. As long as you aren't a drunken lout and are respectful it is amazing what you can accomplish.
The Exchange: Ok you have gotten the racers attention. They want a feed. Now you need to get that exchange down. 90% of the success or failure of a handoff falls squarely on the shoulders of the person doing the handoff. You need to do it right. Let the racer come to you. Do not shove it in their face. Put it at about head level and let them take it. Obviously if its a hand off ie they grab the beer can or cookie or waffle with their hand no worries. Its like a baton in a relay race just put it out there and they will fly through and grab it. If its a situation where they are going to use their mouth for god sake be careful. We don't want anyone losing teeth or crashing because you got to aggressive with your feed.
The Stash: This has grown in popularity in recent years. I think it started at CrossVegas before they deemed fun unseemly. The idea is to take a dollar bill and place it on a barrier or on a stake. It really boosts the morale of those poor bastards at the back of a UCI race. Here they are once again trying with every fiber of their existence to not get pulled and when out of the blue....Money! Everyone likes money! Dollar bills are probably the most popular but as is shown above it can also be a great opportunity to do a cupcake feed. In New England we strongly believe the orange cone will singlehandedly destroy cyclocross. That cone is only there for one reason cupcake feed. Note the UCI compliant sponsored snow fence and double tape in the background.
Lift Off!: So how does a racer take the handup? There are a couple of techniques. Using your mouth is great for when you are riding up a hill or if you have your hands full carrying the bike. The hand to mouth feed is tricky. You need to set it up from about 50 feet away. Grab that waffle, cupcake what have you in your mouth and take a huge bite. If its too big to swallow whole just take a massive bite and start chewing. It is really bad form to spit out a high quality cupcake. In fact you pretty much will ruin everyone's race by doing so. Ok so I am not going to lie to you this can be tricky. More than one racer has almost choked to death with this technique. Use your head. Chew it up and swallow!
Option B is literally grabbing the beer, money etc with your hand. This is great over barriers and in the case of beer pretty much a necessity. Someone will be handing you a can of beer or a red cup. Taking that with your mouth is Cat 1 handup technique. You my friend are a Cat 4 at best trust me. Ok so your pal is handing a red cup filled with 4 loco to you what do you do? Do you stop and slam it? That has high style points and while racing in an elite race is good form. It ensures you don't get in the way of the actual people racing in this contest.
I think its better to grab the beer slam it and toss it over your shoulder. A word on the toss. Try not to throw a half full beer can back down the course at another racer. Granted some get sick satisfaction out of being sprayed with beer as it goes flying over the side of the tape. It adds to the whole Heavy Metal aspect of the race. Makes it feel like you are in the pit at an OZZY concert. But no one wants to see an innocent bystander take one in the teeth.
Those are the basics. This friday instead of another mind numbing set of openers that will once again do nothing to improve your actual cross race go out with a friend and dial in that handup. Ice Weasels is this saturday and you had better bring your A game. We don't want anyone dying because they didn't learn how to take a proper handup. Now that would ruin cyclo-cross...