Sunday, December 18, 2011

To DQ or not to DQ?

For the record I always stop at Dairy Queen I love that soft serve. But I am obviously talking about another type of DQ here. Disqualification. And the Icecrisisweasel. Not Dairy Queen. It is a dirty word in my book. It means you cheated. Or did something unsportsmanlike. I may be a lot of things. Fat and slow. Old. Sort of ugly. Totally ADD. But one thing I am is loyal. And a man of honor. For real. I am not even kidding. That means different things to different people. To me in a bike racing context it means riding and racing with class. It means having a higher standard. I don't yell, or swear on a race course. I don't do dirty things. I race hard. I don't mind rubbing elbows etc but I do not create drama like so many other masters racers. I believe in growing the sport by being positive and inclusive.

So I was faced with quite the dilemma as I was staged up at the back of the singlespeed race (that I was helping promote for my good friend Mike Zanconato) and the head official told us we would be DQ'd for taking a handup. Not just beer. Anything. A cupcake. A cookie. He said he'd already DQ'd 13 guys in the 1,2,3 race. This as you imagine was not received well by a bunch of singlespeeders. What the official didn't realize. Or chose to ignore is people were here to race. Whether they took a beer handup or not this race was on. There was a ton of bragging rights on the line. If you win Ice Weasels you have bragging rights for the whole season. And you are a badass. Period

So there was much grumbling. Counter to what the official stated later there was no disrespect towards him at all. He was laughing. Later he made it seem much more serious. It wasn't. How serious can a man in an Elvis costume be? Scary I guess. Well he scared me as it took me the whole race to beat him. But this was the younger Karate expert, hip shaking Elvis not the doped to the gills fried banana sandwich Elvis. The race goes off! 75 singlespeeders pedal their brains out to get the holeshot. I get in a good spot as I had a pretty big gear. Did I mention this was my first singlespeed race? Yeah pretty much. So I am locked in on some guys wheel which I find out maybe isn't the smartest thing with ss. We avoid one big pileup. We come flying down the straight away carve the berm and then come to a screeching halt at the tree as there was a HUGE pileup. I ram some guy in the rear with my brake lever. And then get t-boned from behind. I thought my rear wheel was done! Well not my rear wheel technically as it was The Wilcoxs R-SYS...doooh. I figured all those fancy carbon spokes would now just be shards hanging from a now useless wheel. But to my surprise it was only my brake arm that was jammed under the rim. So I step off and get my act together and get after Elvis! My battle with Elvis becomes epic. And as the laps wore on and my back and legs start killing me from the pain. I say to myself "Self just take a beer feed and get it over with. Make the pain stop." I let Satan have his little 15 minutes to rant about the injustice of how much suffering I was putting my body through and then ignored him. My last thought before getting back to the business at hand was racing singlespeed sober is stupid. Then I stopped the self pity talk and got rad.
I start getting high fives which is really weird. I am like oh yeah HIGH FIVE! Afterwards I found out it was the high five hand up. Oh goodie. No one can be offended or worried that cross will be ruined by high fives I guess. I do my best to finally catch Elvis. Meanwhile a 12 year old ECV rider gets on my wheel right before the sprint to the finish and proves that once again Old Man Power is a lie. 12 year old power is much stronger. Trust me. So I took the high road. I did not get DQ'ed. Streak alive. No DQ's on my permanent record.

But back to dahweasel. Thom Parsons had been getting us worked up all week that it was going to be a mudpit and that it was going to be insane. Or Xtreme! I forget which. Thankfully the mud was not of epic proportions but it was nice and greasy which made it super fun. The course was probably my favorite rendition of dahweasel yet. It was super turny but in a good way. And Kevin had dug out the most badass little Euro Chute on the back section. It was dubbed Bermingham as there was a nice little Berm you hit right after you dropped in. Then a run up and another chute and a ride up. In the 3/4 race I lined up with my good friend Markie Mark. He is pictured above looking like a stone cold killah. Actually we were both pretty much praying we didn't die in the first turn as the 3s have had some issues at the start this season. Noho? Hello people can't we just get a race started without bombs going off? And as we had thought the entire right side of the field at the holeshot looked like something out of Glory. Bodies and bikes flying through the air. We shot left and made it through clean. I think I ran over a dudes arm or his wheel. I didn't look back. Mark and I got in a great groove. We were in a group of 5 or 6. 1 Cambridge rider we knew and that same strong 12 yr old ECV rider. Ok he's not 12. He's probably like 19 or something. But he's wicked fit. Its not right. But in all seriousness he is a really nice kid. So Mark and I are working these guys over a bit and trying to get tactical. Unlike some of my other teammates, cough*Robert*cough, who would rather beat, crash or destroy their own teammate than lose to them. Mark and I were much more interested in beating the other guys in our group. I think we were all locked together for about 5 laps.

With 3 to go. We started feeling the situation out. Mark got to the front before the Euro Chute and got a little gap. As we came out and on the straight away I got a bit nervous. Mark was maybe 100 yards up now. I sat up. I did not want to work to bring CB and ECV up to Mark. Right before the pit Jordan came around and I had to go get on his wheel. Jordan, Me and Nick stayed in contact together for the next three laps. Mark stayed away and I fought as hard as I could but got gapped off with one to go. It was a great race. It felt so awesome to have that tight of racing for pretty much the whole race. I think the officials may have been doing too much work hiding in bushes trying to DQ people for HUPcake handups though. I am pretty sure we did an hour and lap. Not that I am complaining.
But in my mind I was done. I survived the cursed race #13 unscathed. Which is no easy task for me. Ice Weasels has left its toothy mark on me before. So I was glad to be done. I got back to the tailgate and was just stoked to be surrounded by the NECX and having a good time. I pounded a bunch of Moxie sodas, had a ton of steak tips and about a dozen mini-HUPcakes. Then the boys pictured above came looking for me. They wanted to know why I was in street clothing. Ummm you know I am done racing...What are you talking about Baker? They were not going to take no for an answer. So I did a push up contest with NegaCoach to get the blood going, a one eyed dog licked my face and I put my kit back on and got out to the start line of the singlespeed World Championships of New England. That nice man to the right with the frown? Yeah he is your NECX SSCX World Champ. So proud he won. Nothing better than your good friend and team rider of the Sponsors race taking the win.
There are way too many thoughts from dahweasel and this season to put in this post. I will say this singlespeed racing is alive and frigging well in New England thank you very much. It is not going away. And next year it will be bigger than ever. I am so thankful to everyone who made it happen this year. It was amazing. Seeing all the racers just race their hearts out. And battle. And have fun. Its what cross is all about. My personal thoughts from the one race I did? I am hooked. It is so different than geared racing. Night and day. It is not a gearing choice as the haters like to say. You have to flow. It gets to the crux of racing cx well. You can't use your brakes. Like ever. And certainly not in a turn. So it teaches you to really go tape to tape and carry that momentum. And you get in some sick battles because you all basically have the same gear. So its who can pedal harder. And then go even hahhdah. Or who can pedal at 150 rpm! I love it. My ss bike is going to get a lot of action this winter that is for sure.

Ice Weasels itself was amazing. Sure we had police helicopters circling us, and the board of health shook us down a bit. But everyone had fun and was polite and respectful. It may seem like chaos and mayhem to outsiders but its organized chaos and orchestrated mayhem. I bow down to Colin, Thom and Kevin. They worked so hard on this event this year. It was like a mini Noho. For real. And one thing that to me just spoke volumes was a little interaction I had with Thom's Grandmother. For those unfamiliar with the Ice Weasels. Its a working farm. Thom's family owns and runs it. They live there. So in the am as we were getting reg set up and everything rolling. His grandmother comes out. I don't know how old she is maybe 80. She looks out at the race course. She walks the course a bit. She says hi to me and says "this is amazing." Then she asks me and Ryan Kelly and Leah if we want to come inside where its warm. Mindblowing. You do not see that type of grace and warmth much anymore. Here we are for lack of a better word Occupying White Barn Farm. 500 strangers descended on her farm and got their cross on. Its not an out of control frat party its like Woodstock for cross racers.

Andy Huff and Joe from Seven soaking it all up. To my friends and amazing HUP teammates thank you for an incredible cx season. Thank you for Power Animals, NegaCoach, "You Got This", Dahweasel, Flyovers, mudpits, the Death Star, HUPcakes, Smithers and Lazer helmets, handups, Mudstaches, Matt & Mo, Singlespeeds, The Wilcox, Coach Al, Zank and the Sutton MTB Mafia, MegA and JD and the Noho CX Mafia, Old guys who race hard, the 3/4 women of the NECX! Especially the ladies. You ladies are so rad its not even funny. You show me how to race hard every race but still have fun and how to support one another. Thank you for that. Thanks to Roger and Newbury Comics. No one rocks harder. Thanks to Pete for making it rain Glitter. Thanks to Mark the Shark for that lap at VeloCX and for coming back. Thanks to Zank. Huge thanks to Mikey. Thanks for the singlespeed series. It was amazing. Thanks to Rob and Patria at the Ride Studio. You both have done so much for the NECX. Chan and Chanbagger. You two are a dynamic duo. ECV. Where to even start. Paul and Chris? Such good friends and both do so much for the sport. Colin. Dude. Hardest working man in the NECX. And just pro as hell. I have seen the darkside of race promotions. And Colin not only busts his ass but he stays so positive it is amazing. I can't believe the kid is half my age. But for real much respect. Matt Aumiller and the cockroach. Thank you for letting some boring white dude hang out with you hipsters. And don't worry I won't let your dirty little secret out that you are all PHD's and super smart productive members of society. No one reads this blog anyway your secret is safe ; ) Rosey. Gerry. The Ronde. Eli and MVL for keeping the HUP tailgate flames burning bright. Zac Daab, aka the Godfather. Huge thanks to that man for creating HUP and supporting us in the NE, Chris Milliman, Bill Strickland, TJ, JPow. Last but not least my babymomma. Err my smoking hot wife. My wife and kids are everything. You all are my family away from my family but they are everything to me. I owe them big time for letting me go play cx racer from August to December every year. Have a happy holiday and a safe New Year. My New Years promise to you all. 2012 will be filled with more gnar and more radness...promise

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