Roger Cadman and I battling it out. We look like a kind of Yin and Yang of cx. Or maybe the Half-Moon cookie of cross. It was so much fun...photo by Tiffany Remy
The bike cannot cure cancer. The bike cannot save the world. The bike is not everything. The bike can transform its rider. And it can build communities. And it can be a time machine that even if for only one brief moment of flying can fix everything. This post was going to be called "The Kids are Alright" And it was going to be an homage/shoutout to all the riders, mostly young who have taken Ernest Gagnon under their wing the last two cross seasons.
I don't know how much you all know about Ernest. I didn't really know much about him til recently. I knew his story a bit and knew he was a good photographer. But the impact these young men (mostly) have had on his life is nothing short of amazing. We talk incessantly about how to grow cross and fight over the most minor details. Its insane actually. What gets lost in the conversation is that like lots of movements cross has its own life force right now. The growth is happening in a viral way now. Look at how many women are coming into the sport. People can say they have contributed to the growth but in the big picture it is the community that has made it happen. Not one person or event or team.
One of Ernest's goals other than to get his health back was to race a cross race. Ernest is struggling with some lifelong health issues. He is trying to lose weight by changing his lifestyle. A big part of that is cycling. He has done an amazing job! He has already lost a ton of weight. And is getting his health back. But he still has a ways to go. I think he got kind of bummed that he didn't get to actually race at one of the races this year. He really shouldn't have been bummed as what he has accomplished already is beyond belief. But his friends and he came up with an idea. How about a cross relay race? And thus the Ernest Gagnon Bitter Cold Showdown was born!
A bunch of people got together and made it happen. Andy Huff is now and forever the King of Bandit racing! Typically a Bandit race is show and go. Ie., show up maybe throw a few cones down and do a flash mob cx race. But be prepared to flee from cops, angry dog walkers or groundspeople. Last Sunday the same day as Nats Andy created the Occupy Cyclocross Movement. Andy talked about the race for weeks. He found a venue. He invited everyone. We all showed up and it was like Deja Vu of Shedd Park. I rolled up and saw step in stakes and course tape. On the WHOLE course. I mean that is unheard of. That takes balls made of unobtanium. But sometimes when you want to do something Bandit you go big. And everyone including the police assume its legit. Andy, Ernest and Abel set up a sick course. Like seriously fantastic. Turns. Lots and lots of turns. And a bunch of offcamber and some sketchy stuff. Two drop ins and some great use of the broken down remnants of this old park. There were also two short cuts. The idea afterall was not to do a race that crushed everyone but that was for beginners or those new to the sport.
The NECX is awesome. But there is a piece of the puzzle we are missing. Say all you want about juniors being the future of cyclocross but beginners and women are the future. End of story. No beginners. No future. And doing it as a relay makes it so much less intimidating. Teams of 5 were formed up. About 40 people showed up to race. Cosmo came up from CT, a gang of ECV came down, Geekhouse, Newbury Comics, Hup, Mystic Velo, a ton of riders. And it was like the word got out to bring a new person to try cx. So many new faces that were willing to give it a go. Ernest and Cosmo were on our team of Abel, Parke and Myself. A lemans start was decided. Batons were issued. And they were enormous. I had a lot of trouble with the baton....I kept fearing I would crash and it would need to be surgically removed from my body. A bunch of us were on singlespeeds. It was so awesome seeing people having such a good time
The highlight of course was Ernest taking two laps! He did it. Respect to Ernest. And to Cosmo and to all the kids who supported Ernest in his dream to race cross. I really believe this is the future of beginner cx. Whether we do it as a "clinic" or as a race series I think is irrelevant. What it does it brings new people into the sport and doesn't scare them off. We really could build it into a cool thing. I wanted it to go for 24 hours and have bonfires and kegs of beer but you all know I am sick like that ; )
The other highlight was my final lap. I got to race my great friend Roger. I love that man. If there is anything the bike does is it opens you up to so many amazing people. And it forges friendships that you just couldn't build in any other way. I think it happens in surfing and a few other culty sports/activities. But cycling and cross especially are something special. Roger got me at the line by a bike length. And Susan technically beat us. Well she beat us pretty badly actually...