True confession time. I have never "raced" a singlespeed CX race. That may be shocking coming from a co-promoter of a singlespeed CX series. Sure, alongside my teammate and bike twin Leah Pappas-Barnes, I am the NECX/Intergallatic/World Champion of coed relay SSCX. But I have never, ever "raced" the SSCX race at Ice Weasels. That is a party, where a bike "race" breaks out. The past two seasons I have been head cheerleader/minister of mayhem for the SSCX series. We have been building up the series and I have wanted to make sure everything went smoothly. But I am learning to let go. This season I am bringing the funk back. My mission is to only race SSCX. Bold statement but true. I blame Ray, and Team Awesome, and Parsons, and a whole legion of dirty single speeders.Those two pictured above are probably the most responsible for this. Matt Lolli and Matt Aumiller are beyond rad. They know how to have fun while turning themselves inside out. SSCX isn't just some hipster tractor pull. Yeah everyone focuses on the handups and the cross dressing and the chaos but what gets missed in haze of all the paisley sundresses and Beyond the Thunderdome sideshow is that it strips CX down to a very pure and brutal 45 minutes. And it brings the fun/funk back into a sport, that in New England anyway, is teetering on the brink of taking itself way too seriously.
photo by Ginelle
Quad CX was both the season opener for the Zanconato SSCX series as well as the official start of cross season in New England. There were over 440 racers battling it out at the Maynard Rod and Gun club on Sunday. If there is a better venue to get the season started than a gun club I can't think of one. Quad cycles has done a great job building this race up into a New England Classic. Ted and his crew changed the course up a bit. They put the start/finish on a grass field which was much better than the old finish on an uphill dust bowl! They also added a nice twisty field to increase lap times. Deciding to only race SSCX may be the best decision I have ever made. The SSCX race at Quad was the last race of the day. This afforded me a very gentlemanly Sunday am. While my phone was blowing up with texts and instagram photos of dusty carnage and freak outs, I was rolling on my CX bike to Cutler for a soulrun. Why not? My initial plan was to ride the bike to Quad and race, but the realities of bringing two cases of podium beer for the SSCX race squashed that idea fast. Its been way too long since I have ridden Cutler anyway. So I rolled out around 10 am and got about an hour and a half just enjoying the woods and riding over rickety boardwalks. It was a gorgeous day. I felt slightly guilty missing the fun of 100 Cat 3s clawing and scratching each other to pieces for 48th place. But then I dove into a pump track solo and forgot all about that.
I left my house at 12:30. The manvan was packed with beer, a bike and some cold drinks. Damn I love local grassroots races. I got the venue and had no problem finding a great spot to park in the soccer field. And there waiting for me was the Death Star in all its glory. Carrie deserves HUGE kudos for setting it up and picking the perfect spot. Team tent placement is critical to enjoying a day at the cross races. This may seem trivial but its not. You need to be in a key spot to both heckle, get the bikes ready, attend to any disasters that may unfold and to have fairly easy access to the start/finish. The HUP tailgater was at mid-season form yesterday. Impressive to say the least. This season is only one race old and I can already tell its going to be something special. HUP both new and OG were in large numbers for an early season race. And we had some VIP guest hecklers as well. I finally got to meet Cyclismas Editor Leslie Cohen. This was her first cross race. And she crushed it! Very stoked she had so much fun racing. She is also a Cat 1 heckler I will say that!
I messed about with my bike getting it ready until Abel just could not take the site of me fumbling with tools like a 600 pound gorilla and politely had me move away from the bike before I did any damage to it or myself. We are pretty lucky to have such great support on HUP. So my CX and mechanical knowledge under that Noir tent. This was my first race zip tying a geared bike as a SSCX machine. I made a fairly lame attempt at picking a gear. Still not sure what gear it was. Let's call it the magic gear! SSCX is a tough event to pick a SS gear. You need to have a big enough gear to go fast on the flats and sprint out of corners but you also want a gear that is fun and that you can get rad on. I don't think I picked a very good gear but what are you gonna do. Over thinking SSCX defeats the whole purpose. We had 47 men and 4 women on the line. I got a second row call up which was rad. I was right next to Nick "Ironman" Maggiore and Markie Mark. Have I mentioned I haven't been on my cross bike in a while? Yeah. Transitioning from a mtn bike to a CX bike is always interesting. Quad is a pretty jungly course. Today was dusty and fast with a fair amount of gravel. Time to do some serious drifting!!!! I also was on last years tubular glue job. It was Wilcox approved but still hitting a gravel filled corner at 20 mph on last years glue job can be a test of will and flesh.
The gun went off and in a dust cloud SSCX season was on!!! During the earlier races Carrie tweeted out about how many HUP were reg'd for the SSCX race. We had 10 riders in the race! She coined the best hashtag ever and what will be our mantra for the rest of the season. #Occupysinglespeed. HUP is going to be all over the SSCX series this year! We had Rosey in full OG HUP Bleu, Markie Mark, Abel and Parke in Blanco, and the rest of us in a mash up of B sample and Noir. We also had one of our newest HUP in the Special Rooster kit. That kit was a beacon for me in that first dust filled mayhem filled lap. The course was a tough one. Lots of crazy loose sandy ups and downs, a ripper of a descent and of course my favorite euro chute woods section. I only wanted to ghost shift on the gravel descent. I could feel my index finger getting twitchy as I spun out at about 150 rpm. Then I would get bored and just coast. There was some carnage fairly early on. Abel had some difficulty. And Jerry's bike decided to assplode on him. Both of them came FLYINg by me with a lap or two to go. Those two are legit SSCX killahs.
I had so much fun. Was in a fun group with Parke and Nick and Phil for a while. It really was a huge learning experience and I was constantly screaming NOBRAKES to myself in my head. The only thing you have in SSCX is momentum. My usual come in hot, slam on the brakes, power shift and accelerate out of corners clearly was not going to work on a SS. So I tried to be way more smooth. I think this is going to be the biggest learning in the SS Dojo this season. That and power. And running. Damn not being able to shift down changes the game. Go harder or get off and run. ENGVT had a great crew. So great seeing those dudes out smashing and always bringing it. Some shoutouts:
• Johnny Utah aka Matt Aumiller gets the dirty double award for racing the Landmine mtn bike race in the am and then the SSCX in the afternoon
• Matt Lolli gets the Paul Bunyan award for chopping down a tree with his body in the Cat 3 race and then smashing it in the SSCX
• Nick gets the Triple Crown for doing 3 races at Quad. And never complaining about being tired or mentioning once on the tubes about how "hard" it was. He was shivering at the start of the SSCX race. It was about 80 degrees. I am pretty sure he had heat stroke.
• Markie Mark and Abel pretty much tied for most photogenic HUP rider. I may have to force them to wear Blanco all season.
• Carrie, Julia, Sara, Cori and Tami get high fives for coming out and racing hard. Julia and Tami got a bit bloodied up but were still smiling. I hope they aren't too dinged up. It just looked like a flesh wound. If you ask them I think they would all tell you SSCX is a blast. We would love more women to come and race with us. It really is awesome. I promise you will have fun. Everyone looks out for each other. People pass safely and it is becoming a real family.
• We have an Official Photographer! Ben Stephens takes amazing photos. We are so lucky to have him shooting photos for the series. The 3 action photos above are his work!
Next stop on the Zank SSCX World Tour is the double NH weekend. White Park is Saturday, September 21, and Sucker Brook is Sunday, September 22.
Thank you to our sponsors: Ipswich Ale, ENGVT, Boloco, Death Touch Cross