Holy Week in the NECX is something special. The term is not as contrived as it sounds. It really is a week that the entire cross community holds on a lofty pedestal. And this one did not fail to deliver. But like a lot of highs in life there is always the low counterpoint to the high. After one of the most fun Night Weasels I can remember we all woke up to the tragic news of losing Amy Dombroski in Belgium in an accident. The news struck us all so hard. AD was a special rider and did so much for US CX and pushing forward women and girls in CX. It really devastated our small community. But once again I am struck by how we all support each other and take care of each other. Heading into Providence I didn't know what to expect. What I found was a spirit and racing style that Amy would approve of. We did what Amy would want us to do. Ride hard, smile, be classy, love each other. There was a moving ride of silence and many hugs that weekend. We miss you AD and you will ride with us in our hearts and souls forever.
I might be "retired" from racing. Racing as the primary reason I go to races anyway. I have been moving much more into the role of working at the races than racing at the races if that makes sense. Its something I love. Maybe more than the actual racing itself. Racing is a hugely selfish act. The training, time spent away from family etc, the money spent on equipment and race fees. And you need to be very self focused to do well. I have really never been self focused. Its not in my nature. I love my friends and community and get more joy helping them or seeing them have a great race than I ever would doing well in a race. The few times I have done well have felt fairly empty to be honest. Its nice to be fit and beat some frenemies but I know I will never be anything but a mid-pack masters racer. Not making a judgement statement just stating my own metamorphosis in CX. I have resisted in the past and tried to take CX "seriously" but its time to be honest. I love working. I love putting on CX races and events. I love supporting a team and racers who deserve it. So this Holy Week was really about work. And the work I love. And I have to say I came away way more happy than I would have if I'd raced 7 times in 10 days. I raced one race. The Madison relay CX at Providence. And it was amazing! More on that later.
Sometimes I feel like I am one of the Hanleys - The hardest working Jamaican family from the In Living Color skit with the Keenan Ivory Wayans. "Only one job 'mon?" Suffice it to say I wear a lot of hats. We put on a Holy Week Teams of the NECX party at the Ride Studio Cafe, Night Weasels, attended the Builders Ball, worked the Honey Bikes booth at Provience, raced the Madison, promoted the Zank SSCX race, encouraged and supported general mayhem in concert with the Philly SSCX Worlds crew. And took care of a brand new puppy. There is only one way I wasn't a total hot mess by Sunday. Everyone chips in. HUP United has blown my mind. They are the best crew on the planet. In my absence they have manned the HUP tent, worked racers, raced their hearts out and just done what we always do. I love that HUP New England has become such a part of the CX scene. I heard so many race promoters telling me how great it was that the team helped set up race course after race course. Carrie, Markie Mark, Lazer (MVL), Deitch, Michele, everyone. The other side of HUP that makes me so proud is what happens between the tape. Michele and Ed are on fire. They are racing on a whole other level right now. And it is beyond inspiring to me. Both have big jobs, two kids, totally involved parents, always in good moods, always supporting the team and other racers and are having break out seasons. Ed is proof that Tri-athletes can kill it at CX. Frankly I think he is a CX racer now who does a Tri every once and a while. Respect to those two. The fact that Michele can trace her CX street cred back to Boston Cross is icing on the cake. Its why we as a team are growing and not suffering the fate of some other teams who burn bright and then implode.
People often as "what I do?" Fair question. Tough answer. Some is straightforward. Putting on a race is fairly simple in a complex way. Especially when you have ROYter and Pedal Power keeping you in check. But what are all these other hats? We run a series within a series? What is that all about? The Zank SSCX series was and is about growing CX from the bottom up. Not the top down. Make CX more accessible. Make it less intimidating. Less a cliche or cool kids club. If you have met me you know why I want to encourage less cool kids and more everywomen/everyman. I have never been cool. Never will be. The SSCX series has been fantastic this season. And with Philly SSCX Worlds looming I knew it would be something special. When Pat and Richard asked if we could be a part of Providence I knew it would be a launching off point. Showing SSCX off on such a big stage got me so stoked. I had no idea just how rad it would be. I tip my hat to all who made it so fun. And I tip my hat to Pat and Richard for adding in the Madison to Friday's races. Having the SSCX and the CX relay on the same day made Friday one big CX party. Sure the USAC officials were having to shake their heads a lot. And some "serious" racers got their spandex in a bunch at some of the shenanigans. But all in all it was a great gathering of the tribe. Racers from PA, MACistan, MD, NJ, all over came to just get rad. Even Tim Johnson came out to party. Ok I don't know if he actually partied but he was there so...yeah he partied with us.
After the races on Friday I flew over to the Biltmore in Providence for the Builders Ball. The Biltmore is an old time hotel in downtown Providence. When I went to art school in the late '80s we didn't go downtown. It was sketchy as hell. RISD was a great 4 years in my life. Being back in Providence stirred up some old memories but also inspired me in ways that are way more relevant to the future. The Builders Ball had such a good vibe. About 500 people packed into a ballroom drinking beer and talking bikes. Cross Jesus was in rare form. I am not sure what to think. Agent Utah seems to be long gone. Replaced by a character that is so far nameless but resembles a CX Hobo. He may or may not have spent the evening licking the top tubes of very fine handbuilt bicycle frames. I was able to meet a few of the RISD cycling team and that was pretty rad. I remember some of my friends riding way back in the day but no one was organized enough to form a race team. Kudos to the new generation for making this happen. The kits are awesome and I love their attitude about racing and riding. There is a weird Art School bike industry connection. So many racers, builders etc I know have some background in art. Its being replaced a tad by the engineers of the world but it gives me hope that cycling will keep its grunge roots. A bike is after all usable art.
Night Weasels was a huge success. After 3 years of horrible conditions we finely had a warm and dry evening. The difference was enormous. When you aren't battling the elements you can actually focus on putting on a great race. I know racers love near biblical conditions. I do myself. I love muddy, nasty CX races. But from a promoters standpoint it makes every single action 100% more difficult. And spending two days out in the rain and cold tends to make you sick. Kudos to everyone who came out and had a blast. I love this race. Working with Colin and Sara always cracks me up. Huge thanks to everyone who has supported us and made it possible. Ski Ward deserves major props. They work their tails off on the event each and every year. And they open up their arms to us and let us take over the ski hill and throw one of the raddest CX parties on the planet.
One of the best parts of the #NECX and our extended CX family are all the characters that fill our ranks. I guess that is why this transition from bike "racer" to bike "worker" bee has been so easy. I would rather hangout and laugh at all that is going on around me than freak out and be so serious that I can't see all the amazing things that happen at a cross race. From taking group photos inside the Boloco burrito truck to taking handups from the Philly SSCX Worlds crew to putting on a Teams of the NECX show at the Ride Studio the whole week was filled with so many cool people and laughs. Below are a few shots from the week that just say it all:
Jon Nable getting a little too rad on a table top. Love that he is shredding Night Weasels on his 29er!
MVL and Leslie with matching Worlds t-shirts. Those two are hilarious. Love how hard Lazer races and love that Leslie is digging racing cross. They both crack me up.
There were so many cool bikes at the Builders Ball. Honey brought three to show. Here is a Final 200 Meters.
I love old hotels. I do get a bit creeped out and envision waking up to Redrum painted on my hotel wall but I like ghosts and am cool with some spirits trying to talk to me.
The big wookie. GeWilli is Providence. Never seen the man so happy. Makes sense as it is his turf. Providence may be my favorite CX venue. It was an incredible course. Like a CX rollercoaster ride. It was so hard if you didn't really understand how it worked. But for me it had everything I love. Fast barrier/stair transitions, technical aspects everywhere, super fast drop ins and lots and lots of fast corners. Even the paved sections didn't bother me. And in all seriousness we need to do more CX relay races. Maybe extend the time. We were supposed to do 45 minutes or an hour. We did almost two hours. And my last lap was in almost darkness. Which I loved. Make it 4-6 hours. Have it go into the night. It would be amazing.
Metal. SSCX and CX are all about Metal in my mind. I said it before I will say it again my friends are what make all of the cool stuff I am involved in happen. Without them it would be impossible. Matt Lolli has been a huge influence on me the last two seasons. He is a great friend and a real warrior on the bike. He's brought so much radness to our SSCX series its not even funny. SSCX is growing. It won't be one thing. I like that everyone puts their own stamp on it. Its ok to race in a bacon suit, its ok to race in full kit and be "serious", its ok to use zip ties, its ok to take handups. Philly SSCX Worlds are going to be bananas. After Providence I am super stoked. I have heard some rumors but for now we will just have to black out December 6, 7, & 8th and #GETINTHEVAN!!!