Philly SSCXWC was three days of mayhem and madness fueled by Yuengling and PBR. Friday was a registration party/art show. Saturday you had two options. Bilenky Junkyard CX or Feats of Strength. As much as I have always wanted to do Bilenkly the thought of a Tour de back alleys of Philly was much too hard to resist. Riding bikes all over a City with a local Wolf Pack is the best way to see a new City. Feats of Strength and Bilenky were also being used as qualifiers to SSCXWC. Please don't get the wrong impression. Saying you have to qualify for SSCXWC is like saying you have to qualify for band camp. Showing up is 90% of the battle. Speaking of not showing up. So the way this hotmess was supposed to go down was the "delegates" from each city that wanted to host SSCXWC 2014 were supposed to ride together and battle each other for poker chips. That would then be used on the final nights Who's Got Next poker tournament. Cleveland and KY didn't show up. Cleveland was still hammered #dronk from the night before and KY opted for Bilenky. I get it. Sort of. But anyhoo. That left Boston (me), Belgium (Belgium?), Vancouver (Hodala), and Dirt Rag. Although I think Dirt Rag was more of a military observer, sort of like in the early days of the Vietnam conflict.
Our guides (and my new Wolf Pack) were three guys from Lone Wolf Cycling. My host (and new BFF) Ryan slapped a LWC sticker on my chest tagging me as a protected rider. It would in fact act as some type of protective bubble for the next 8 hours. How I survived this day is still a mystery to me. We check in, wait for KY (every time I type that it seems dirty...) and Cleveland. No show so we roll. We get about two blocks and the Hodala guy says "Beer Stop!!!!" Have I mentioned its 9 am? Have I mentioned how much I love the Hodala crew? We get to Hodala HQ for the weekend and roll into the batcave. It is wall to wall Raleigh SSCX bikes and a keg. We have a pint to start the ride on the right note and head back out. I feel pretty drunk which is weird. My blood is pretty much beer at this point so one pint even at 9 am really shouldn't affect me like this. I take a sip of my "water" bottle and see the problem. Looks like while we were checking in at registration someone filled my "water" bottle with whiskey. How helpful! I am sure it was just some concerned SSCXer who didn't want my water bottle to freeze in the 20 degree weather. So I toss that out. And ponder just how hard I will be heckled if I ask these kids to stop for coffee. Luckily the coffee Ryan has been making all weekend is jet fuel and has canceled out the affects of the whiskey.
Feat of Strength Numero Uno is a skate park. Oh shit. Our guides tell us who ever gets the most rad gets chips. We go through a series of challenges. Nothing too horrible. Shenanigans. I do ok. Avoid killing myself. Yarnell, the "Belgian" Delegate, begins to show his colors. He has decided to dress as the Lizard King meets Lion of Flanders. He has faux lizard pants, a leopard print shirt and the topper a Lion of Flanders cape. The cape is attached to his neck with zip ties. Umm zip ties make great hand cuffs for crowd control but not so much for attaching things to one's neck. More on that later. Yarnell crashes his face off a few times. We suggest perhaps putting the Lion in a backpack so he doesn't die when it gets sucked into his wheel. Crickets. So we roll out to Feat of Strength #2. Philly is incredibly bike friendly. Great paths, nice bike lanes, drivers who don't seem hell bent to kill you. I don't think I heard one person honk. At anyone. Weird. Drivers that actually can drive around cyclists in a city without getting pissed.
We are riding 2 across and 6 deep on a nice multi use path along the river. It is gorgeous. Everyone is talking and having a good time. I am right behind Yarnell in the paceline. As we head under a bridge his Lion of Flanders cape gets sucked into his rear wheel and pulls him back and nearly decapitates him. His hands are ripped off his bars and he is falling backwards off the bike. I mentioned we were in a paceline and going about 18 mph right? Yeah so I am screwed. My only option is to go full on Terry Tate bike path linebacker. I basically hurl myself at him and tackle him. Somehow I unclipped and was able to self arrest, tackle him and save us both from death. His helmet hits me square in the jaw and I see stars. The LWC fighter escort deems this a party foul and I am awarded a 3 chip crash penalty. Excellent. I am totally winning this or dying trying.
We head over to the Rocky monument and take some photos and then run to the top of the museum steps. Somehow a man in lizard pants SMOKES me on the run up. I mean I am not a runner but damn. That stings. I think its the whisky. Maybe if I kept drinking it I could have taken him. Running up concrete stairs in CX cleats is not optimal. We see Adam Craig ride up the stairs. Sick. While a super touristy spot it is really cool. People are totally into it. Much heckling goes on between us and tourists/runners. Yarnell challenges a woman to a push up contest. We leave before she calls the cops and we all get tazed. We roll off the back side of the museum and down some offcamber grass hill. The LWC yell WALL and we just avoid catching some sick air off of a stone wall. That would have been epic!
We finally get to some dirt trails. It is so nice. Reminds me so much of the Ronde or Diverged ride that we do in Boston. Its so cool being able to ride park to park and just play on bikes and do stupid shit. We blast down some sweet dirt/gravel trails towards our next challenge. Along the way we have a Sly Fox beer stop at some burned out building. One of the LWC guides tells us about a school bus that was lit on fire in this area. Things can get a bit Zombie Apocalypse fast apparently. We stay on our toes but over the entire length of this ride I never felt in danger. Well except when I was near Yarnell. Then my spidey sense was off the charts. We head to Port Royal for a hill climb challenge. Calling this a challenge is an understatement. I like cobble hillclimbs. They are fun. I have mentioned we are all on singlespeeds right? I have a decent climbing gear with 36 x 17. Theoretically I should be fine. But I am not a climber. Obviously. The boys ride to the top. This one has a massive payout. 50 chips for the winner, 30 for 2nd, 20 for 3rd 1 for 4th. Mike Cushionbury from Dirt Rag joined us to increase the radness. Super cool guy and so stoked I finally got to meet him.
Nick is halfway up and sort of tells it like it is. In his words. "Its steep at the bottom, turns right and punches up and gets loose and nasty. And look out for cars" Holy shit. Ok so 3,2,1 blast off. I get a good start and then we hit the wet cobbles on the right turn and Cush goes FLYING past me in overalls and boots. The impact of this on my feeble mental state is crushing. I fall over. Yarnell passes me. Fuck. I try and run. The cobbles are so bad from the rain etc you can't even walk them let alone run. Yarnell puts a foot down. SHIT. I hop on and pedal like a stomp on the pedals. ITSOCLOSE. If I had 50 more yards I would have had him. Shit. LoF=2 #CBL=0. This is not going well. As we are prone on the ground puking. The Canadian saunters by us and keeps riding up the hill. In my hypoxic state I wonder where he is going. And then I see the chips stacked up on the ground. Hodala casually reaches down and steals Yarnells chips!!! Hahaha yeah buddy that is what I am talking about. We had been taking this way too seriously up until this point. He takes off up the hill. Classic SSCX move. I love that guy to say the least.
We get out act together and roll up the hill. Yarnell is shattered. And we have another real paved climb kicking us in the nuts. No one seems to care that Yarnell is off the back. I usually have sympathy for my frenemies but in this instance I defer to the locals. Its all I can do to keep the pedals going anyway. We regroup at the dirt crit portion of this Feats of Strength. Ok finally maybe a contest I can "compete" at. The venue for the dirt crit is a burnt out old reservoir that has been reclaimed by the dog walkers and environmentalists. It reminds me of something you would see in Watertown or Belmont. Its about a 1/4 lap. 100% flat. Half dirt and some cobble/pavement. One puddle and one somewhat greasy corner. We use a park bench as start finish. We line up 3 across. I think Cushionbury sat this one out to drink the nice homebrew that the LWC guys brought along. We were waiting for another group to come along to join us but they were lagging and we were freezing so we went for it. Yarnell and I were 1, 2 for half a lap then he popped big time. I thought I had it then sensed another rider on my wheel. I snuck a look under my armpit and saw Hodala right on me. Shit. I knew I was screwed. He had a way bigger gear than I did. But this was all for fun so I just got in the drops and went for it. We were flying. Predictably as we were in sight of the picnic bench he came around for the win! It was awesome.
After that we hung out and drank home brew and watch wave after wave of riders race in heats. It was pretty hilarious. Some really good battles to say the least. It got cold so we moved on to the next stage with a much bigger group of riders. We picked up or absorbed by about 20-30 riders. Having been a bunch of these rides I know how it can go and asked the LWC crew if we should move up. They were unfazed. We popped into some singletrack and then a school. And then we rode the most glorious roller coaster I have been on in a while. I think it was called the Meadow and led to Wissahickon park. I was right behind the LWC guys and watching them shred the trail was insane. I just locked in and followed their line. People were smashed off the trail freaking out and we just would come bombing through. They warned us at the end there was a big chute into a drop in with a metal pipe high. The line was diving underneath it at speed and carving down. The looks on riders faces as we came in hot and went low as they all were walking down was priceless. We regrouped at the bottom laughing and smiling at how rad that just was.
We rode back on Forbidden trail and saw some of the mines/caves where my good friend Ryan's Kelpius team name comes from. We did a bit of climbing and then rolled down some city streets to a bar. I forget the name of it but it was a fantastic beer bar right on the bike path. All Cities should have beer bars on their bike paths. Seriously. People would ride bikes more often. I guarantee it. We pile up our bikes and head in. I have the best burger I have had in a long time. The beer list is a bit new to me. That is another thing I love about traveling to a new City. Its so rad meeting the bikers and totally embedding in their culture checking out new trails, beer, coffee, hangout, builders. So much cool stuff in Philly. I honestly can't think of a cooler place to be a biker. The LWC and all of Philly took such great care of us. Brothers and sisters from another mother. They have an open door to the #NECX I will say that. And I will be looking for any excuse to head back down to PA for more antics on bikes.
As the day was winding down and we were at hour 7 Adam Craig and his crew come into the bar. We had already been there for a while and Yarnell and Hodala were like two brothers going at it with each other. The stolen poker chips were adding some fire to their back and forth. I think Yarnell bit Hodala and Hodala stuck a finger in Yarnell's butt to get him to release it or something. Who knows it was pretty much white noise to me at this point. It was all in good fun and I was way to busy eating to notice. But apparently the whole "Belgian" thing had finally gotten to Adam Craig. Or just Yarnell was bugging him. AC goes over and grabs the Lion of Flanders flag and says "THERE!, no more flag for you. Its mine now. Fuck Belgium!" It was possibly the funniest thing I have ever seen in my life. Yarnell had a look of a dog who just had his chew toy stolen from him. The LWC posse wisely deems it time to go. As we head out I bump into Craig. I am in my older HUP Vermarc winter jacket with the Belgian stripes. He looks at me. Shakes his head and again says "Fuck Belgium" Hahaha I laugh my ass and agree with him and say yeah "Belgium sucks" He laughs and states the obvious "Why the hell do you have those stripes on your jacket"
This probably would have been a bad time to ask him to help bring SSCXWC to Boston so I just sort of pretended I was with Yarnell. The ride back to Philly had more sketch, flats, hijinks etc. My only goal at this point was to not die. And to try and keep anyone else from dying. We almost lost Yarnell to an old lady in a minivan and a parked Suburban. Army Jack missed a high five and hit a sign post. We double flatted at a skate park. We somehow ended up at the Liberty Bell as it got dark. Then my phone died. The crew clearly were not done but I knew I had to get back to the shop were the rest of my crew was waiting to get home in the van. Thank god Philly is on a grid. I had no phone, no lights and no hope. I figured I was done. I was Phillies now. But I found 4th street and no one killed me riding ninja style down the cobbles. And of course just as I walked into the shop Lolli and Ryan and Jen walked in. Perfect. Philly I love you.