Holy Week for those unfamiliar with the term is two weeks of CX insanity in the #NECX. It is called a week but in reality spans almost two weeks. And from the sprinter vans that showed up last weekend in NH clearly people are showing up even earlier for Holy Week than ever before. Holy Week is comprised of two mid-week night CX races and two of the biggest UCI races on the east coast. It kicks off with Midnight ride of CX, then moves to Gloucester, then Night Weasels and then Providence. This week has been known to destroy mere mortals. Doing all 6 (now 7 if you include the Friday of Providence that features the SSCX, Madison and Builder's Ball) takes some serious moxie. And lots of beer, coffee and pizza. Midnight Ride of CX is held in Lancaster at the fairgrounds and put on by Gary David. It is a fast mostly flat course. The polar opposite to Night Weasels. Gary puts the screws on racers though. Its almost evil how much he throws at you over the course of a lap. There is a nasty sand pit that I think they hold equestrian events on, three trips through a woodshed, and a "hill" with a spiral of death descent. And one of the scariest starts in all of New England. Its possible I still have PTSD from the time I raced the 3s and almost ran over Cosmo as he was doing his best bear attack/dirt nap/fetal position move in the middle of the hole shot. Whether its PTSD or getting old the start scares me.
Which is unfortunate as I had an amazing start position! Front row in fact. I probably didn't mention there were 55 SSCX racers lined up behind me did I? 55 SSCXers. On a Weds. Unreal. I had been obsessing about gear ratios all week. Thank god my mechanic is my friend and has the patience of a saint. I was texting him insane ramblings. I would hear a rumor of what gearing a competitor was running and search the internet for gear ratio charts and apps. All this madness led me to Sheldon. And once I found Sheldon (RIP) I calmed down a touch. My calm isn't a normal person's calm but it is at least more functional than full auto/full crazy velocb. A bit of context. Up until this season I really didn't take SSCX seriously. In fact I would say it was the complete opposite. I promoted a SSCX series but raced geared CX. SSCX was for me, a break from serious racing. It was an excuse to act silly, take handups, drink beer, chill. Etc. The series was always meant to be competitive. And more and more people have poured into it and made it amazing. This season has been the most fun I have had in years. And racing with such fast and fierce people has lit a little fire in me. I really want to race SSCX. Not just party but race. Its weird. I don't even know who I am.
Which brings me to a little dust up that happened the weeks leading up to UnHoly Week. I had a bit of an internet fight with a good friend. The internet for me isn't serious. Fights happen as does snark and heckling but I never take it seriously. But sometimes things go too far etc. Again its only the internet and I love my friends. I have fights with friends and family in the real world. Doesn't mean I don't love the hell out of them and would do anything for them. Anyhoo. My good friend and I were sparring a bit. The dust settled and we hugged it out. And then he brought his 'A' game to Midnight. I get what he was trying to tell me. I really do. And he showed me and us some of what makes him one of the funniest dudes in the #NECX. Thom Parsons unleashed Ultra Enduro Guy onto SSCX and it was a beautiful thing. He showed up with a clunker bike worthy of Otis Guy. His "pit" bike was a fixed gear basket bike loaded up with a basket full of Tecate. He had a hydration pack with his number on it. I literally was laughing my ass off. The officials told him the basket bike would have to stay in the pit as a hydration zone. Something about the basket being dangerous. Or an aero advantage. Its still foggy. But flash forward to me on the front row next to Matt Myette.
To say I was sort of uncomfortable would be an understatement. I have some history with this race. Most of it is not good. I was lined up left side. The race starts on a gravel road. It is super wide. At about 500 feet it pinches way down and flows right, then left. All on gravel and pavement. A friend compared it to running on marbles. That sounds about right. Imagine doing that with 55 people, elbows out at warp speed. So when I heard someone behind me heckling me to not mess up the start I came out of my fear induced fugue state to say hi to Shawn Mottram. I laughed a bit and said "Shawn you take my spot" He differed cause he is a cool guy but I insisted. You don't line up in front of the potential race winner. I am sorry but you just don't. We took off as anticipated at warp speed and I chickened out. I just don't have that Kamikaze mindset. I went from 11th to about 40th in about a heartbeat. Once we hit the grass I felt "safe" and tried my best to get back up to some of my friends.
I can't state enough times just how fast this course was and how deep the field of SSCX competitors was. It was as if a Cat 3 race and Masters race were shoved together. Lots of argy bargy, sharp elbows and some douchey corners. Multiple crashes. Etc. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Johnny Utah running back the wrong way on the course. I was too hypoxic to process what was happening (he snapped his chain going for the holeshot.) I was killing myself to keep from getting run over by Ghostship Matt. Well that and I was trying to put some separation between us. Ha. That is funny. Matt is so much stronger than me its ridiculous. We hit the sandpit and it was like someone dropped tear gas across the course. You couldn't breathe or see. I just tried to follow Matt's outline through the fog. We popped out and I could see Gewilli's orange jumpsuit and Grigg's neon bike. I felt good. Novick had put a downhill ring on my bike the day of the race. I was running a 38 x 16 and while not over geared I had enough gear to at least stay in the group I was in. When we hit the woodshed it was like I forgot how to ride a bike. I usually am a boss on the wood chips but damn they had my number. I was sooo slow in there.
We come out of the woodshed and just blast off up the "hill" Utah has reattached which is again very confusing. He grabbed a spare bike in the pit and was back in the race! As we crest the top of the hill and make the turn Matt's borrowed bike explodes. In less than one lap he destroyed two bikes. That is impressive. One chain and one belt drive. Those are some watts my friend. We come through the start/finish and I start trying to get a plan. That is sort of funny as we are going so hard I can barely think. I was killing myself trying to get up to G and Derek. They were so close but I was just screwing up the turns so bad I was losing ridiculous time. Then the Chainline Pain Train caught me! Eric and Kevin are awesome. I love racing with those two. Two totally different styles of racing but both are crafty and strong. We ride the next few laps together. Again, so close. Eric gaps me right before the last trip up the "hill" and that as they say is that. The last lap was basically just damage control. Don't lose any spots and try to catch G.
I rolled through with G about 15 seconds up. One of the best little battles that was going on was between me and Grant from Monster Truck. Monster Truck is a fairly new team. But they have such a great attitude. Grant's teammates were cheering him on all race. But they would also cheer for me once and a while which was really cool. Grant say's he is a triathlete. I don't believe him. Triathletes don't race cross like that. Ok, that comment is going to get me in trouble. Triathletes can actually be very good at CX. That statement may get me in even more trouble. Both statements are true. That is my opinion and I am sticking to it! Grant and I battled for a lap or two. On the barriers right before the downhill spiral of death he got around me and took it all the way to the finish. Well played sir!
I have been loving all the new racers and teams in the SSCX series. It really has made it so rad. Michele, my good friend and Co-Captain of HUP, decided to race the SSCX race! I was so psyched. She smashed it. It was so great seeing her out there. Thea and Michele both made it onto the podium! Michele with the win and Thea in 3rd! HUP truly is having one of the best CX season I can remember. Such spirit and class. Kevin went on to do the triple crown along with Gewilli. I don't even know how that is physically possible. They are beasts. I don't even double up because its just too much for me to do more than one CX race.
What a great way to kick off Holy Week. Next up is Gloucester. The HUP Death Star will be activated. And then we head back to Ski Ward for Night Weasels! The Friday of Providence will feature the SSCX race, the Madison and the Builder's Ball. We have some extra special stuff planned for Friday. Don't miss it. HUP! HUP!
All the incredible photos in this blog are by my good friend and photographer extraordinaire Russ Campbell!