Saturday, October 3, 2015

An Ode to the #NECX

Holy Week has been beyond words. Holy Week if you are new to this blog or cyclocross is a stretch of 6 races in New England that actually go for more than a week. Technically speaking. It goes more for about two weeks to be honest. It features two night races and two UCI classics. Or Meccas. Choose your metaphor. All 4 races have lives of their own. The night races could not be more different. Midnight is always warm, dusty and just a flat out speed fest. Night Weasels is ALWAYS muddy and brutal. So much climbing and technical descending. Gloucester like Midnight with the earlier date is always hot and dusty and FAST>. Providence. Dear god what do you say about that race? The history is like something out of some Dystopian novel. May the odds ever be in your favor because Roger Williams Park gives zero fucks about your feelings. So many souls crushed on that course. It is always nasty. We were "blessed" with true CX conditions this year. Holy Week has destroyed and elevated so many CX careers. Survive it. And you can survive anything.

But this wasn't meant to be a tribute to Holy Week. It is an ode to the NECX. Holy Week arguably was very responsible for forming the NECX. The NECX is New England cyclocross (no hyphen). Cyclocross doesn't get hyphenated in my world amigos. Sorry. Not sorry. I moved here in 2004. I literally had panic attacks when my lovely wife told me we were relocating from PARADISE (Norcal) back to this HELLHOLE. My wife and I left Boston for a reason. We celebrate Townie-life and East Coast culture but it is hard. Real hard. Shit happens and it scars you. Moving was for survival not for some life affirming boondoggle. Its great that kids get to backpack all over the world and find themselves. That was not my childhood. You survived it. And moved if you were lucky. I loved Norcal. I did not ride bikes when I lived in New England. No one did. You played hockey, drove muscle cars and went to keggers. But an earthquake and luck landed me right smack dab in the middle of SF bike culture. I loved it. All my friends were bikers. I lived, breathed and ate cycling. It was more a surfer lifestyle than what you would call the classic cycling culture. Especially at that time when road cycling was king.

But fast forward and we drop in on Boston. We have our second child just as the Red Sox win the pennant. Life feels good. I still rode for a Norcal team. Sycip. Then I met Zac Daab. And Yash. And joined HUP United. And that my friends is when everything changed. I am not saying HUP started the NECX. Of course we didn't. But it was a big part of it. The idea that community mattered. That building something that everyone could add to mattered. That CX mattered. We had one real bylaw. Roll with a good crew. And to this day I think that is what the NECX is about. Every region has its own flavor. I am not for a second saying the NECX is "better" than PDX, or Seattle, or Norcal, or Boulder etc. Each region is just unique. Even in this day when we are all "friends" and those old rivalries have died off. But I love the NECX. More for what it continues to become than what it is. That probably doesn't make sense but let me elaborate. Its like the snowball effect. You have big teams and icons of the sport living and working and striving to make CX a thing here in New England. They are passionate and so diverse in backgrounds and yet somehow work together as a collective.

Like any family that is so diverse there are fights. Feuds. Even some badblood. But it gets put aside every Fall when CX season rolls in. Its how we roll. What is truly amazing is that not only do the same people who maybe "started" the NECX keep putting their heart and soul into this thing but new people jump in and take it to the next level. Colin aka Resultsboy is a perfect example of this. What he has done is remarkable in many ways. The new teams that pop up are the same way. As are the older teams with history like ECV. So what is the NECX? In a nutshell its not unlike the region we live in. A rag tag bunch of misfits with a shit ton of genius, talent and a nice dose of Yankee resolution thrown in for good measure. This season has been one that truly has left its mark. Its early too which is weird. But maybe its the Colorado influence in a way. A bunch of NECXers have moved to CO in the last couple of years. It makes sense. When I drove across country after college and saw the Rockies I about lost my mind. It is mind blowing. So gorgeous. Especially for those who love the outdoors.

But when your friends who move away keep showing you the love and coming "home" and supporting you it oddly means even more than those you lean on every day. I know that sounds strange but it means a lot to me. Its easy to move on. Especially when you move. I have stayed in touch with a bunch of friends from Norcal but its hard. The fact that Pete (of Mad Alchemy) and James and so many more NECXers who have moved still show me and the NECX so much love means everything to me. Once you are a part of the NECX. And James and Pete (and Pete's family) will always be a part of the NECX. It is just the way it is. I have never had friends like this. It is like a family. And a good family that holds you up and makes you strive to be the best you can be. I know I am getting way too emo with this. I wanted to just put down some words about how special this beast we have is. Colin, Sara, Dana, Gewilli, Matt & Mo, Aumiller, Pete, all of HUP, Roger Cadman, Shoogs, the list just goes on and on. I would not be who I am without each and everyone of you.

Why am I so moved by all of this right now? Because really its never been better. I have been home 11 years. My first real race in the NECX was 2005 at Gloucester in a Blizzard. I laughed my ass off on the start grid. And that was when I was HOOKED. I was faster then. Skinnier. Had better skills. But I am still striving. I tried to retire this year. Colin and Sara did not let me. I love them for that. I will never retire. I want a Viking funeral on a pile of CX bikes. Its just too incredible. Yes, this Holy Week and Night Weasels were off the charts. Katerina Nash racing Night Weasels and leaving her and her Luna teammates bikes in the Chainline tent at Night Weasels was life altering. They are what is right with CX. They get it. World Class talent having fun and smashing. We all say CX is fun and get in trouble for it. If the best in the world can have fun I think the rest of us can too. That is what keeps us in the bike game.

What does it mean to be a part of the NECX? Don't be a vampire. Help out. PMA. Be nice. Don't be a dick. But race HARD. And train hard. Work your ass off. Lift people up. Never forget we are all in this together. Racing is hard. Promoting races is hard. Building a community is hard but is so worth it. Thank you to everyone who built the #NECX. I am going to go out on a limb here and say that the tipping point was the skinsuit party at Reuter hall. It wasn't pretty. There were some growing pains. But at the end of the day we all came out of that stronger, closer and ready to create this thing we have today.

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