Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Highway to the Danger Zone

Cross Jesus (Father Utah?) and Shoogs-photo by velocb
The week before Ice Weasels Cometh I did a soul ride with Agent Utah aka Cross Jesus aka Matt Aumiller and he told me he was going to go "Full Norcal" at the final race of the 2015 Zank SSCX series p/b Mad Alchemy. This was after a few pulls off of a bourbon filled flask so I didn't pay it much mind. Then he started texting me mid-week about Uncle Randy coming up and creating a LWC heckle pit. You mention the words Heckle and Pit in a sentence and I get excited. A bit of a backstory. I fell in love with all things pedal bikey in Norcal. SF to be specific. The Norcal crew had and has a certain panache or Je ne c'est qua…my French is terrible excuse that. They pretty much invented singlespeeding. I am not really kidding. The who or whom invented mountain biking may be up for debate. Whether those weirdos rode singlespeeds is not. My first foray into singlespeeding was in Norcal. Google Crusty Cruiser Cup and you will see what I am talking about. 

It was a great community with tons of mayhem. The NECX does a lot of things amazingly well. Mayhem? Ehh not so much. I like to think of the NECX as Boulder-lite. We aren't that serious. And we don't wear puffy jackets everywhere but its close. The NECX is serious. We started the whole SSCX series for fun. And to build community. And it is amazing. But I won't lie. I still think about my trip to Philly for SSCXWC. What Philly threw down was amazing. The heckle zone at Belmont was the craziest thing I have ever seen. Loudest crowd I have ever raced through. Most fans. Most stoke. Really the best day on a bike I have ever had. I have wanted to bring some of that to our series. But its tough. Cross Jesus did it. He wanted to go Full Norcal. He went Full Philly. Which in my opinion was even better. 

The Danger Zone photo by Meg McMahon
Ice Weasels is the end of season party throw down for the NECX. It basically is a keg party where a bike race breaks out. Well in the early days at Thom's families farm it really was. I think the ONLY people who actually raced Ice Weasels back in those days were the Cat 4s. Everyone else was so drunk they could barely drive a bike. And while those days were awesome it is like college. You grow up. At some point doing keg stands every night gets old. And the race has seemingly played venue roulette each year. Each year Weasels LLC would scramble for a venue last minute. And they would always deliver. Last year at Diamond Hill was so fun. But for lots of reasons (not getting arrested is high on that list!) we toned it down. Gone were the multiple kegs of beer flowing rivers of beer and red solo cups across an organic farm but added was some of the most fun racing I and a lot of other people had the pleasure of enjoying. So when this year's annual "oh shit we need a venue" tweet went out I had to laugh a bit to see what rabbit they pulled out of their hat this time. 

I hopped that log every time. Even under fire photo by Meg McMahon
I trust that crew 100% but I was a bit nervous. All the videos they were putting out and all the feedback I had heard from friends about the new venue sounded amazing. But I just wasn't sure if this would be as great as Weasels of past years. This year's Ice Weasel was held in Warwick at Riverpoint Park. It is a reclaimed wasteland of a track that with no exaggeration is the most legit cross course I have ever ridden. Don't you dare call it a mountain bike course. If you did please wash your mouth out with soap. You clearly don't mountain bike much if you think that was a mountain bike course. It was legit and in some ways scary but it was totally a cross course. The crew nailed it. Basically they created one huge PRO only section and let us go nuts on it. Usually in a cross race you are just killing yourself until the bell lap. You want the race OVER. Not at Riverpoint. I wanted to keep riding that course all day long. 

Matt Lolli lighting of pyrotechnics by Meg McMahon
This year felt different. We had the best season of SSCX in the short history of the Zank SSCX series. People this year were just so stoked to race SSCX. And the overall points race was only separated by two points on the mens side and too close to call on the women's side. It was down to the top four in each race to see what the overall podium would look like. This created a bit of a dilemma. The Weasel mullet has been in existence since the race's inception. Business at the front, party at the back. Everyone knows what they are in for and it works. Colin's waiver is iron clad and spells it all out very clearly. Don't be a dick. Be responsible for yourself and others, blah, blah, blah. Its like entering the Octagon. What was so amazing was that even though it was down to the last race everyone was in it for fun. No one was all uptight and freaking out. People were in full Weasel mode. So many great costumes, fat bikes, and the Danger Zone. As we all headed over to stage on the soccer field a brass band started marching with us. It felt like Mardi Gras. 

Hopping a greasy log under live fire is exhilarating by Meg McMahon
It has been well documented that I LOVE fat bikes. I really do. And I really love that they are being added to CX races. But I won't lie that I was a tad nervous about 30 fat bikers with gears starting a few minutes behind the SSCX field. SSCX and gears don't always mix so great. The course was beyond amazing but was tight. A LOT of single track. And some tight lines that if things went bad or someone got douchey it could end real bad. There was a funny twitter debate about the tight lines. I personally fought for them. And I am glad they stayed in. In the SSCX race a couple of crashes happened do to poor decision making but all in all people got it and didn't try and pass in a stupid place that would put people in danger. Colin gave his usual speech and then the siren went off and zoom, zoom about a hundred SSCX maniacs accelerated off the line. I was in a good spot tucked behind Eric of the Chainline Pain Train. The corners were getting a bit dodgey and bars were smashing into hips etc but so far so good. Then the usual explosion happened in the third turn and bodies started hitting the deck. We made it around to the low side and took off. 

Dougie Fresh taking a hand up like a boss by Meg McMahon
We got into the single track without incident and shredded through the shutes. It did remind me of a cross version of Chutes and Ladders. So many incredible blind drops ins and sandy corners. Then some great technical up hill turns. My favorite in an odd way was the school bus turn. You had to go into it full speed then ride your momentum up to the top of the loose rise and then squeeze the tape to the edge of the buses to clear the camber. Thom was right. The course was 100% rideable. I only had to dismount on the two runnups. And if I had gears I probably could have ridden both run ups. I hate run ups but there was something awesome about both of the running sections. They were loose and sandy but you had plenty of grip and could get them without going hypoxic. 

The Zip Tie Fairy taking a Danger Zone break by Meg McMahon
 I came through the first runnup with a fairly big group. We entered the Danger Zone for the first time and the sound and energy was insane. I hopped the log in chase of one of my friends on a fat bike. The Danger Zone was a No Fly Zone for me this year. #Dadlife and walking pneumonia made it imperative that I take zero booze and take zero anything lest I inadvertently take down the entire NECX with this zombie pox I have. Racing was probably slightly irresponsible as I couldn't really breath but no way I was missing this. Not with my friends possibly winning the series on the line. I had to be a part of this. So instead of my usual party at the back I was pretty much all business at the front. I still had fun. I guess this is what its like to be straight edge at a CX race. I high fived people and got tons of ass slaps. Some stung. But I sort of liked it….hahahha. I took some Mardi Gras beads but had my eyes pretty focused on just railing the course and getting every bit of radness out of it. On the last lap we came into the Danger Zone hot. Literally.

Thing One tripped at my feet on her way up to the podium by Meg McMahon
 As we came around the top of the single track before the Danger Zone log I could see fireworks shooting in the air and smoke all around the heckle pit. People were dismounting and hurdling as fireworks launched up into the air. All the fireworks were in the middle of the log so all you had to do was make sure you were on either side of the pyrotechnics. Easy. Breazy. It was the coolest thing I have seen to be honest. I come in hot, hop the log, fireworks going off all around me and then ride through a sea of smashed red solo cups. It was like I was back at Belmont at SSCXWC. Well done Cross Jesus. Well done. I took off in the hunt after my frenemy Grant from Monster Truck. He and I have had a light rivalry this season. I say light as he is probably the person I battle against the most consistently at each SSCX race. I was hoping to catch him why lie. After the red solo cup red carpet I see him just ahead. He drops into a little chute right before the river bank. I almost catch him as we hit the sand pits. He is off running and I am able to ride and am gaining on him.

Podium Selfie! Lesli Cohen, Thea Kent and Rebecca Lowe by Meg McMahon
 Just as I come out of the sandpit I catch him. And his wife. His wife Alison is awesome. Frankly the whole Monster Truck team is awesome. It looks a bit like Grant sits up a tad. Maybe he said hi to Alison who knows. My brain (unfortunately) switches off from hunter/killer mode to oh cool friends…big mistake. We take the turn and approach a berm/hop section. Grant gets right over but Alison dabs and gets off. I now have to dismount and run around on the outside. Hahah well played. That is pure Belgian race tactics right there. Respect. I remount and take off hoping to catch Grant. Beating Grant is now down to who ever gets to the top of the runup first. As stated I am a horrible runner. But I probably should have dug deeper. But I run up and hope to catch him before the barriers. He gets to the top of the run first and remounts. I remount about 4 seconds behind him. Another rider gets in between us a bit. I get to the barriers right as he is exiting them. I know its over but still drive through and finish strong. So much fun.

Zank with bandoliers of SSCX bling by Meg McMahon
 My lungs feel like I have just inhaled napalm. I go back to the tent and cough up one of said lungs. I grab a cold coke and just soak in what just went down. Best race of the season. Best party of the season. Best course of the season. Best everything. Then I snap out of it and get back into SSCX race ringleader mode and change into clothes and run off to see who won the series! I get the results from Ryan. Zank and I do some quick old school math and get the final results. It is a HUP Power Couple Podium!!!! I literally freak out. Kevin won the men's overall by two points. Thea won the women's overall by 14 points. Wow. So close. Much respect and love to George and Rebecca Lowe. George and Rebecca are two of the nicest people you will ever meet. 100% class acts. Strong as hell and so good on the bike. George and Rebeca have been huge ambassadors for the series this year. They are a big part of why this season has been so amazing. Rounding out the women's podium in second place was our one and only Zip Tie Fairy Lesli Cohen! Rebecca Lowe came in third! To say its awesome when your friends are on the podium is an understatement. The men's side had Kevin in first, George second and Eric Baumann in third.

Fat bikes rule! by Meg McMahon
We had an amazing podium presentation with champagne and the Zank medals. Everyone was so stoked. Then came time for the annual raffle. Each season we do a raffle at Ice Weasels. Racers get raffle tickets for each race they do in the series. The more races you do the more chances you have to win amazing prizes. And the Grand Prize is none other than a custom steel or aluminum Zank CX frame and Enve fork! Sick. We also had prizes from all of our great sponsors: Mad Alchemy, Harpoon, Vittoria, Feedback Sports, PRO Gold, SRAM, Castelli, Skratch Labs. As we made our way through handing out prizes it got closer to the moment of truth. Who would win the frame and fork?!!! Johnny Utah reached into the PRO Gold pit kit and pulled out a ticket. When I saw the name I about lost it. Eric Lovering was the name on the ticket! Eric is the mastermind behind the Chainline Cycles Pain Train. One of our biggest supporters of the series and one of my good friends. It was incredible. What a way to end a perfect season and a perfect day. 

And that my friends is a wrap by Meg McMahon
A HUGE thank you and hug to all who came out and raced this season. You all are what make the Zank SSCX series so rad. We are already plotting and scheming about 2016. It will be better than ever. If you have any ideas, thoughts etc you know where to find me. Don't be shy. This series has gotten so great because of all the people involved. Its a DIY/crowd sourced thing.

A HUGE thanks to Meg McMahon for these great photos and always being so fun and supportive. Meg is the best.

A HUGE thank you to all our sponsors, promoters, teammates etc that support us and do the hard work so we can all get rad.

Colin, Thom and the whole Weasels LLC Family? I love you. You all kicked this thing to Warp Factor 11…what a way to end the season. Don't be strangers. Let's get some CXenduro going on and thank that little El Nino kid for canceling Winter.

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