I know what you are thinking. How did this happen. Well it is a long story. It all starts with the man pictured below. Photo by Ryley Newton fyi. Any photographer willing to camp out in 95 degree heat in New England in August and endure EEE ridden mosquitos and ticks is a champion in my mind. And as his photo would prove he captured just what that man cooked up for this past MTB season. My friends have the best worst ideas. Some I have to sort of just ignore. As they are maybe a tad to get us all in jaily. I mean I am a derelict I like me some quasi illegal behavior. But Barn Burner is the premier MTB event in New England. What Pete and Marty have built is impressive. I would never ruin anyone's race. No matter what some may say.
So let's hit the rewind button. Kevin O and Mike Wissell have been asking me to roll the Zank SSCX Party Train into the MTB season the last couple of years. They know my affinity for all things single speed. But SSCX and SS MTB are different beasts. While they share a lot of crossover, no pun intended, there are some hurdles with SS MTB. One in the Northeast we have a high bar. SSAP which recently retired was and is the pinnacle of SS MTB racing. I am not trying to one up any region. Nothing seems to polarize people like regionalism or single speeds in cycling. What the Dark Horse guys did with SS-A-Palooza literally inspired a Legion of us from New England. We would plan our whole year around that event. So I finally cracked. I missed SS MTB. SSCX is great. But it is different. Anyone can do SSCX. Honestly. That has been our mission from day one. All are welcome and all can do it. It in many ways is so much easier than geared CX. I have never had to fight anyone in a SSCX race. Hahah. Ok I have only had to fight in a CX race once. Lots of threats. But only once did I fight. But so much of the argy bargy that is CX never ever goes down in SSCX. So how would SS MTB go? Well very well my friends.
In large part to this man. Kevin is one of a kind. So strong on a bike. But almost a Hunter S Thompson-esque character. So when he asked if I wanted to do a Tiki Bar at Barn Burner I was like yes. Of course. Then we started plotting and scheming. The word Tiki Bar to me is more a concept than an actual Tiki Bar. Barn Burner in Walpole is or should be the poster child of what a positive effect a bike race can have on an open space. I swear by force of will Pete and Marty rehabbed an overgrown rarely used open space into a destination for MTB riders, dog walkers and hikers. It is an ideal space. People really get along. The Town of Walpole embraces it. So when friends build something you respect it. Walpole has a pretty firm no alcohol policy. I respect that. So our Tiki Bar really was a PMA "heckle pit" No booze laden heckles. Just PMA the whole time. Kevin texted me at 6:30 am. He was the first one on site. I was there shortly after. We set up our redneck feed zone. Can it be rednecky if we are wearing Hawaiian shirts and serving Hawaiian Punch? Well spotify picked some awkward songs early on in the Beginner/Sport races. I think that was the first time I ever heard Panzer Kampf. #winning
Right. So the early races are going. We are cheering on friends. Handing up Twizzlers and Hawaiian Fruit Punch. Not a lot of takers. But a lot of smiles. Our Heckle Pit has pretty much become the feed zone and hang out for the race. Have I mentioned how hot it was at Barn Burner? Yeah well it is not the heat but the humidity that will kill you. No lie. No shocker I am built for Winter. I am basically a mountain dwarf. Thick with two Cs. Short. Give me a double bladed battle axe and I am a happy man. But I can survive summer. I feel like death. But have learned over the years to deal. I thank hot yoga and my better half. It sounds weird but it is true. If you train in heat you acclimate. Sitting in an environmentally controlled office is not a good success story for racing in the heat. You need to feel heat to be ok in the heat. As one of my favorite yoga teacher's says over and over in every class "Don't freak out" Breathe. Chill.
We did our thing for the early races. Then went and got our race plates. Have I mentioned how much I love EFTA? EFTA reminds me of NORBA in the old days. They just get it. None of this USAC nonsense. I play nice with USAC as I am an adult but player please. This is not complicated. Put on a race where everyone has a rad time. Make it for the people and by the people. Again, HUGE tip of my cap to Marty and Pete. So Kevin and I head down to staging. I crack and swap out my Hawaiian shirt I borrowed from Kevin for the Tiki Bar for Blanco. I won't say I am scared but Rayon doesn't really breathe. Our plan was to do a lap pull out and go nuts supporting the Elite race. SS MTBers had to do 3 laps. Ouch. I got through one ok. Maybe I could have done two. Three? Hmmm maybe. I would have needed IVs and a blood infusion after. So Kevin and I punch out after one lap. Have I mentioned the #ZankBelt ? Yeah we came up with the idea to do Champ Belts for the inaugural SS MTB series.
And it was amazing. Jon Nable came up with the design. Champ Belts were born. Best. Worst. Idea. Ever. Maybe better than the vest. But I digress. Life as it were sometimes throws lemons at you. So you make lemonade. The women's leader couldn't make it to the finals. My good friend Thea was always planning on racing. But now it was basically a winner take all scenario. Our Tiki Bar went from feed zone to full race support to get Thea the belt. She did the laps. And she is a legit baller. One of the raddest women I know. It took me back to some 24 hour races I have done support on. Thea came through after the first lap looking pretty good. Second lap was on target. But man it was hot. I was actually getting a tad worried. Then she popped through the woods! Kevin and I grabbed our bikes and rode in with her to the finish. Best day ever. So stoked to see Thea raise that belt up and pop the champagne. The men's champ was equally as rad. A true SS MTB podium. We are going to take this to 11 next season kids. This year was an experiment. Next year we are ramping it up big time.
Come join us this Fall for the Zank SSCX season. And let's plot and scheme for next SS MTB season. I have ideas. And we are gonna throw some funny curve balls at you this SSCX season. Lining up with so many of my friends before the SS MTB race reminded me why I love this sport. Seriously. So many people on the line looked over and said "we have missed you Chipper" Hell yes. Music to my ears. I am recharged and ready to go. See you all at Kalon CX! Thanks Marty and Pete. Thanks TO ALL who came out and raced this past SS MTB season. Thanks EFTA. Thanks Ride Maple for sponsoring the Zank SS MTB Podium! Thanks Zank for making SS MTB great again.