Monday, December 17, 2018

Merry Zankmass

The above photo captures the entire spirit of the Zank SSCX series. 90% of the photos in this post are courtesy of Andy Cooper. I shot a few but they don't capture the race. Just my warped view of building the course and witnessing the glory of 4 years of dreaming of getting a CX race at Medfield State Hospital. The first time I rode through MSH I dreamed of one day holding a CX race on these hallowed grounds. A lot of work had to happen to make it happen. I have been at the promoter game for so long it is almost embarrassing to admit how long I have been doing this. But this one. Wow. It is my Valhalla. I can die a happy man. Ice Weasels gave birth to the Zank SSCX series the same way Loki gave birth to Fenrir. The Zank SSCX series is basically a monstrous Norse Wolf running wild on cross courses throughout New England each Fall. Loki to me embodies what this whole series is about. Gender fluid. Trickster. God but maybe also something else. So pictured above you have Morris E. Eagle going hard through the barriers. Elbows out. Mike Wissell the #NECX Thunder God shredding the bad idea skinny. Keith flying through the planks. Who knows what is going on behind them....

I love SSCX. It is pretty much my sole focus every CX season. I am always blown away by how this crazy train just keeps getting more rad each season. This season had its challenges. In some ways it was my most challenging. The teeter totter isn't easy. You always want to keep it balanced. Kids. Wife. Family. SSCX. It can't tilt too far away from the familia. But my SSCX family is very important to me. Without it I don't know how I would get through a Fall. This Zank Series started hot and dusty and went full mudpocalypse. I love mud. But as a promoter it can be a disaster. No one wants to see a venue trashed. Especially one you revere. One you have been wanting to share with the #NECX for years. I can't tell you how stressed I was about this race. I have worked World Cups. Large rodent branded festivals on another coast. Nothing stressed me out like this. OK there was that one night....well morning really in Monterey around 3 am when I refused to leave the hotel room to build the course. My future wife talked me out of that room and I trudged off to lay tape. When Colin asks me to do something I jump at it. Cause I love that dude. And love the Weasel brand. Working on a Weasel's Inc event is an honor. To put on such a rad race I think you have to feel it. My love of Weasels and SSCX is enduring. 

I have been watching a lot of Parts Unknown lately. If you aren't hip to it it is Anthony Bourdain's show about travel and food. A common theme is about how much one gets out of creating a meal for loved ones. That is how I feel about the Zank series and race promotion in general. Yes I love bikes. And while I have been "retired" for about 5 years I still enjoy pinning a number on and racing.  But what I love more is throwing a HUGE bike party where all my favorite people show up and get rad. I was pretty nervous about this one. New venue. Super legit venue. Most legit Ice Weasels in history. But damn look at these photos. So worth it. No one got hurt. That in itself is some kind of miracle. Watching people ride the Bad Idea skinny at warp speed was a heart attack waiting to happen. Honestly though the most difficult part of the course was a curb. Not a 4" marble curb but a rounded broken 2" curb. Colin, Greg and I myself both looked at it building the course. We all agreed it would be no problem. Lesson #567 of race promotion: what you think will be no problem is in fact a problem. Watching the beginners smash their wheels at full speed right into the curb was crazy. Then people started endoing and crashing. That is when I made a panic call to my wife to pick up sandbags. God bless that woman. How many wives would drop everything and run to the hardware store and buy 10 sandbags on her day off? I married well. So my wife saved Ice Weasels....she certainly saved a lot of carbon wheels. 

A quick interlude and a HUGE thanks to Greg. Without Greg this never would have happened. He is the most PROfesional race promoter I have worked with. He made signs, he worked with the Town, he put together the best powerpoint presentation I have seen and pitched it to the town council. He was a great liaison. Saw around corners. Worked so well with all the different agencies. My favorite part of working with Greg was seeing him witness firsthand the Matrix like communication tree Colin and I are so used to. We fluidly go from twitter to text to email in a millisecond working issues. At one point I had to tell Greg "well you took the blue pill. There is no going back" We built the course out in two days. A weeks worth of breathing into a paper bag paid huge dividends. Colin found a Food Truck! And the Rasputitsa bus arrived! We had so many volunteers help that set up went way faster than I thought. And tear down was a breeze. Well not a breeze. Tearing a course down in the dark when it is 20 degrees isn't easy. But honestly we had a guardian angel on this one. As much as we sort of played up the spooky side of the venue I never once really felt that vibe. If anything I think we brought a light and positive energy to a site that maybe has a spooky vibe. 

My favorite race is always the SSCX and this one did not disappoint! It sold out in a matter of days. It was the biggest field of SSCX racers and fat bikers I have seen. The costumes were lit! I mean people went full out. What I love about it is it is a race with a party at the back. The women were battling the entire race. That podium was legit. The stories from the race itself still make me laugh. We had a surprise late entry of Morris E. Eagle the BC High mascot. Morris was so rad. I saw so many friends. Hugged so many people. It would be impossible to thank everyone but I will do my best. First thank you to the Town of Medfield and the local dog walkers for being so cool about us taking over the venue for a day. We met a lot of dog walkers during our course build. And they really are such nice people. As part of our efforts to make this a recurrent home for IWC we will be donating a check to support the Medfield Rail Trail. We love the trails. Frankly that is how we found this venue. And so many people were able to ride to the race. That is pretty rare these days.

I want to thank ALL the racers who came out and had a great time. Thank you for respecting the venue and being good guests. I want to thank Anthony and the Rasputitsa crew for coming down and handing out waffles. Thank you to Roni Vetter for the mini-cupcakes. Thank you to 3Cross and the Fritz Team for opening the bar and keeping racers hydrated and fueled. Thank you to Lesli and Kevin for being the best Podium Bosses ever. Lesli and Kevin are the glue that keep the Zank Series going. Lesli's husband created the amazing trophies that were handed out to the overall winners. Kevin's scarves and coozies were highly coveted prizes to say the least. And a special thanks to Rhys Niesen for her handmade metal podium pins for the Vest Winners! Check out her metal art at Rhys May Jewelry.

Thank you to our sponsors! Zanconato Custom Cycles builds the best bikes on the planet. NEXT cycling was so nice to donate a set of wheels for our raffle. Zach Levy was the lucky winner of those sick carbon hoops! Mad Alchemy has been supporting our shenanigans from day one. 3Cross has not only supported us with podium beer throughout the series but have become such good friends and partners in grime over the years. I can't think of a crew that I would rather hang with on any given Sunday than that bunch. Derek Griggs has been racing this series since its inception. He really has been one of my personal mentors in all things CX and NECX. He took me under his wing when I first moved here from NorCal. I was kind of a punk SF kid when I first moved here. Why lie I had a bit of an attitude. But he set me straight and taught me a ton. Derek always donates prizes from Feedback, Kali Helmets and Ortleib. Our end of season raffle always devolves into a product toss/Yankee swap. I hope everyone enjoys it. They seem to. I certainly love handing stuff to Ryan and having him chuck it into a crowd.

This season was a blur. I am already thinking about how to improve the 2019 Zank SSCX Series. If you have any ideas, suggestions etc just hit me up via the usual channels. I think it was perfect. The racing was well contested, so many people came out and raced, and most importantly people had fun! Our two champions Kerry Litka and Mike Wissell were such great ambassadors both for SSCX and the NECX. They make everyone feel welcome and put so much into the Vest and representing. I can't thank them enough for all that they do to help grow this series. This series really was created to grow SSCX and to grow grassroots cyclocross. I think we have been very successful with both. I am so happy seeing SSCX grow and love the grassroots races. We will be back next year with the same rad races and same rad attitude. Have a great (well deserved!) offseason. I hope to see lots of you on the trails and gravel roads of New England. Thank you for all you do!

Monday, December 3, 2018

Blogging is Dead, Long, Live Blogging!

Ok kids my household has a squirrel "problem" As the photo above shall attest. No idea how it began. But here we are as they say. But just 'cause you love squirrels doesn't mean all things squirrel are cool. I mean we have standards. I went to the friggin' most ELITE art school in the nation. Elite Art School is kind of like Elite Masters CX isn't it? I mean art is art bro. Why even go to school to do art. Just make the art man. Did Vince Van Friggin Goch go to Art School? Hell no. He suffered for his art. Snorted turpentine and ate moldy bread cause you can not spell Paint without Pain...Just saying. 

So when you name your race "Secret Squirrel" you basically had me at Hello. I fancy myself the PT Barnum of hijinx in the #NECX. A softer, gentler Loki. Maybe an All Father of all things SSCX. So when I see a kindred spirit I lock onto that ray of light in the darkness. Mike O'Connell is some kind of badass brother from another mother to me. Honestly I am not worthy. I have known a lot of people in the bike game. It is scary how long I have been at this. It is not some hobby or dalliance to me. I live, breathe and bleed this sport. I have worked on World Cups, and with some of the most influential people in the sport but Mike just brings so much energy to it I can't even describe it. I honestly can't figure it out. It is like seeing a double rainbow. You don't see the double rainbow and try and figure it out you just gaze in awe at that magical moment. Mike is possibly the greatest promoter in New England. I am not taking away anything from the Legion of others who have put on UCI races, and pillars of CX in the region. But Mike has done his own thing. Unsanctioned. Fun. Dialed. I will not miss one of his events ever again. They are literally must do events. And will be the pillars of the Zank SSCX series for as long as I am its #hype machine.

So what makes Mike's events so rad? Production value first and foremost. Beer tents, reg tents, cool signs, police, fire, food trucks, did I mention beer tents? heaters..these events are races for racers. Mike thinks of everything. It may be his military background. When I worked on the Sea Otter in Monterey the force behind that race was a retired Navy man. I think the military trains you and forms you logistically to deal with things as crazy as bike races. The promoters I know who are so good have that same sort of mind set. You have to be super organized and super chill to do race promotions without going crazy. Seeing first hand how Mike and his crew handled a course destroying micro-burst at CrosstoBeerFest was impressive. Seeing how he handled a last minute course disaster and pulled a rabbit of a course out of his hat that appeased both the town and the racers was nothing short of a CX miracle. Bike racers feel entitled to lots of things. We don't really consider the impact of a muddy race on the promoter and the town or host. It has a toll and a cost. I as a co-promoter of many races know this first hand. I have stood in the dark and talked to irate land owners about the damage to their property. Mud is great in europe. Maybe there are NIMBY dog walker groups in Belgium. I don't know. I do know in America people have LOTS of opinions and feelings. And the promoter is the one who gets an earful when the grass is torn to pieces. 

Mike clearly has that balance of strength and empathy when it comes to handling these touchy issues. His solution with a brutally wet November and the gift of a post Thanksgiving Secret Squirrel was for him and his crew to work themselves to death to get a sick loamy course for us to shred on. News flash I prefer shredding to power. And Ok I am not built for running. But do like it on a jungle cross course. I cut my teeth on jungle cross. I love it. We need to keep jungle cross alive and well. The course Mike and his crew came up with was amazing. Honestly. I heard he got some grief for the start. Hell I loved the start. And got a GREAT start. If I was a better runner I would have gotten separation from lots of dudes way faster than me. Rosey is a great runner. He ran up over my back and into the mix like a freight train. It was magical. I may still have some of the sand he kicked in my face stuck in my teeth.

"Dangerous" courses are less dangerous. You can quote me on that. As I age my goal is to become the Yogi Berra of the #NECX. What I mean by that is a course with features is much less likely to result in a serious injury than a fast wide open one. Canton is a great example of this. Each year we would see Sully. Each year we would say "Sully please don't get hurt this year" or "Sully please don't leave in the bus this year" And every year like clock work dude would knock himself out. Putney doesn't hurt anyone because people FEAR Putney. I think same can be said about a course like this. I loved every moment of it. I love SSCX. The Heckle Pit is EXACTLY what a heckle pit should be. NegaCoach yelling at me to not let the Town of Needham down was pure gold. The kid out in the middle of the course telling us all we were doing great was amazing. And yes, the beer on a stump made my race. I don't take a ton of handups these days. I am old. I have to drive home and be an adult. But damn that beer tasted good. See you all at Ice Weasels on Saturday. We have a special one for you. I am gonna high five every last one of you. Thanks Mike you my friend will get a hug...