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...