Photography by Derek Blagg
There is something about the trip to Seattle to race cyclocross that makes the whole thing nostalgic. For me it is a racing thing surely, something that makes me long for the days when traveling the East Coast hitting up races from Richmond, Virginia to Putney, Vermont was the norm. The pastoral landscapes between Portland and Seattle could also be part of it, but I'm guessing the racing is what has taken hold with its nostalgic grip. After all it was David, Abby and I that spent the better part of the three hour trip talking about, well, cyclocross.
The trip itself is actually pretty unremarkable. Especially when you're trying to make sure you can stop at the Nike outlet for fresh kicks and make it to your race in time. So, the drive part of it tends to fly by (except we did find some good new shoes). So, the three hour ride home is where most of the nostalgia rears it's ugly head.
The steep run up over the amphitheater at Beacon Cross. The spiral of death at Wissahickon. The super fucking mud bogs of Downeast. That time it snowed for Sterling and Perri and I put embro on our feet (not a good idea). Or how about the only two wins of my "career" at Washington's Crossing? That was a thing and also very muddy. Then there's Suckerbrook and some of the smaller ones ahhh, I digress, and I haven't even gotten to the good New England ones — the Northampton's and the Providence races. It's easy to get wrapped up in reminiscing over those *days long gone.
It quickly became more of a history lesson for Abby than anything else (sorry Abby) as David and I continued to recollect any and all of the races we could remember. Or maybe it was just for the two of us? Like Abby needs a history lesson anyway, she's been racing with us and listening to us blather on about East Coast Cross every since I've been here. And anyway, her racing season this year has been fantastic to say the least. I joked on the way to Seattle that we were really just doing this for her anyway, to get one more podium under her belt. Which of course she did.
The reality as to why it's Seattle that brings up these emotions is more than two fold. One because of the racing and it's format and two because of the travel itself.
The type of racing that Seattle provides or more importantly — that Zac & Terry and the whole MFG Cyclocross Crew provide — is an entirely different beast than what happens in the Portland area. It is super clean racing with wide courses (making passing easy) and an infrastructure that is geared entirely towards bike racers. Towards developing and cultivating bike racers. Each of the upper level categories have their own races with an emphasis on the Elite races.
It was initially hard for David and I to put a finger on why the race was so much fun. We finished racing and stood shivering next to our vehicle talking with Mike Heenan (he had raced earlier and then saved my race with a quick mechanical fix) about how much of a blast the course had been. At first our race brains only allowed us to smile from ear to ear and state "that was so much fun" over and over. But, as we calmed down a bit we were able to put some better thoughts to the scene...
"Because it felt like real racing."
That became the thing that we kept coming back to. Now, don't get me wrong when I write something like that, it isn't to say that what we do here isn't real racing, but if you were to purely talk about taking it to the next level in the grand scheme of things — UCI, USAC, etc etc — it isn't. Whereas the scene here is geared much more towards racing as a participation sport — Seattle, and especially the MFG Series has put an emphasis on racing. Which, I'm just going to go ahead and attribute to Zac Daab, but that's just because I remember being in awe of his matching Seven Cycles Cross bikes back when we were in New England so, if he's out here now, and the course that he's promoting feels like a New England course...it must be his influence.
I could go on and on about what this means, but if you only know one thing, if you've only ever raced the Cross Crusade, then you've only got that picture to build off of. It definitely isn't bad, and it certainly can be fun, but it only teaches you how to race on their style of course within the context of their races. Which, as a side note, seem to be coming to somewhat of an end as the Cross Crusade seems to have no real leader to take over with Brad Ross' announcement that he's leaving.
So, I'm putting it to the Portland crew, the Portland scene, to broaden their horizons next season. To consider, as Molly and her PBS crew did by making the jump across the Colombia River a couple times this year, to head out and try something new. Make your (race) self a little uncomfortable next season. Or better yet, let's convince the MFG to load up their big truck full of supplies and come put on a couple races down here? That could be fun.
At the very least there would be a podium presentation.
Janna Brevick and Hahn Rossman - for their hugs and cheers
Aaron Erbeck - helping build an awesome course and keeping everyone from not running into that tree at the end of the start straight.
Derek Blagg - for providing these awesome photos
Kelly & Mal Knowles - fierce racing, cheering and laughs!
Whomever (Tim?) Makes the MFG Newspaper - There's an MFG Newspaper!
(* No really, I could keep going. Johnny Sundt pushed Pete into the woods. Pete got mad and came back with a vengeance, earning him his first UCI points. Matt White came unclipped at the start. Chris Horner raced a couple races. The USGP of Cyclocross was a thing. Mark McCormack slapped nearly everyone around. Tim Johnson destroyed Mark in that NBX where we finally got Mark to crack a smile mid race. Jeremy Powers started jumping barriers, but I guess Matt White was doing that too. The Richard Sachs Cyclocross team. Justin Spinnelli, Matt Krause, Amy, all of them! Rob brought big pots of soup. Someone else brought pots of pot. The fun times were nearly never-ending. Until they were.)