If you haven’t noticed, the era we live in brings to us some surprising human behaviors. One of them is SSCXWC, which means Single Speed Cyclocross World Championship. The other one is that, as humans embedded in the world of digital, we have forgotten about the patience to learn and tend to overreact on at the first sign of smoke, without really looking for fire. Because sometimes there is just a smoke machine, and sometimes the fire has already being take care of, or in our case put there for a good reason.
PART 1: La Jeunesse
First of, let’s check in here: this is not a race. I have been to a bunch of races, this is not what it looks like. Single speed worlds is a big party. And to throw a good party, you need good people. Rick Potestio, John Walrod, Dylan VanWeelden, Dani Dance, Matthew Slaven - And all the people who volunteered. All good people that need to be acknowledged and thanked. Plus they all look really good here.
Now, as it’s not a race, there are no rules. Just suggestions. Kind of like when you play a game with a 3 year old, the rules of the game are suggestions for the kid. As with any good democracy, the problem with rules is that you need to keep track of them, and in the case of SSCXWC, nobody is keeping track of a damn thing. What is so effing awesome is that it works. And a world that works without rules is a pretty ideal set up for humanity.
PART 2: Number Pick Up & Sven (AKA Party Number 1)
The only reason you should bother with number pick up is for the excuse to throw a party at Elevator Cafe. That is the best way to put 600 people in a space which can not fit all of them, and then have Sven Nys show up, and blow 600 minds.
If you are that person who have a lot of opinions about bike brands, think about how cool it is that TREK sent their ambassador Sven, THE Sven, all time legend. The guy who will stop, teach you a lesson, and then still win the race. Being drunk is not an excuse to fuck around with Sven, there is no excuses for Sven. Ever. Never.
(This race is not actually the race I’m talking about which happened in Portland. We don’t speak flemish in Portland, not yet. Soon.) I can not tell you how many races I watched just because of Sven, and I didn’t even like cyclocross.
That was the highlight of the weekend. That was so big that I did got lot of texts message from Europe. This type of texts: "WTF SVEN NYSS IS IN PORTLAND!"
To which my only answer to stay in context was: "I KNOW HE IS RACING WITH OUR SOCKS!"
photo by Justin Blumer, Trek Bikes
Also, since recreational marijuana have been legalized in Oregon, RiverCity bicycle offered 600 preroll joints, one for each registered racers. That is enough to make Snoop Dogg start cyclocross.
PART 3: Qualification
The real racing happened Saturday, because to be part of the real party on Sunday, the really big one on a bike, you needed to qualify: 150 men and 150 women. There was options to qualify that despite my presence at the event, I had hard time to understand - and I want to be precise in the fact that that I didn’t consume any substance that would alter my perception of reality.
1 - You can do a heated race and if you finish in the top 7 of your heat, you qualify. Let say this option seemed like the physical demanding one to qualify.
2 - Karaoke? Emotionally demanding.
3 - Potato bag race and eat donuts?!! physically demanding?
4 - Three legged race and eat donuts?!! physically and emotionally demanding?
5 - Dual slalom style figures judged by former world champ (SS…) Adam Craig. Creatively and physically demanding. In that case that meant competing against former DH world champ (the real deal) Josh Bryceland, in the style category. Good luck with that if you consider yourself as just normal human being OR/AND can not afford a bill at the ER.
Alternate - You could also have stepped in the way of one of the organizing members with some privileged information that have lead you to know that he have a penchant for alcoholic beverage and ask to be qualified and pretty much stole a qualify bracelet out of his pocket while he is peeling some fine beverage all over himself. Not physically or emotionally demanding.
That was fun to watch, and really muddy. In fact, that was disgusting. Kids had fun losing their rain boots in the mud. I don’t know how I feel about parents who bring their children in that environment, they are part my hero, part the reason I’m questioning the existence of the word "reasonable" in the human language. (keep in mind that there is 600 joints in the wild at this point.)
PART 4: Saturday Night Dive Bar aka Party Number 2
I didn’t go. You crazy, I need my beauty sleep.
PART 5: Sunday Fun Day
So here we are, under a beautiful Portland sun, deep into the mud. Yes, you heard me, this was the first sunshine I have seen in months, that feels good and as always between the clouds and the Portland fog, looked really dramatic.
Our three racers and locals heros, aka triple A, did qualify and raced for The Athletic Racing Squad with an outfit they didn’t ask creative consulting for and called themselves MARCO POLO. Get it? I’m pretty sure they didn’t really understand the process of qualifying and did all 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5, to end up just stealing some bracelets.
Their costumes was great to identify as it was white - good job ladies. I did had a crush on the Colorado delegation rocking some fine Star Wars outfits. There is no rules about wearing a costume by the way, people wear costumes because they love it and that’s about it.
I think to translate clearly what were all the features of the race, I need to uses some bulleit point
The start: You drop your bike, you go across a corn field which have been transformed into a maze for the occasion. People move the bikes around. You run across the maze, find your bike, eventually, and start to ride.
The strip tease bus: There was a caravan with a professional men and a women stripper as part of the course to cross. I think some shots of alcoholic beverages were part of the whole thing.
The swimming session: A jump into a pond, with canoe and hand of Whiskey on location. Great way to clean your bike. I’m talking water (and cow poo) up to your waist.
The dual slalom, pick your line, hit the jump. But the reality was so muddy that the average speed didn’t go above 2 miles an hour.
The yoga balls barriers features: barrier become a ramp to jump into a pool of yoga balls to cross. Pretty funny. Spectators were encouraged to throw balls back in between the barriers if they were catapulted out of it. To throw the ball back in the barrier zone, it was recommend to target the faces of racers.
We didn’t really know who win or what happen, but eventually that was nobody coming along the course. Or what it was left of, I’m talking no tape anymore, anywhere.
It took two weeks to the volunteers to clean the venue.
PART 6: party 3 in the dive bar and tattoos
Let’s talk about the tattoo rule. Maybe that is one rule that sadistically everybody is keeping track of. The tattoo. You supposed to get a tattoo when you win the race. The tattoo was pre designed by local celebrity Jake Tong known also for his talent to give a second life to your favorite cat friend on your bicep.
Here we are, on a Sunday night, in North Portland inside a dive bar which smells a little bit too much like high school in France for my liking. There is punk rock raging - I saw Chas sing - and also a magician named Chuck who on top of being a big deal on the stage can pull of those sweet custom GIRO helmets for The Athletic. That was a new experience. That moment did give back to the crowd some rebirth of their punk rock youth which is always a pleasure to see.
The center of the party was definitely the winners of the day - finally we knows who that is - names here getting a tattoo in the middle of the bar, on a table. Adam Craig told us he hated it and nobody trusted that.
Cheers to another SS World Championship - my last one was in SF - I skipped the qualification, won, didn’t get the tattoo, didn’t even had a SS bike and just zip tied my only cross bike and did get properly hated or loved depending on how disruptive you really are. I did put the bikini on, and it was way colder than in that dive bar - I only did it because Sheila Moon asked me tough, because she is a proper badass. You need real reasons to do real dumb things, doing dumb things for the sake of following rules is over rated.
Portland didn’t miss a chance to shine that weekend, I hope it will live forever in your heart as the most wonderful organized chaos in the universe.