Urban Cross 2014

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2010 State Champion*

Some days things are just not meant to be, last Saturday afternoon for one.  It was the Kansas State Grass Track Championships in Lawrence, yes grass track, all the fun of track racing without the velodrome. Imagine a large flat filed with an oval shaved into the grass.  They say it was very common back in the day, but so was black and white television and you don’t see it any more either.

As is the case with track racing both in a velodrome and out here in some guys field you must ride a track bike, makes since.  Anyway, track bikes are fixed, if the back wheel is turning so are the cranks, no freewheel and no breaks.  If I had some tight girls jeans and a messenger bag I could fit right in with the hipster crowd, but I live in a very hilly city and the idea of a track bike outside of a track seems stupid to me. I know many people think they are the bee’s knees and great for training, but I don’t, I really enjoy coasting and not killing my knees.  Give me a bike with gears and breaks and I’m happy, technology marches on.   Plus the closest velodrome is in St. Louis, a bit of a drive.

Back to the race, and disappointment shortly there after.  I finally won a race, two races actually.  I finished first, and we will leave it at that.  I won the Mens 35-39 1K time trial, and the Mens 35-39 scratch race.  And I have absoutly nothing to show for my victories.  I don’t live in Kansas, nor do I want to live in Kansas so I’m unable to claim the title, “State Champion”, nor do I receive any such medal for winning my races.  I did get a lovely r5 t-shirt, and a jar of taint lubrication. This feat of athletic prowess was accomplished on a borrowed bike, I don’t own a fixed gear bike.  And I’m sure as hell not going to St Louis for the Missouri track championships, I would get destroyed.  However, I’m keeping those “championships” even though they are not technically mine.  I’m happy putting an asterisk next to those victories, it always worked for Roger Maris.

3008 California State Champion "winning" the 2010 KS Track Championship.*

It’s not often that I win races, in fact I haven’t won a race since i was 5 when I destroyed the field at the Belton (MO), Community Days Big Wheel races, I even got my photo in the paper.  I finished with a medal at mountain bike race earlier this spring, and I don’t even own a mountain bike, a ‘cross bike did an admrialble job going up against everyone’s mountain bikes (faster and lighter is the way to go if conditions are right).  It’s funny that I keep doing well in cycling events that I rarely ever take part in.

It was hot, surface of the sun hot.  It was almost 100 F even hotter if you factor in the heat index.  And going with the long sleeve skinsuit was probably not the best idea, but fashion trumps comfort if you ask me.  Do it it’s tightness it did help hold ziplock bags of ice on your neck and back as you were busy killing yourself spinning laps around the track as hard as you possibly could.  Fighting the urge to coast was a problem as well but I stayed on without getting flipped off the bike, I guess it’s something you get used to riding fixed.

Not in last.

It wasn’t just me who were disappointed, winning a race and having nothing but taint lubrication to show for our victories.  I am taking steps to rectify this matter, I don’t want to go into detail right this minute, but those of us who won but lived out of state will soon have something to show for our efforts.  Check back later in the week to see what steps have been taken.

Karma soon took hold of the venue, as soon as medals were awarded (some to people who didn’t finish first but lived in state) a hugh storm blew in, forcing everyone to huddle under a tent while watching everything that wasn’t tied down get destroyed, sorry Boulevard team, your tent is toast.

Post storm sky.

They saved the top of the tent, but the bottom is a goner.

CX On The Hoth Ice Planet

The stupidness that is cyclocross.  It’s 20 something degrees, you gladly pay $25 to go ride on snow and ice for 30 to 60 minutes stripped down to the bare minimum to stave off frostbite and hypothermia.  This is no doubt why most CX series end in December not long after nationals, but no, not around here, we push our luck and race on into January.   As of late we seem to be living on the Hoth Ice Planet minus the interference of the Empire forces.  I was stranded on a expedition to Target Wednesday and had to unfortunately use my light saber and slice open the belly of my Tauntaun to keep from freezing to death.

Speaking of slicing open a Tauntaun I found photos of a sleeping bag which looks like you are sleeping in a Tauntaun, minus the steaming stinking guts. Pretty cool if your a sci-fi Star Wars nerd.

It even comes with a little light saber.

You race ‘cross long enough and you’ll learn how to dress for nearly every season, winter especially.  Through trial and error, you will eventually figure out just what you need most of the time.  Sometimes having a bag of extra gear pays off especially with our schizophrenic weather of late.  Sometimes you just never know what to expect when your race finally rolls around.

Regardless of what you put on, it’s always one layer too many when nature calls. You can never get yourself unzipped quick enough, totally disrobing your outer layers would be the ideal choice but who has the time to start unpealing skinsuits, tights and baselayers just to take a wiz.  Plus it’s way to cold to start stripping down and who has time to wait in line at the always foul smelling port-a-potties usually a tree or an open car door is enough privacy.

On occasion I find that the tank isn’t quite empty when I’m in the process of stowing away the equipment, (yeah, you know what I mean). You soon realize the remainder of the fluid in the tank is now on its way out, oops too late, I just peed my tights and skinsuit, at least it’s warm.  And a quick word of warning, wash your hands well after applying your embrocation, if it gets on your… well you know, it burns like it’s on fire not fun.

Holiday sweaters for holiday theme races.

To add insult to injury and a urine soaked skinsuit, racing the Hoth Planet Cyclocross Series (Cross of the Old Year and Grote Prijs) on snow and ice is just plain stupid.  I know it’s done all the time, but that doesn’t make it right.  I’ve never raced well on snow and ice, it’s not as easy as some people make it look to be.  Your at the mercy at unseen frozen ruts and the line that everyone else has dug out.  Gone is the full width of the course, now your fighting to keep a line that’s only a few inches wide. Find your line or find the drifts of snow along the edge of the course. You feel like you have little choice in your line, you go where your front wheel and the ground wants you to go, much like the Le Taxi Tour ride at Worlds of Fun, you can turn the steering wheel all you want, but the car just follows the rail imbedded in the road.

Le Taxi Tour

Too much time off between races starts to play tricks with my mind.  All types of disillusions of grander began to seep in.  Yeah, I’m sure I can win the next three races, and I’ll cat up and kill the A’s while I’m at it.  Then reality crashes in and you find yourself battling to keep out of last place.   I’d almost rather find out who will my race, give him my check for $25 and have him kick me in the crotch and be done with it.

NBC 41 showed up, click here to see the video. The anchor looks seriously confused.

One more race to go, the re-scheduled Epic Holiday Cross race is next Saturday, then it’s off season. Let’s hope the snow and ice are history. Then maybe some road races, defiantly the KC Street Cred series.  Maybe a new road bike, possibly a mountain bike.  Who knows, we’ll see how the bank account looks like after the trip to Chile in May.

ct

Urban CX.

While it had nothing to do with Black Sheep Cartel in any way shape or form I feel I must comment on an underground cyclocross race which we staged over the weekend, the West Bottoms Urban Cyclocross Challenge.

Welcome to the lovely West Bottoms, and race staging area.

Welcome to the beautiful West Bottoms, and race staging area.

To fill the lull in cycle racing between the end of cyclocross season and the start of road season (it started this weekend actually) several of us over the past few years have developed an underground cycling series.  No USA cycling licenses, very little spandex, and more often than not, no gears or breaks. 

"Barrier Alley",  dumpsters, trash bags, old desks...

"Barrier Alley", dumpsters, trash bags, old desks...

The West Bottoms Urban Cyclocross Challenge, a full fledged cx race, on par with any cx race you may have raced in the past, with some alterations.  For those unfamilar with Kansas City, Mo, the West Bottoms  looks like a Postapocalyptic no man’s land home to massive brick warehouses and factories in different degrees of vacancy and disrepair built at the turn of the century.  Basically an area where you can do whatever you please and not worry about what might happen.  A perfect place to set up a cx course.  No parks and rec departments to deal with, down and dirty bare bones show and go cx racing at it’s best.

The loading dock run-up.

The loading dock run-up.

 

The course its self was just a bit over a mile in length, complete with your typical cx course offerings; barriers, run up’s, paved roads, and a nice off chamber area as well.  However, this time the barriers were broken down office furniture, dumpsters and bags of trash.  Loading docks were used as run ups.  And you can’t forget the pigeon guano filled alleys, as were a cobble stone street beneath the 12th Street bridge and broken glass as far as the eye can see.  Even a discarded christmas tree found in an alley was drafted into service as a barrier which most ran right over.  

Christmas tree alley.

Christmas tree alley.

15 hearty souls showed up, most  unsure what challenges lay ahead of them. Most had never raced a cx race before, and many had no idea what cyclocross even was.  Cross is hard to easily describe let alone trying to describe what our bastardized version would entail.  Things went incredibly well, one guy got pissed that we moved a dumpster and managed to move it blocking off one turn, however the racers were on the ball quickly found another way into the alley filled with guano and broken glass keeping the race going.  3303145148_e3a2ae2167

15 started, 14 finished, everyone had fun and somehow there were no flats.  Hopefully we can convince those who enjoyed themselves to come out this fall and try a legit cyclocross race.  Who knows, maybe we can convince them that they should join the Cartel and rock the pink too. (Invitations are always open, contact us for more information.)

West Bottoms Cyclocross Challenge

West Bottoms Cyclocross Challenge

CLICK FOR PHOTOS

ct

Now that road season is upon us, I really need to figure out what I’m going to do. Racing road on a cx bike was a bad idea, I tried that last year with less than stellar  results, not enough gears to keep up.  I guess I could use my old Bianchi, I suppose with a few upgrades in components it would serve me well enough, it just wouldn’t be as fancy as all of my competitors fancy pants machines.

‘Crossed Off The New Year In Style

There are few sports that allow, or actually encourage adults to dress up in stupid costumes and compete, cyclocross being the only one I can think of.  I’m not sure just what it is about cx that encourages this behavior, but it does and I think it’s one of the things that makes ‘cross so f*#king awesome.  Anyone who has an internet connection has seen videos of scores of idiots racing cx in drag, costume, and occasionally nothing but shoes, helmet and a whole lot of Chamois Buttr’.

I thought it was high time that the local cross community experience a bit of style. I pulled my moisture wicking, somewhat cycling friendly thrift store suit out of the closet and donning it for Series 60‘s ‘Cross Off The New Year CX Race on New Years Eve ’08.  To look at it you would never know it came from a thrift store; 100% wool, no moth holes and it doesn’t even smell funny.  I almost felt guilty racing in it, then I remembered it didn’t cost me a dime and if it got dirty I could either have it cleaned or throw it away.  I doubt any thrift shop would accept a mud covered suit with pockets full of sand.

Adding a touch of class.

Adding a touch of class.

Coincidentally several others showed up in something not made of lycra, so I wasn’t the lone idiot wearing something stupid.  I’d love to see this continue, along with more beer hand-ups, trees covered in dollar bills…  Hmmm, I wonder where my Spiderman halloween costume is?

My biggest concerns was getting the crotch of my slacks catching the back of the saddle when remounting or strangling myself with my tie.  I’ve had a few disasters trying a remount while wearing anything but cycling shorts or tights, ouch, and not a pretty sight.  Luckily the slacks are a bit tight in the waist and crotchal areas and never caught the saddle, nor did I get my tie caught in my drive train while shouldering and running the bike, a clip on tie might be a bit safer. 

cx-newyears-02bw

Looking stylish was my only motivation, I’m afraid I would have quit the race if dressed differently, something I have never done.  I have never felt physically worse during a cx race, I was dead, nothing in the tank to keep me going.  I had one good lap in me and the following laps were something out of a bad dream.  All of which was very disappointing since I had felt so good at Boss Cross III three days earlier.

Everyone was going on and on about how hard Boss Cross III was, with the ankle deep mud and 20 minute lap times. Personally I felt that the ‘Cross Off The Year course was much more difficult, even though it was dry and nearly mud free. There was that one muddy run-up but that was nearly the extent of the mud.  

I didn’t even check the standings, I went straight to the keg of beer, Boulevard Double Wide I.P.A.  Sometimes it’s best not knowing how bad you did, I know there were many people behind me, so at least I didn’t finish last, or get beat by a junior.

Napoleon Dynamite?

Napoleon Dynamite possibly?

I was amazed by the turnout, who knew there were that many unemployed or unemployable cyclocross racers.  I had delusions of grandeur, hoping everyone would not be able to get off work to race on a Wednesday afternoon and I could manage a podium spot.  No such luck.

We now have two more cx races this season, Epic Holiday Cross Sunday and the Grote Prijs Shawnee the following Sunday.  I can’t believe it’s almost over, it seems like the first race was only a few weeks ago.  16 races to date, and 2 more to go.  

Looking good, feeling bad.

Looking good, feeling spent.

ct

A Euro-rific Recap.

The Boulevard Cup was a “Belgian style” cyclocross race, I’m still not sure what that is supposed to mean, I paid my entry fee with dollars not euros, I didn’t see Sven Nys nor anyone selling pommes frites and waving the flag of Flanders.  All I can say is it was fun, fast and a bit muddy in spots.  The Wyandotte County Park course was long, mostly grass, grass as thick as shag carpeting from the 70’s, one paved straightaway and three sets of barriers, a marked difference from last weeks race at Clinton Lake with it’s abundance of single track sections and gravel roads.  Just yards away from last years US National Championship course where the best of the best came to fight it out for the stars and stripes jersey.

One thing that has yet to change this season is the size of the mens cat 4 race, as usual it was a large affair, a clusterf*@k if you will, with 51 racers, plus the women’s 4 and juniors.  That first left turn off the pavement at the start is a frightening place, elbow to elbow, wheel to wheel flying across that ditch at 25 + mph / 40 + kph hoping that the guy in t-shirt and flat pedals isn’t gonna freak out, loose his mind and jam on the breaks taking out half of the field. (it was a Belgium styled race after all, and those nutty Belgians dig metric system along with mayonnaise on their frites)
Black Sheep did well, but probably won’t be making the pages of the next issue of Cyclocross Magazine. BSC didn’t win and wasn’t humiliated either, finishing in the meaty part of the curve. (It’s good to have goals however modest they may be; beat Chasm, Zeke, Joshua, Paul and Marcus, not get lapped, or get beat by a junior and fall down in front of the cameras doing something stupid, and to finish as muddy as possible…)
Now I’m not one who normally points fingers, however, I’m of the opinion that 1/4 to 1/3 of the 4’s are hibitual sandbaggers who could and should easily compete with the 3’s or 3-4’s.  Congratulations you just beat a bunch of beginners, I hope that makes you feel good. I don’t want to sound like a sore looser here but, come on guys it’s like the episode of Seinfeld where Kramer dominates his karate dojo only because he is fighting children.  

 

I hear Belgium is beautiful, rainy and wet.  My grandfather always told stories of his time in Belgium while in the Army during WWII, the only area he ever wanted to see again, unfortunately he never made the return trip.  Hopefully I can make the trip for him, I’d love to find all the locations I heard about when I was little and see where the roots of cyclocross began.  I just wish I had the dough to do it,  any donations would be greatly appreciated.  I have some WWII era Belgium money which is probably worthless now as currency since they use the Euro now, but it’s a start.
Lets hope the Black Sheep in North Carolina had a good race, it’s their first race of the season, NCCX race #1, chick n’ Cross at Comp Park BMX Track in Garner, NC. Saturday and NCCX race #2 in Cary NC at Bond park Sunday.
See you Saturday and Sunday at Sailboat Cove on the shores of beautiful Smithville Lake in Smithville, MO.
ROCK THE PINK!
ct