HiFi CX racer and all-around badass Ali Halpin penned these words shortly after the circus that is Single Speed Cyclocross Worlds.
I remember reading about single speed world championships when I first started racing bikes. Racers traded Lycra skinsuits for vibrant costumes, looking more like a group of festival goers than bike racers. It looked totally insane, and 100% rad. Once it was announced that SSCXWC was returning to Portland for 2016, I knew I needed to finally see for myself what this “race” was all about. It was better than anything I had imagined. As CyclingNews aptly described, it’s Burning Man meets bike racing, complete with a sacrificial burning of a wooden space needle replica. Legendary pros standing beside weekend warriors share whiskey, beers and a start line.
Many told me before embarking on this journey to be prepared for anything. Based on past reports, I imagined whiskey shots, strippers, donuts and heckling galore. But I wasn’t prepared for what they had in store for us on the start line Sunday. We all shuffled for a position, just like a normal race. I was stoked to be sitting in the second row behind the 2015 champion, Mical Dyck. The MC then came over the bullhorn and announced that he had messed up; this wasn’t where the start was. He proceeds to lead us into what appeared to be a strawberry field in hibernation for the winter, a complete shoe sucking mud bog. When we reached the middle of the field he directed us to drop our bikes. Ahhh, a good old Le Mans start. We were now standing in front of the wooden space needle with a giant corn field separating us from our bikes. Face the corn, they say. You will run through the corn, they say. You will find the course, they say. This will be the best damn time, they say. I hope your brought your one-dollar bills, they say.
With the signal of a shot gun we where off like a pack of hungry wolves; 150 women pushing through corn stalks hoping to come out on the other side unscathed. I found someone to follow and let them break trail for me with thoughts of the coveted winners tattoo on the brain. Once through the corn we were greeted with piles of bikes; our bikes had been moved! I searched for my unique black and gold HiFi bar tape and luckily spotted it with ease. I pedaled and pushed my way to the course and put the hammer down: I had some ground to make up.
Within minutes the first shenanigan on the course, the famous stripper bus short cut. “$1!” someone shouted. Thankfully I had shoved some ones into my sports bra. Scrambling to find the money, I handed off a wadded up $1 and my bike, and onto the bus I went. It was all a blur but before I knew it I was back on my bike pedaling as fast as my single gear would allow me.
Suddenly I heard a loud click and my pedaling became easier, a welcome sigh of relief. Then reality hit and I realized my chain had come off into my back wheel. Too oxygen deprived to figure out how to fix the problem, I ran. Through the shark infested pond, over vodka pass, through the filth pit of exercise balls. I found a beer hand up to quench my thirst along the way. Now all I had was a bark chip mountain, some glitter bombs and the sensory deprivation tunnel between me and my team tent.
Greeted with mega watts, Funions, and more beer, I now had the awesome Adam Clement from Genevalle working on getting my bike back functioning again. Before I knew it I was back pedaling, headed for another round of the most entertaining course I have ever raced. There were dollar handups that I quickly spent on the stripper bus, more handups of cookies, beer, and marshmallows. Dodging muddy exercise balls in the ball pit was a feat, but that made me laugh and smile more.
The checker flag awaited and as quickly as it had all started it was done. Standing at the finish in hand-me-down cheetah print tights covered in mud, I soaked it all in. The classic post-race reminiscing of the course with friends commenced as we documented this crazy experience with pictures. It was now time to step outside the tape and watch the men battle it out while returning the heckles, handups and noise. Much like the glitter that hitched a ride on my skin and clothes home, the memories will be forever etched in my memory. SSCXWCPDX, thanks for the best race and party of the season.