24 inches and 50 racers later

When my car hit the curb, I thought about the money I was going to have to spend to fix this thing and how I was going to miss the Bilenky race for the 4th year in a row. I had intended on going to this race to shoot some pictures, and I was determined to get there any way possible.

After I posted something on Twitter about breaking my car and not making the race, I got a text from Jamie which said he was upset that he would not get to race me for fat guy racing supremacy. I didn’t know I was racing, but Jamie really laid it out there. I had to race. I was challenged!

Luckily my dad was nice enough to let me borrow his car to go back to Philly. I made the two hour drive very early in the morning in order to get to my house, grab some clothes, prepare a bike, and make it to Bilenky by 11 for the start of the race. Oh yah…there was that tiny issue of two feet of snow in Philadelphia.

I steered my dad’s boat of a car into a snowdrift shotgun style. I needed to run in, grab my stuff and hit the road. I made my whirlwind race prep in true ninja fashion and was off to the race. Most of the drive to the Junkyard was like driving through a warzone. People were just walking blindly in the middle of the street and every second car owner was just shoving piles of the white fluffy stuff onto the street.

I shot gunned the car into another drift of a parking spot near the junkyard, and decided that later would be a perfect time with dealing on how to get that beast outta there. There were a few folks who parked their cars in spots that they could clearly get out of, or they shoveled part of a spot before parking and embarking for the registration table. I will call those folks “roadies”.

That is the problem with cyclocross…somewhere along the way we invited these roadies into the sport (I know my history, and understand that it was started by roadies) I am talking about the real hardcore roadies…the ones with no body fat, or hair, and no bike handling skills. The guys you see riding trainers before races, and counting calories…those guys should not come to a Junkyard cross race in 2 feet of snow and expect to find a parking spot.

Registration for this race was the easiest I can remember of all of my years of racing. I didn’t have to sign anything, and I didn’t have to go to some dirty courier squat. All I did was give my duckets, first name, last initial, and I got a number and some free magazines in return.

I found a spot to lay my gear and went out to hob knob with the hearty folks who made the trip out in the snow. I checked in with Anne “Eddy Merckx” Rock (more on the name later). I make it a habit to check in with Anne, because she is good people, but she is also a fellow teacher, and she has this thing for perfect attendance. Another reason is that we have been at many bike events in the past year, where she appears in my photos, but we never actually saw each other.

The fires were roaring and the kegs were flowing as the assembled talked about how they spent their snow day, and their individually harrowing trips through the snow to the junkyard.

Lacking was the talk of lactate thresholds, carbon shifty bits, pro coaches, and the other minutia that turns me off about most pre race discussions. This was all about how much we were going to fall and how many laps we should do before pulling off to sample the fun of throwing snowballs at fellow racers.

The time finally came when Simon said….we would be racing soon. I headed back to my personal gear locker behind the door at the back of the shop to get my race “uniform” on. I was planning on racing in boots and a flannel shirt like the old days, only to reach into my bag and find that I did not have the extra shirt that I planned on wearing. I guess I was going to have to race in a t-shirt. That is not too bad for a big guy, because I get sweaty just walking too close to a racecourse.

Your Blogger Shot by Alan R.

With my uniform of t-shirt, green Palestinian scarf, lobster claw gloves, ski goggles, helmet, jeans, and waterproof rubber workboats in place, I was off to take up the last row of the start line with the likes of Matt Hagen, and Nate Penfield. The three of us, all on single speed mountain bikes decided that we would race for last place.

When Simon sent us off from way above from a cherry picker truck, the race neurons were firing. The race started with a short straightaway then down a wide driveway. Now…in a normal race that would be fine, just this is a junkyard with the two feet of fresh snow sort of packed down. Nathan didn’t realize that there was a 180-degree turn at the bottom of the driveway, and I will refrain from using his bike shop nickname here…but what a donkey move he made. He realized way too late that brakes and snow do not mix with a 200lb rider going down hill. In amazing fashion, he slid down the hill, sort of made the turn and knocked like 6 people out of the race. It was one of the best race tactics I have ever witnessed.

We made the turn near a huge brick wall, and then returned up the long driveway into a Double Dare style foam pit of old couch cushions. There was not really anyway to ride that, unless you had some mad trials skills. The course wrapped around a fence and went into the junkyard by way of a short dogleg to the right. That led down a long straightaway that if it were not covered in snow, would have been really fast. The straightaway ended in a small step hill into a fence. Most folks on the course did not realize that there was a 20-foot drop onto snowy concrete on the other side of the fence. The courses continued along the fence for fifteen yards or so and then back up a short steep hill and back to a long straightaway. At this point, I was starting to feel the rhythm, and could really lay it down. We wrapped around some tape and a motorcycle, then around the back of a building and up and over a dumpster ramp. The bottom of the dumpster ramp deposited you at the start finish line where you had to go under a very low bridge, through a gauntlet of folks throwing snowballs, and into a trailer. The trailer spit you out back at the top of the driveway to do it all again. That was FUN!

Matt, Nathan and I stayed together through most of the ride. I would end up passing folks after the second straightaway and through the trailer part, to just stop and wait for my buddies to catch up. This race was far from serious, but we still have to go as hard as we can because that is what we do. I had a good race, for not really carrying or thinking too much. Maybe I should do that more often…it seems to work! Nathan won the last place award because he didn’t finish. I finished before Hagen, so I guess I lost. Go figure.

After changing, we got to watch the women race and saw Anne Rock walk away with the win. I called her Eddy Merck, because not only was she the only woman to ride the dumpster ramp each time, she also rode to the race, slayed the other women, and then rode home. Damn girl! She also slayed her demons of a rough cross season and got a medal and a Chris king Headset!

The guys A race was the talk of the day. Ed Bush, a Philly favorite was nicked at the line last year, and even though he put in a sold rush, a downed rider, and some good will from Ed cost him 2nd place this year as well.

I might take a second place instead of getting that snow in the kisser

Carl Marin, who built my newest cross bike and was racing on his home turf, since he works for Bilenky, ended up fourth. He survived constant heckling from Simon Firth who was yelling for him on the megaphone through the entire race.

They had a swag toss, and I ended up with a Chris King t-shirt, and a RE Load frame pad. Not bad for a day of racing.

The look on Charlie's face sums the day up perfectly...

After some hangout time with some of the best folks in the philly bike world, I got my stuff back in my dads sled, and was able to shotgun that best right back outta the spot it was in. I grew up in snow like this. Nothing is going to hold me back.

I went home to shovel for like four hours. Not only is it a great workout, I actually enjoy doing the solitude of doing it.

Check out the flickr shots at here for a ton more pictures.

Check out the video below.


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