You know you're in trouble when one friend, a respectable schoolteacher, concedes quietly over dinner, "it's like crack." Days later, another trusted friend, who, for the record, is a functional member of society, uses "heroin" to describe the unnatural pull of oneself to cyclocross racing. I'm not that good at it, I don't have a lot of extra time or money, but I'm full on hooked
And it's become not enough to race locally. With the renowned Cross Crusade races, the largest cyclocross series in the country - so eminent they have their own Wikipedia entry - within a gas tank's distance from Bend, I find myself pulling on big girl pants to go mix it up with the largest amateur women's field in the U.S.
No amount of crashes, flat tires or dropped chains could deter me from anteing up my $25 entry fee (plus other associated costs) and throwing the dice again. Perversely, those mishaps only fuel the magical thinking of what could have been. The left brain takes over, attempting to bring logic to the craps table by applying math. I crudely concoct calculations that would be easy for me if I'd learned them properly instead of hiding in the back row of my algebra classroom reading a copy of Jane Eyre tucked inside my textbook. This clumsy math only enables my habit. I figure average lap times, lost time due to bad luck and sorrowfully accept that I could have won the damn race if:
A = (8.2 x 5) - bad luck = WINNER
A mantra reminiscent of The Little Engine That Could reverberates in my mind in the hours following the race, "I know I can do better, I know I can do better... " After three lackluster performances at Cross Crusades, I'm barely home from PDX before I'm planning a campaign for the very next weekend.
Last Sunday's misfortune was getting the last call up. Due to large fields at Crusades, the first few riders in any given category are called to the starting line - a definite advantage - based on their overall standings in the series. Then riders are randomly called up based on the last number of their race bib. My bib ended in five, and the fives were... last. We were given a voucher for a free six-pack of Deschutes beer to help smooth over whines of "why me?" on the start line.
Fortunately, the days until my next fix are only a few as the Cross Crusades descend on Bend this weekend. And I'll have not one - but two - races to try and improve my odds. Plus, I don't have to fill my tank to go. But I do have to get my costume together. One of my girlfriends showed up to the Halloween Crusade a few years ago sans costume. She'd had a baby recently, and even getting to the race was heroic for her; trying to come up with a costume wasn't in the cards. She paid for it dearly, and wasn't merely heckled, but doused with beer and pelted with debris during the race.
The Cross Crusades Halloween races are the crown jewel in the Day of the Dead Cyclocross Festival, which promises to rock Bend in the way nationals did in 2009 and 2010, but with the weirdness of Halloween thrown in. Racers and non-racers will find plenty of entertainment at the racecourse and around town. Friday afternoon, the festivities kick off with the Cyclocross Super D Champions of the Universe, billed as the first ever of its kind. Racers will bomb down Funner and Storm King on either 'cross or mountain bikes from Wanoga. The third-annual Cross Culture Art Celebration will showcase the 'cross centric works of local artists at various downtown Bend locations on Friday evening, and the Monster Ball will raise the roof at the Century Center.
Racing begins Saturday morning on the nationals course at Deschutes Brewery with some of the largest and most competitive cyclocross fields in the country - which will include many Bendites - some of whom are serious contenders within their respective categories. Sunday will be a spectacle of indescribable 'cross craziness as racers will compete in costume. And not just any costume. "People go all out on their costumes," says race promoter Brad Ross. (Only racers who are clueless or have a victim complex would dare show up without one.) There will be major food, including Belgian waffles and frites, and a beer garden. On Sunday morning, bicycle guru Chris King will host a pancake breakfast, even manning the griddle himself.
Simultaneous with the weekend's racing, the Oregon Handmade Bicycle Show will fill Good Life Brewing with eye candy in the form of handcrafted bicycles on both Saturday and Sunday. Also not to miss: the 3rd Annual Clydesdale Championship of the Universe on Saturday evening for male "gladiators" weighing at least 200 pounds and female "Athenas" weighing at least 160. The champion will walk away with "unspeakable riches, including a season pass to the Frite Cart" for next year's Crusades. Also on Saturday night, Deschutes Brewery will host a Warehouse Party. For more information on the Day of the Dead Cyclocross Festival go to www.dayofthedeadcyclocross.com.
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Local Winners and Podiums
Cross Crusade #4, Hillsboro, Oregon
3rd Men's A, Chris Sheppard, Rocky Mountain Cycles
1st Masters 35+ A, Andrew Sargent, WebCyclery.com
3rd Masters 35+ A, Tim Jones, WebCyclery.com
1st Masters 35+ B, David Taylor, Bend Memorial Clinic
1st Masters 60+, Don Leet, Sunnyside Sports
4th Masters 60+, Ralph Tolli
5th Clydesdale, Jeff Merwin
2nd Women A, Serena Bishop Gordon, Silverado Gallery
3rd Women A, Heather Clark, BMC
3rd Women Masters 35+ A, Stephanie Uetrecht, WebCyclery
4th Women Masters 45+, Karen Kenlan, Sunnyside Sports
2nd Junior Men, Cameron Beard, Bend Endurance Academy
3rd Junior Men, Dawson Stallings, Bend Endurance Academy
4th Junior Men, Javier Colton, Bend Endurance Academy