There will be Mud

2 12 2011

It seems hard to believe that a scant two months have elapsed since the Seattle Cyclocross series opened beneath in warm sunshine of a Pacific Northwest Indian Summer. Time’s wingèd chariot flying on as it ever does, halcyon skies turned to gloom and dank, the mercury gradually slid from balmy to chilly, the rough and knotty ground became muddy and sloppy. Sic transit gloria aestatis…

The grand finale to the 2011 SCX series took place for the third year running at the Evergreen Fairgrounds in Monroe WA, home of the annual Snohomish county fair known as the Evergreen State Fair. Though featured in previous editions of the event, the moto racetrack and the animal barns played no role this year’s proceedings. Since the dirtbike aficionados and their RV’s weren’t competing for space, the course designers were able to take over the whole of the north field and parking area to create a 99% tarmac-free event – the knobby wheels would roll through almost nothing but mud: grassy mud, sandy mud, lumpy mud, soupy mud, and a very few traces here and there of slightly dehydrated mud. The additional space allowed teams to mount their tents course-side, whose proximity to the startline became a prized amenity given the weather.

The course began on the flat field with a few tight turns leading into a long straightaway for the roadies before climbing into the upper meadow. Once there, the course snaked back and forth through some tight turns and fast corners before arriving at its exit point from the meadow: a steep plunge straight down the embankment. The descent curved around a tree and back up to an off-camber path along the hillside that led back to the main field through a swooping 180-degree turn. Racers then had to shoulder their bikes for a struggle up a second muddy embankment that called for deliberate foot placement and occasional hand support. And then it was on to stretches of frothy ankle-deep mud that demanded a light pedal and a fast churn. Riders emerged from the bog onto the course’s single solitary and short stretch of pavement for a quick spurt to a double set of barriers, returning off-road as the course zigged and zagged through two paddocks on its way back to the main field and a short straight dash to the finish line.

The descent of the embankment figured as a decision point for most racers: should one risk mishap on the way down, only to be forced to dismount as a result traction failure on the following upbound segment, or was it better to dismount at the top of the precipice for a run down and back up? The miscalculations and conflicts, with their inevitable consequences, proved a source of hilarity and schadenfreude for the gathered spectators and bell-ringers.

Oh what a beautiful morning

A faint simulacrum of dawn had barely broken somewhere above the leaden skies when David, Andrew, and Alex gathered at the shop for the trek out to the Snohomish valley beneath a constant drizzle. Once again, Alex piloted the trusty Recycled Cycles Sprinter safely to its destination, and we obtained a prime location right by the start line.

It was a day for miseries and lots of dry extra clothing. The rain kept falling until the early afternoon, along with the temperature. It was a day for hard-core fanaticism and commitment to cyclocross (or perhaps to an institution). Rob showed up for the early race in the still-warm rain, cheered on by wife Amanda and young ones Charlotte and Thomas, who seemed unfazed by the weather, sure sign of a cx destiny.

Slipping and a-sliding, weaving and a-riding

His morning race done, Rob took over the controls of the grill, and the air was soon filled with the smell of beef on the barbie, thanks to our fabulous meat sponsor Bill the Butcher.

Arriving with Julie for the afternoon event, Beth found her vehicle unexpectely locked, a problem only because the key was of course located on the wrong side of the door. Drama was avoided in extremis when her husband evaded the highway patrol’s vigilance to arrive with another key and moments to spare. But in the meantime, Jeff had secured new numbers to pin on borrowed jerseys, and both ladies were thus seen dressed in white well after Labor day.

In the meantime, Alex had taken off at noon with the other elite racers for a hour of fun in the mud. But he was to returned unexpectedly and all too soon to the tent, wearing a stoic grimace after a bruising encounter with the ground forced him to abandon his pursuit. Despite his misadventure, Alex showed a consistency through the season that yielded a ninth place in the series final standings.

When you're wet, you're wet

The rain had slowed to a thin drizzle by 1:30pm, when the successive waves of single-speeders, the cat 3 45+ men, and the elite women fields started off. David had another fine outing with the single-speeders, with a ninth place on the day that put him in the fifth slot in the final standings. He was joined by Rob who started and finished his second event of the day, a man on a mission to secure the ten starts that will allow him to upgrade into a field where the sandbaggers go even faster but don’t fall down quite so much.
Starting with the 45+ men, Andrew didn’t fall down, but his knee warmer did. Forced to stop to remove it, he eventually wound up losing another sprint for a mid-pack placing to the same guy as last time.

Beth came roaring past Andrew on the upper meadow, and he had a front-row position to watch her spectacular tumble when some other old guy forced her off her line down the embankment. Fortunately nothing was hurt, not even dignity as that gets left behind with the jackets on the start line. Beth finished with an outstanding sixth place, and a fourth place in the final standings. Dispensing with knee-warmers despite the increasing chill, Julie rode to an excellent eight place on the day, finishing sixth for the series.

You've got to accentuate the vertical

Finally, it was 2:30pm and Cat 3 men took the start of the final race of the 2011 SCX series, with RCR’s 2 Nicks joined by Jeff and Liam. By this time, the beer tent had opened and the festivities were in full swing, fueled by quantities of Nieuw Belgie’s fine brews. Thus we can only report seeing Nick A’s focused expression as he came down the hill, followed by Nick B. Jeff looked happy to be there. And we noticed Liam making an unscheduled service stop at the pit. Published results would later indicate that Nick A obtained a very fine ninth place, and an outstanding eighth place on final gc, where he’s followed by Nick B who hung on to his ninth on the final standings.

Liam made up for a disappointing day of mechanical challenges by scoring a pair of wheels in the post race raffle.
Andrew managed to spill half his second beer, which turned out to be inadvertently clever since he would occupy the driver’s seat in the van for the drive back to Seattle. All too soon, the party was over, the tents were folded and loaded, and the van set out into the fading twilight for the journey back to Boat Street.

For many of us, the season has drawn to a close, and it’s time to take up winter sports such as skiing or knitting; but a few races remain for those still jonesing on cx and willing to travel to the far north or the far south. We offer our thanks to our fantastic sponsors who help make this all possible: our long-time title sponsor Recycled Cycles and bicycle partner Raleigh Bikes; Schwalbe Tires gives us great tread, Bill the Butcher keeps us fed, and PowerBar gets us gelled.

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