People have been getting excited about the coming cyclocross season for weeks – and it is finally here. The Alpenrose Velodrome was packed to the gills with competitors – as no one is ever turned away from Oregon Cyclocross (the world’s largest participation cyclocross series). It is a divergent scene, one the promoter Brad Ross has been cultivating for a number of years now. A scene that is more focussed on the racer as customer rather than promoting the highest level of the sport.
It is the most fun scene around.
The rain held off and actually turned the day into a perfectly sunny, Sunday afternoon of racing. Blindingly sunny, in fact. After a week of rain the sun poked its head out to dry the course and make the race into the delightfully tacky sort of affair one hopes for. Just enough mud to ensure a good slide from the back wheel every once in a while and assert that you will, indeed, be cleaning your bike after the race.
With field sizes being what they are — the Cross Crusade Masters Cat C race held nearly 200 participants — there could be any number of riders whizzing by as spectators happily munch on homemade waffles. This is the only scene that could only be a product of Portland. Racing as a spectator sport, where the spectators are the racers. It is mind boggling to try and decipher.
Where else can you go to see a bank truck converted into a team vehicle? Or Tony Pereira, the famed bicycle builder and Rapha Continental rider, lined up at the back of the Single Speed race, wearing his newly minted Breadwinner Cycles kit and grinning from ear to ear? In which events in Belgium and the Netherlands do the course designers and promoters themselves actually race?
We inundate ourselves with the races that we know to be ‘racing’. The deep ruts and mud that throw people from their bikes in Belgium. The Cobbled Classics that we wake up early to watch on a small laptop screen in a darkened bedroom. Then it moves on to the grand tours, flecks of white gravel tossed into the faces that we hope to emulate when we hit the dirt roads behind our respective houses.
But are these the races that we would really do if we could choose for ourselves? Your answer must be yes. Surely we would all love to say that we survived 14 straight trips through the Arenberg forest. Though for most of us, after piling on a week’s worth of work (desk work, not training) – the closest that we’re going to come to Arenberg glory is flogging ourselves for an hour or two each weekend and telling ourselves that we’re probably on our way to a top 20 finish (I was 41st for the record). Either way you slice it, neither the scene stateside, nor the scene across the pond seem to be going anywhere anytime soon.