WORDS: Slate Olson
Portland, an Oregon Point of View
The first time I did a ‘Cross race was 2002. It was at the now-infamous North Portland Cross Cathedral called Pier Park. I showed up in a pretty legit Clif-Bar Racing Team kit, bright red, and wearing a bright yellow helmet—‘Malliot Jaune’ yellow actually on account that it had been one of Lance Armstrong’s that somehow found it’s way home with me after a commercial shoot. I lined up on my old Klein hard-tail mountain bike with locking Manitou fork at the back of the beginner category start line. It was something like 8:30 in the morning and there might have been 30 or 40 of us. I was terrified and titillated about what the next 35-40 minutes would entail. I thought it might be a sort of racing I would like, but I had no idea what I had just stumbled upon.
Fast forward to present. I’m no longer a beginner, now I’m doing my best ‘pro’ impression of trying to back into to Master A start line, I glue my own tubulars and use terms like ‘make the selection’ and actually sort of mean it. As the rain begins to fall already in Portland I’m pretty sure my fitness isn’t quite there and I haven’t had enough time to dust off the handling skills, so I don’t know really what to expect this season. But, what I do know is that last year the Cross Crusade, the largest Cyclocross series in the United States, saw participation upwards of 1,400 racers on any given Sunday. 1,400 men, women, kids and aging men like me playing in the mud, racing as fast as we can, duking it out for bragging rights, heckling like professionals and when Halloween comes around bringing out costumes that grown people probably should have forgotten about long ago.
You see, while Cyclocross in the Northwest is without a doubt just as hotly contested as anywhere else in the States, we have created something here (thanks really to the CrossCrusade and OBRA) that is probably as important as the racing itself. It’s a bit like summer camp in reverse, we can’t wait for autumn, wishing for time to speed up and summer to be over just so it can be Cyclocross season. Come end of September, we reacquaint with old friends, people we really miss but only see on weekend for those three months. We might not really recognize one another without mud-splattered race kits, but amidst the circus of supporters, dogs, families, and with the smells of frites, beer, embrocation and waffles in the air, there is nowhere else we’d rather be.
- The second way » Cyclocross; A Brief and Incomplete World History