“Nacho! Nacho!” the crowd shouted as I approached the jump in my Nacho Libre costume. It was a small step up onto a flat platform, easy enough, but given my declining level of sobriety anything could happen. I had already seen many failed attempts resulting in spectacular crashes. I let go and sailed cleanly through, leaving the crowd to set their sights on the next potential victim. Cowbells and cheers filled the air as I rode on to the next feature. The SSCXWC 2015 circus was in full swing and I was happily along for the ride.
For those unfamiliar, the Single Speed Cyclocross World Championships (SSCXWC) is an annual party that sees riders descending on the host city for a weekend of debauchery and lawless racing. This year, Victoria was the unsuspecting target. The weekend long event full of partying and bike riding culminates in a cyclocross race on the final day. There are in fact only 2 rules: You must ride a bike with only one gear, and you must get the designated tattoo if you win. Otherwise, anything goes.
The race on Sunday is broken down into the “Everyone’s Not A Winner” race, and the main event. To qualify for the main race on Sunday, participants were put through a series of feats of strength the day prior. Win one of these tests and a coveted white zip tie was earned, while a black one was doled out to the losers. The more white zip ties you collect, the more likely it would be that you race the main event, in theory anyway.
The staging area for the feats was, of course, a brewery. My head was already pounding from a few too many beverages at the warm up party the night prior, and the morning eye openers of Hoyne beer samples did little to take the edge off. After a few more rounds of samples our band of 15 riders departed on bikes, putting blind faith in our group leaders. What followed was a scenic tour of Victoria interspersed with beach riding tests, hill climbs, beer stops, fireball shots, pump track races, mini cross races (cheating abound), and the foot down challenge. Spirits were high and the group was having a blast. When the dust settled I was left with a few white zip ties, but not enough to get me in the main event.
Fast forward to another night of partying, and another groggy morning and we were en route to the venue, located at Western Speedway. The course utilized a large portion of the motocross track with a few key features added: three row boats setup as a series of jumps, a giant pile of snow that served as a barrier, large and small tires to somehow clamber across, and the lemon drop shortcut – take the lemon shot to bypass a section of the course. As it turns out, the course is merely just a suggestion. Many choose to create their own shortcuts.
We lined up for our race across the wide motocross starting gate and 160 costume clad lunatics took off. I decided to hang near the back and start slowly. I had no intention of actually racing hard, but with so many bikes and limbs flying around, I also wanted to avoid injury. That plan was nearly derailed after my crash on the pile of snow on the first lap. Failing to realize that the snow dropped off abruptly on the other side, I rode hard up the front only to have my front wheel drop suddenly, sending me sailing over the bars. At least the crowd enjoyed it. Thankfully I wasn’t the only one. I have never seen so many people going over the bars at a cross race. Between the boat jump and the snow pile, the crowd got their fix of carnage.
This was the only race where I have shouted to a friend ahead of me to slow down and wait, and have had them actually listen. For the next 40 minutes we just rode around together taking handups, cutting corners, and doing very little “racing”. By the time we were told the race was over, it was probably a good thing. I had made the boat jump each lap and didn’t want to push my luck.
If our race was chaotic, the final race was a complete descent into madness. The crowds, fuelled by booze, adrenaline, and a love of cross (but mostly booze) packed both sides of the boat jump, completely blocking off the alternate route that bypassed the jump. Cowbells rang out as riders approached the jump and then, depending on the choice by the rider, the crowd reacted accordingly. Anyone looking for the ride around was met by a wall of people unwilling to budge. Those jumping would get the loudest cheers while those running would be met by heckles and boos. Anyone crashing definitely elicited the loudest response. One that could be heard all the way across the course.
While overall it resembled a cyclocross race, and it was clear that Adam Craig was out at the front, most were not too concerned with their overall position. Frequent stops for beer, shots, and gin soaked cucumbers, combined with an excessive amount of course cutting made for a dizzying race to follow. I parked myself just past the snow barrier with a cooler full of beer and offered up tall cans to any takers and in no time at all the cooler was depleted and I was left empty handed.
It was one of few races that I don’t think anyone wanted to end, but the hour was up and one by one the riders crossed the line – some drunk, many tired, but all with massive smiles on their faces. It’s hard to describe the weekend without saying “you really had to be there”, but really, you did. Without a doubt it was the most fun I have had on a cross bike and with such a long season of racing, it was the perfect way to wind down the year.
Rob Parkin shot some awesome video of the action:
Feats of Strength: