COTR 1: Cumberland Coal Cross

Words, Photos: Terry McKall

Friday 6pm — The Penta-Cat Alleycat, Victoria BC

Undaunted by the weekend of racing ahead, or maybe just too impatient to wait all of 24 hours to start the islands fall CX season, Naked SSCX takes to the streets for the first annual Penta-Cat Alleycat. Organized by friends, anything funds left after buying balloons (it’s a long story) and prizes went toward getting Halldór, Parker, and myself to SSCXWC’14 in Louisville, Kentucky. The Pentagram shaped course crosses Rifflandia-mad downtown Victoria as much as possible. Halldór dominates, winning by over 5 minutes. Everyone has a great time.

Saturday – 6 pm – The Waverley Crit, Cumberland BC

Friday’s PentaCat proves to have been excellent preparation for The Waverly Crit — the course winds up and down one square block of downtown Cumberland, through a parking lot, and into the storied Waverley Pub. Practice laps are fast and fun. 35 riders start. Speeds slow, adrenaline spikes, I last about 4 minutes (3 laps) before smacking into the Waverley’s side entrance. Exiting early gives me time to better understand the inner workings of a new tubeless set up, watch the excitement, and stare blankly past anyone talking to me for at least 15 minutes until race adrenaline subsides enough to engage in conversation.

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Parker and Halldór both finish, though with riders stretched around the course in a nearly continuous line, I have no idea how they place. Not that it matters — racing through a dark bar and flying airborne out the front door was incredibly fun, both to race and watch.

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How awesome is the town of Cumberland? A cx race through the town’s main bar, at 6 pm on a Saturday night, while people were still eating/drinking in the bar? Amazing!

Sunday morning – 9:30, Cumberland BC

Temperatures at Coal Hills BMX track are already pushing past 20 degrees. Vague mumblings about Campari and homemade Hungarian fruit liqueurs are heard from those who stayed at the Riding Fool Hostel, yet no details are given. Bikes are tended to, and we head off to scout out a fast, dusty course. The gap jump has returned. More grumbling.

Sunday – 2:15 – Expert Men’s race start – temperature, ~26C

Stoked on Stuckylifer Clay’s podium in the Intermediate race in a hotly contested three way all single-speed battle, Naked SSCX assembles in the start area. A random call-up offers mixed luck: Halldór is called first, Parker in the top-10, I’m called 3rd last.

Parker and Trail Bicycles’ Tristan Geisel escape early, the pair alternately encouraging and heckling each other while holding off the field most of the first lap. Craig Ritchey eventually comes through, bringing Cross on the Rocks’ more familiar faces with him. From there on it’s a hard fought battle to maintain contact with the lead group, and a fight for constantly changing positions. With course features ranging from a gap jump, pump track, a full BMX course to tight gravel corners, a grass whirly-whirl, and flat out road sections, several passes are often required to advance a single position.

Parker and Tristan
Parker and Tristan
There was also a section through the trees
There was also a section through the trees

Meanwhile, I work my way up from a slower start to find Halldor, and we ride most of the last 3 or so laps together. Parker holds on to finish 8th overall (1st single speed), I chase my way to 11th, and Halldór finishes right behind me in 13th. Any of the dust not caked on racers settles back onto the course as we all search for and drink any cold, canned beverage we can find. Two cokes, one Happy Planet, one beer, one lemonata, and 1.5L of water later, we arrive back in Victoria.