Cross-ocalypse: BC Provincial CX Championships 2016
Words: Terry McKall
Pictures: Patrick Burnham (IG: @palleus / flickr.com/palleus/ )
As the only member of the team not to stand on the top of the podium, I have to vantage to, you know, document this thing. So, despite being the least successful member of Naked Factory Racing, you get to read mostly about how my race went. TLDR: it was cold.
This would be Steed Cycles 2nd year running CX Provincials in Squamish and, after experiencing 2015’s icy corners and sub-zero temperatures, we thought we were well prepared, whatever may come. We thought wrong. This year, every meteorological possibility, on either side of freezing, seemed to be on the table … so long as it involved something falling from the sky. Pictures emerging from the course showed small lakes with course tape magically strung up across the frigid waters.
The morning of, we woke to falling rain and an ominously low snow line. One that would inch lower throughout the day, looming just above the racers below. After grabbing coffee, we headed to the venue which lay, semi-submerged, at Loggers Sports Grounds. The course was made up of large sections of standing water, mostly, and long sections of deep mud. Very, very occasional and short sections of firm, only partially saturated land were scattered around the course connecting puddles of various sizes. There was a cool set of ‘Belgian’ stairs, barriers, derelict logging equipment, and a start straight that sent racers flying directly into a submerged 90 degree corner. The course was physical, so wet it was technical, and it was very cold: so, basically, a great day for championship racing!
First up in the schedule were all the age group races up to U17. After watching the combination of constant rain, near-zero cold, and a physically demanding course bring many of them to tears, I started digging through my bag to see what clothing I had, and just how much of it I could functionally wear and still race. Neoprene gloves, a long sleeve fleece jammed under a long sleeve skinsuit, two layers of wool socks, a cap, and knee warmers were assembled into ‘race kit,’ plus a bit more for the warm-up. A slow lap of depth-testing puddles, while gingerly trying to stay as dry as possible, and it was time to line up for the Singlespeed race. Halldor and I joined a huddle of other racers, forgoing personal space for the warmth and relative dry of a space under the Mighty Riders tent, set up magically close to the start/finish area. Warm clothes were very reluctantly handed off to Regan as we lined up and waiting for starters orders, quickly getting colder. And colder. When we finally got the ‘GO!’ the chaos started immediately, as we sprinted into the start straight puddle, on into deep mud and off our bikes through more mud and the barriers — all within the first 60 seconds. Halldor and Rich from Giant Bicycles Vancouver quickly established a gap, with Mark Oldenburg, Mark Karau and I chasing. My own chase turned to a run, as something sharp at the bottom of a puddle took out my back tyre and I watched Mark and Mark ride away. Running turned to jogging as all the singlespeeders, and most of the two other starts behind us rode past. Jogging turned to occasional walking and hand-ups as, honestly, I had no idea where the pits were. They were far away. By the time I got there, Trek ProCity’s Matt Patriquin had kindly informed Regan of my new race plan, and he was waiting with Mical’s spare wheel of her SS bike, which he kindly let me abuse for the rest of the race.
Way up ahead, Halldor had established a good lead. Naked’s Norseman flew past in the deep mud, lapping me well before the bell lap. Giant’s Rich followed a little bit behind, then Karau and Oldenburg. Having watched the entire podium lap me as I trundled around in the mud, I started conserving energy for a couple flailing attempts at jumping the barriers. Steed Cycles and Brandon Crichton Realty had offered a serious cash prize for anyone who cleared both, and I hadn’t seen anyone try yet. Halldor avenged his 2nd place from last year, holding on to his lead to finish at the front of the field. Some pesky citizenship-related details prevent Hal from taking the Championship jersey, but Hal, Rich, and the Marks had all hugged it out in a weird, 4 person podium ceremony.
Craig digging deep on his way to the W // Nick ‘Swayze’ Kupiak catches the brunt of a weirder moment between races
Some other people raced, many Islander’s landed on podiums. Rain fell throughout the day. Nick Kupiak kindly indulged my hypothermic weirdness, making a Swayze-esque catch when DJ Greg Day tried to mask the sound of crying racers by playing “(I’ve had) The Time of My Life.” Conditions, somehow, deteriorated even further. Puddles deepened. Grass became mud, and mud became less and less rideable. Other mud became sneaky sinkholes that claimed dryness, and occasionally entire racers. There’s video evidence of this somewhere. Thousands of footsteps through the mulchy mud surrounding the barriers made it difficult to tell where solid ground was – they appeared the same height, but the mud would often be mid-calve by the time you found ‘solid’ ground.
Mical looking smooth through an unpredictably treacherous corner // And somehow smiling across a ‘paved’ section
Facing just stellar course conditions, Mical and I returned to the start for, respectively, the Elite Women’s and Men’s start. Much of what happened next has been lost to the fog of racing with ‘borderline’-hypothermia, but Mical crushed her race, winning the Provincial Championships by a little over 2 mintues. Liv-Giant’s Sandra Walter put in a solid challenge, with Islanders Carey Mark and Janna Gillick joining Steed’s Natasha Cowie to round out the podium. Not facing any citizenship-related barriers, Mical won both the race and the championship jersey, for Naked Factory Racing’s second podium of the day.
Mical looking impressively composed after the madness // Terry: mid-madness
Elsewhere on course, a comically wet start that felt like what I imagine riding through a car wash would left me working my way up from mid-pack in the Men’s race. A long, slow, mostly whiskey-based warm up (thanks, Dodge City Racing!) meant I was in a better place than most after a couple laps. My survival-oriented race strategy of steady pacing and warm clothing was paying off, somehow, as racers ahead of me started dropping back, or dropping out of the race entirely. I gradually worked my way back up to Parker, who was riding in 5th, only passing him on the last lap when he went down on a muddy off-camber corner. With BC Champ’s extended DH-style podium (not complaining) this meant I just edged onto the bottom step of the podium, finishing the day in 5th. I have a vague memory of Halldor interviewing me with a fake microphone, and standing beside a fire for a very long time. Thanks Giant-Vancouver for letting us take over your lovely, warm fire!
So, Naked Factory Racing landed 3 podiums and a giant novelty check for 3 racers in 4 starts. Doubling up the Singlespeed and Elite races ended up being much, much more than I’d bargained for, but paid off in the end. Especially since I left my wallet and phone in Regan and Mical’s van during one mid-day attempt to warm myself. The prize $$’s were the only cash I had to survive Saturday night — most of which was spend with the wonderful humans of Dodge City Racing in their hotels hot tub — and travel back to the Island Sunday. Huge, huge thanks to Steed Cycles and their army of weather-proof volunteers, and to everyone who let me invade their tent, warm van, whiskey flask, fireplace, hot tub, ect. throughout the day!