Monday, 21 September 2009

BSNYC Ride Report: 2009 Singlespeed World Championship

As I mentioned in last Friday's post, cyclocross season began this past weekend. (At least it did around these parts.) However, this weekend the 2009 Singlespeed World Championships also took place in Durango, Colorado. As some of you may recall, I took part in last year's race in Napa, California. While I don't like to brag, the truth is I came very close to winning that event--in fact, according to the number emblazoned on my Official SSWC Finisher's Bottle Opener, I was only about 100 riders away from a high double-digit placing. Actually, at one point I was even side-by-side with the eventual winner, Carl Decker. (Though admittedly that was at the counter in the 7-11 before the race.) So, given that the only things that had kept me from becoming the Singlespeed World Champion last year were like 200 other people, like two hours, and the fact that I suck, I knew I'd have to return this year in order to claim victory. So I bagged my bike, left my dignity with a neighbor, and headed west.

I rolled into Durango like the carpetbagging city-slicker I am, strapped on my six guns, donned my 10 gallon hat, and sauntered off spurs a-rattlin' down Main Avenue to find that the town had already fallen victim to Singlespeed Fever:

Even the local bookshop was shamelessly attempting to cash in:

If you've never been to Durango, it has a real "Wild West" feel, since as I understand it the frontiersmen ate in expensive restaurants, drank gourmet coffee, and spent most of their free time engaged in outdoor sports like cycling, skiing, and white water rafting. It's also a real cycling town; not only was it the host of the first-ever UCI mountain bike world championships, but you'll also find pretty much every type of bicycle in use on its streets--which, as you can see, are pretty rough:

Anyway, in Durango you can see brakeless fixed-gears:

Leopard print road bikes:

Horrifying recumbents (yes, in Durango it seems people use recumbents as bar bikes);

and even tall bikes:

There are also titanium bikes hanging from the trees:

But by far the most common type of bicycle this past weekend was the singlespeed mountain bike, which meant there was plenty of quick-spinning, ironically-clad bicycle traffic--especially on race day:

There was also similarly ironic foot traffic. Note that the lady sheriff has rounded up an irony posse--they've even deputized a guy in Birkenstocks:

Fortunately, despite the fact that I was not wearing a costume (generally my performance on the bike is ridiculous enough that I don't need to enhance it with my wardrobe) the posse spared me and so I was able to continue on to the registration table in front of Durango Cyclery:

Inside the shop, there was even more evidence of the rich local cycling heritage. Here's an autographed photo of Tom Danielson, proudly hidden behind the gloves:

Meanwhile, outside, riders were already assembling at the start and being interviewed about their panties:

At this point I figured I should not only secure a spot, but also find a rider to mark, so I chose Shamu the Killer Whale:

However, this had less to do with my confidence in his riding abilities than it did with the fact that he was clothed relatively modestly, and I had no intention of spending the next 20-something miles trying to follow this guy:

I also wasn't going to try to compete with Michael Phelps:

Sure, Phelps's specialty may be swimming, but an Olympian is an Olympian. Plus, he was packing his "aqualung" which would almost certainly aid his performance:

But despite the seemingly festive nature of the event, I was still nervous. Sure, I had a bottle opener to remind me that, barring hundreds of other people (not to mention the hundreds of thousands of other people who had not bothered to make the trip to Napa), I was one of the best singlespeeders in the world. And sure, I had a distinct advantage due to the fact that I was completely unencumbered by props. Still, as I looked off into the distance at the mountains we would soon be climbing I knew that I was going to suffer. This was no Cunningham Park, and despite all the costumes I also knew that people were going to be racing. After all, a beating is no less painful when it's administered by a man in a dress. If anything, it's even more painful, since it wounds your dignity too. I suppose this juxtaposition of absurdity and pain is really what's at the heart of the event:

That, and riding your bike while dressed as Amelia Earhart:

Soon though the time for contemplation ended and we were off. Unfortunately, I lost Shamu and wound up in the "dirt jumper" group:

However, since I knew that it wouldn't be long before they started riding the same section of trail over and over again like a bunch of autistic chipmunks, I moved up to the Wiccan group:

However, I was not comfortable in this group either, so I moved up to this wheel, where I decided to stay for awhile:

After some road climbing we eventually hit the singletrack, where we proceeded to hike:

And hike:

And hike:

At this point I was beginning to get irritated, as I had been led to believe by the organizers that this was a bicycle race, and had I known I was actually entering the Singlespeed Hiking World Championships I might have stayed home. Worse, the hiking was not going to end anytime soon. To my horror, the splash of color in the distance was not the foliage of early autumn--no, it was people:

And they too were still hiking:

Eventually, we made it to the top, where I took a beer hand-up, paused briefly to appreciate the view (thunder rumbled in the distance, though the storm never reached us), and began the descent:

Unfortunately, I was unable to photograph the very technical and rocky descent, as I was too busy trying to remain on my bike and stay alive. And while I did dab, bobble, and do everything else one would expect a poor New York rider to do on a Colorado trail, I'm pleased to report that I did manage to not actually fall, and that I did in fact survive. Also, while the beer did little to improve my bike handling, it almost certainly gave me the confidence to confront the terrain in the first place.

Emboldened by survival, I pressed on, and encountered a variety of terrain, spectators, and beer. Close to the finish of the race, we encountered one more obscenely long hike:

Then another long descent followed by a final kicker of a climb:

And, finally, the finish line:

Immediately upon crossing it, I turned around to see if I had actually beaten anybody:

And in doing so, I inadvertently captured a perfect image of myself in another rider's mirrored sunglasses:

Then I collapsed in the grass:

I had passed, and as far as I'm concerned that's just as good as winning--a "victory," I should add, which was greatly aided by the good people at Fox, who were kind enough to lend me a suspension fork since I don't actually own one:

If you're wondering, it was a 32 F-29 in the traditional 9mm dropoutway:

Feel free to call me a woosie for using it, or a shark-jumping sellout for lauding it, but the fact is that it performed excellently and quite literally saved my ass on a number of occasions, and my affection for it is such that it warrants being sepiafied:

But while the fork doubtless helped me finish the race unscathed, it could do little to prevent the painful injury I incurred later on at the Ska Brewery post-race party--which, as you'd suspect, contained all the requisite "bike culture" party elements:

The injury occurred when, upon my arrival at the party, the guy who applied my "over 21" bracelet got a bunch of my arm hair caught in it, necessitating a highly painful extraction process:

This greatly diminished my enthusiasm for the ensuing ironic basketball game between Italy and New Zealand to decide the location of next year's race. (Deciding the location of The World's Whitest Sporting Event by means of a basketball game is highly ironic.) However, it was still amusing to watch people messing around on the court before the game:

For some reason, this spectator is especially riveted:

Meanwhile, this spectator puts the "sin" in "singlespeed:"

I can't say I do the same--though given my general "woosieness" I would assert that I at least put the "I peed" in it.


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