BeachCross: Behind the Tape

Like it or not, there are times when circumstances will prevent you from racing your bicycle. And during such times, as if by some cruel twist of fate, you may find yourself in very close proximity to a bicycle race. Of course you could avoid the race entirely to stay indoors and sulk – or you could grab a six pack of cheap beer, your cowbell, and a bottle of Sambuca, and see what happens.

Spectating at a cyclocross race could be a sport unto itself. It’s competitive, tactical, and certainly more physically demanding than curling or golf. In fact, without the screaming, beer-drinking, cowbell-ringing fans, cyclocross is really just a cold and dirty road race.

No self-respecting spectator shows up at a cross race without at least one cowbell – the more obnoxious the better. I’m not sure of the origin of this particular tradition, but I suspect it may have something to do with Belgium and an overabundance of cows. Here’s Jason showing off his rather impressive set of bells.Picking a good location is very important – it is generally to be found at the most soul-sucking point in the course where the racers will be at their worst and most likely to crash. If you are lucky, seasoned hecklers will already be congregating at the best spot so you won’t have to expend any energy finding it yourself.

At BeachCross, a nearly-vertical 20 meter run-up in the snow seemed the perfect location for fans, hecklers and the crossarazzi.It did not disappoint. The racers were positively miserable as they clawed and stumbled up the icy wall with their bikes on their backs, to be greeted at the top with enthusiastic reminders of how much they suck.

You SUCK!This is a RACE!It’s called a RUN up!

You’re being beaten by a:
a) GIRL (and/or)
b) OLD MAN (and/or)
c) TEN YEAR-OLD!!What better time to enjoy a cocktail then after such a public and generous outpouring of affection? I cheerfully offered beer hand ups at the B race, which is the race I would have done if I was racing. While some people were far too concerned with “not vomiting” to enjoy my hospitality, others enthusiastically enjoyed the libations, much to my increasing delight. Not racing is way more fun than I thought!

After the B race was over, I was completely out of beer and had to pay a visit to the local vendor at the only hotel in town. I bought a six pack of the finest canned malt beverage they had and scurried back for the start of the A race.I got back just in time to help Jon supervise Graham’s application of Mad Alchemy embrocation.

While we all admire its nice scent and pleasant warming sensation (not to mention the sexy bronze sheen), it was unanimously agreed that any contact with lips, eyes, or otherwise thinly membraned body part, should be avoided (even after a vigorous hand washing). These are the great bonding moments I miss when I’m too busy racing.

As I suspected, most of the A racers would be all business and wouldn’t imbibe on the first lap or two, while still under the delusion they could win.I was encouraged by fellow B racer and teammate Charlene to wait until I could see they’d given up. It didn’t take long.There is something that happens to many people (myself included) when they race that makes them behave in a manner that is otherwise uncharacteristic to them. I like to call it The Eye of the Tiger. Chris, for example, likes beer as much as the next supervillian, and yet would not touch it during the race – something for which he sheepishly apologized after.

Graham admitted to being so irritated by my repeated attempts to offer him a drink that he was tempted toward violent actions. Cricket was so blinded by The Eye of the Tiger he didn’t even notice the presence of hand ups at all. Poor Cricket.

Moving from heckling ground zero is not required when the progress of the race is being broadcast via the sweet sweet sounds of Steve Scoles.When I arrived, Steve was quick to let the crowd know that I would not be racing due to my unresolved contract negations with the Manitoba Cyclocross League. Thanks Steve. I’m happy to report that we have come to an agreement (I’m getting that pony after all) and I plan to race this weekend at SouthernCross in Altona – especially since I’m told it’s not one of the “dry” Mennonite towns. I hear those folks know how to throw a party.

See you there, on one side of the tape or the other.

Thanks to Stefan, Dave, JP and Vanessa for the photos I swiped.