There is something I love about contradictions. If I didn’t think astrology was total horse shit, I might attribute it to being a Gemini. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons I like bike races so much. They are a perfect contradiction of gentlemanly etiquette and barbaric battles that leave the losers wallowing in a pool of sweat, vomit and despair. And that, my friends, is a pretty entertaining thing to watch.
Gluttons Cross is an annual event held by the Fort Garry Bike Club, in the dead of winter, in the dark. It has three stages, and is, in my humble opinion, an excellent example of the magnificently contradictory nature of bike racing. The members of the FGBC (and cyclocrossers in general) are Hard Men. Including the women. Maybe especially the women. But they are also Gentle Men, civilized, polite and passionate about their sport. Although I was unable to participate due to a prearranged pedicure date with Johan Bruyneel (don’t tell Lance, he’s very jealous), I was fortunate enough to watch the third and most gripping of the stages which presented some pretty dramatic victories, crushing defeats, followed by jovial conversations about music, bikes and Brad Pitt.
Stage One – The Indian Buffet
Given the intense effort required for cyclocross, it is generally best to eat no later than 3 hours before a race to allow for proper digestion. To do otherwise invites potentially catastrophic consequences. A good pre-race meal might be comprised of a banana and some cereal, or perhaps a nice bowl of plain oatmeal. No so for the Hardmen of Gluttons Cross. Stage One had racers doing laps (on foot) of the buffet at a local Indian restaurant. A minimum of 500 grams of food had to be consumed in order to continue on to Stage Two.
Some racers, motivated by time bonuses offered for additional plates consumed, completed as many as three laps of the buffet. I am told one racer consumed six bowls of rice pudding, but I have to wonder if this is even possible. I should add at this point that puking at any point during the race constitutes an immediate and irrefutable DNF.
Stage Two: The Bike
Soon after napkins been untucked and mouth corners daintily dabbed, the racers were out the door for the hammerfest to the Klubhaus, a 15-ish minute bike over single track on the frozen Assiniboine River. Some racers managed to clear the log. Some did not. As they attempted to kill each other on their bikes, I arrived at the Klubhaus in anticipation of the arrival of the first racers. I stood eagerly at the door for several minutes, cowbell in one hand, camera in the other. But waiting is hard, and it was cold, so I scurried inside to a warm chair and a cold Heineken. Soon the door opened and a man walked into the room with what looked like a miner’s hat on. He looked around the room, temporarily blinding me as his spotlight light shone in my face. Without a word he walked with great purpose to the bar and bought himself a pint of dark beer.
Stage 3: The Klubhaus
The race, it turns out, was still very much on. Upon arrival at the Klubhaus, racers must drink a print of beer in order to cross the finish line. The man with the spotlight was none other than the Dark Lord, who was soon followed by Gianni and Brad the Impaler. It was a close race but Gianni outfoxed his opponents, smashing them into submission at the line as he drained his glass first. The Impaler finished soon after, only to DNF in the mens’ room moments later. The Dark Lord, still in second, looked perilously close to a DNF himself, but managed to keep everything down, therefore securing his spot on the podium.
The Cricket took third, having held back at stage one with a conservative single plate of curry, allowing him to finish strong. There are many lessons to be learned here.
As the rest of the racers finished, carnage ensued. There were more DNFs than Stage 8 of this year’s Tour de France. The post-race vibe was subdued at first, but slowly came to life thanks to the remarkable medicinal powers of Jägermeister shots. Discussion meandered in all sorts of interesting directions, including a debate about which movie Brad Pitt was most hot in. It was agreed Seven Monkeys and Fight Club were clear winners, while Legends of the Fall was a fail.
If there was ever a cross race to spectate, this was the one. It was spectate-tacular. Chapeau to the Hard Men and Woman of Gluttons Cross. Special props to the sole woman racer, the lovely and talented Mrs. G, and the Cricket, who was kind enough to help me with my coat when I had to leave. Such a gentleman.