The Whittier ferry dock was (and still is) broken, so we took the ferry to Valdez from Cordova, making the drive to Anchorage 300 miles, as opposed to the 60 miles it is from Whittier. Melissa and I decided somewhat last minute to caravan back to Anchorage with Bryan and Garret, spending a few days in the big city picking up this and that, read: booze, groceries, and my new fatbike. They got a head start on us, as we stopped in Valdez for a late breakfast after we disembarked. We caught up to them on the side of the road in between Valdez and Glenallen, where car troubles almost caused their rear wheel to fall off. They hopped in with us and we left Garret’s car there for a few days- planning to bring Garret back with parts and tools on our return trip. Spoiler alert: I didn’t get a bike that weekend, but Melissa got a brand new Fatback for winter adventuring.
It looked like we may even get to witness a cross race- as the Arctic Cross series was having their final race while we were there. I didn’t think I would be allowed to race- not having been part of the series this year so I didn’t bring my bike. Turns out it would have been fine, and I was pretty bummed that I was so pessimistic. The Arctic Cross webpage is a little dated and is difficult to understand for somebody coming to town wanting to race bikes. Sure there is race info, it’s mostly results- you can’t find out much about how the race categories are setup, race times, and sometimes even the race days are incorrect. Ah well…computers are hard.
We made it to the Goose Lake race in Anchorage, the course was located right off the bike path in town. We pulled in to the parking lot, saw bike racks on cars and trucks, folks in spandex, a couple sections of course tape, and figured we were in the right place. Parking was easy.
It rained the few days prior, so the course was a bit muddy- but race day was crisp and clear with soggy ground. My favorite race days.
I often miss the cyclocross in Seattle and I most definitely miss my Hodala teammates. As we walked into the park we saw the familiar sight of kids playing, riding around on bikes just a little bit too big for them, or too small. Adults walking around with mud and smiles on faces- a BBQ was being prepared for the end of the season. Beer flowed from 2 kegs, respectfully stowed out of plain site. We scoped the course, similar in many spots to a mountain bike course, but with the cyclocross staples of barriers and a sandpit. Near the BBQ epicenter and just prior to the first set of barriers was a giant chicane. A spiral which made me dizzy just watching the folks go in circles. Cyclocross feels new in Anchorage, especially singlespeeding. People had a blast- and it was a pretty darn nice day.
It was a diverse race, bikes ranging from mountain bikes, to cross bikes (a few singlespeeds in there too) to polo bikes complete with disk wheels and narrow bars to fatbikes. Race attire was also from one end of the spectrum to the other. Costumes, team kits, whatever seemed comfortable… One of the most interesting things to watch, was the heckling. The polo kids, god bless ‘em- were doing well at it. We came across them at the sand pit. Beers in hand, they would rib the riders as they came by:
“You’re doing it wrong- you’re supposed to stay on your bike.”
“That’s why you’re not winning!”
Tall Bryan was also giving them some pointers- encouraging the racers to just get off their bikes and run the section that was slowing so many down. “No! Get off your bike! Run it! You’re going too slow!”
Heckling is something that I am quite familiar with though not nearly as skilled as my teammates at (much like riding.) Hodala is next level heckling. Too much for some people- it’s
never rarely coming from a place of anger. It’s like when my mom would say to me “I love you, you little shit stain.” I knew that “love” was the operative word. Some people might take offence, and occasionally kick the team fire ring over- but if you can’t take the mud, get off the cross course. When I first started racing cross, the heckling I heard consisted of:
“Shift!” (because I ride a single speed…. so clever.)
“It’s GO MEANS GO, not SLOW MEANS SLOW!”
I took these ribbings in stride and came out a better rider for it.
The kids race was, as always, fun to watch. Seeing the boys and girls get stoked on cross is always a good time.
Next year I’ll be at the races, at least a couple of them. Hoping that my team can make it up to race at least one as well. Hodala can help ruin cyclocross north of 60°N too. So keep riding dirty and we’ll see you at the races.