Crosswords

The flier for the 2000 Mad Dog Cyclo-cross in Bear Creek Regional Park.

The flier for the 2000 Mad Dog Cyclo-cross in Bear Creek Regional Park.

Bibleburg has never been a hotbed of cyclo-cross. Oh, sure, nationals was held here once, back in 1980, and shortly after I returned to town from New Mexico in 1991 we got a small local scene rolling, mostly because driving to the Denver-Boulder clusterplex was something of a pain in the ass come wintertime. Or any other time, come to think of it.

Also, the U.S. Cycling Federation required a racing club to promote at least one event per annum, and back in the day there was nothing easier to run than a ’cross. Find yourself a venue, mark it casually with some red and blue flags, install a few homemade wooden barriers to force the roadies off their bikes, and by golly you had yourself a race course.

So we put on a couple races per year, in Palmer Park or Monument Valley Park — host to that long-ago national championships — until some turd in the city government who lived nearby took an infarction about people racing bicycles in “his” park. That we were donating the proceeds from our events to park maintenance was immaterial. Sorry ’bout that, said the parks people, but we have to deal with this asshole all the time; you we only have to see a couple times a year.

Thus we shifted operations to the county parks system, putting on races in Bear Creek Regional Park — where, as a precaution, Team Mad Dog Media-Dogs At Large Velo formally adopted the section of trail that included our course — and in Black Forest Regional Park.

Your Humble Narrator on the job during a rare soft day at the Bear Creek Cyclo-cross. As you can see, I am a veritable blur of activity.

Your Humble Narrator on the job during a rare soft day at the Bear Creek Cyclo-cross. As you can see, I am a veritable blur of activity.

Ours were fast, simple courses, suited to beginners and roadies in need of an early season refresher, in part because the county was not interested in our veering off established trail, and in part because we were not exactly the most vigorous of race promoters.

In fact, we were about as lazy a crop of bastards as ever marked a course. Our northern counterparts, among them Chris Grealish, Lee Waldman and John Vickers, were more imaginative when it came to locating new venues, negotiating with their overseers, and designing interesting circuits.

At our peak, we were getting just over 200 riders per event, which wasn’t bad for being outside the Boulder-Denver velo-ghetto, whose more sensitive communards either feared getting born-agained or libertarded if they dared cross the Palmer Divide or didn’t like driving south any better than we liked driving north. We also were working with our northern cousins on a statewide series that included events from Pueblo to Fort Collins.

Eventually, inevitably, we Dogs flamed out. I peaked as a ’cross racer in 1999, and shortly thereafter started dialing it back; by then, Herself and I were living on a rocky hillside outside Weirdcliffe, and Bibleburg was a 90-minute drive in good weather. The last Mad Dog ’cross at Bear Creek may have been in 2000, though I still raced occasionally until 2004, when I finally gave it up for good.

Another club picked up where we left off, drawing OK numbers and getting progressively more creative with its courses, including one last year up near the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs that I heard good things about. Alas, they, too, seem to have flamed out for now — for one reason or another, there seems to be nary a cyclo-cross in Bibleburg this season.

It’s a pity, really. ’Cross has been the biggest thing in bike racing for quite a while now, and last weekend’s Cyclo X-Xilinx in Longmont drew more than 650 racers, a number unheard of in my day. Surely we could get half that down here despite the Lambornagains and various other socio-political impediments. Tap a medical marijuana company for sponsorship, donate the proceeds to the Society for the Preservation of Steel Bicycles and Cantilever Brakes.

I may not race anymore, but I’d still like to watch now than then.

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26 Responses to “Crosswords”

  1. khal spencer Says:

    I’ve often wanted to try my ineptitude at ‘cross, given that I assume its harder to crash and break one’s collarbone in a cross race vs. a criterium or bunch sprint (besides, I’ve only broken one of them) Like you, I’m about to hit geezerhood for real, so breaking bones gets to be more of a concern.

    Perhaps the Salsa La Cruz commuter can be stripped of its lights, bells, and whistles and revert to its intended use; I can put the Richey Speedmax Pro 700-32’s on the Delgado Cross rims and look really silly again, like I did back in Honolulu when I was pretending to race. I think one or two of the People Who Actually Know How To Race A Bike down this way put on cross stuff in the winter.

    Do you ever miss living in Weirdcliffe?

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      The view from Chez Dog outside Weirdcliffe.

      Chez Dog outside Weirdcliffe.

      Cyclo-cross is a giggle, K. Onliest part of bicycle racing I was ever semi-good at, though I did have a kinda-sorta-OK road year back in 1989. It helped that I liked running. Most roadies are like cowboys — they can’t bear to be set afoot.

      I miss the idea of living in Weirdcliffe, especially when I look at pix of our old house and the view from there (see above). If there had been just a few more amenities in Crusty County — a decent restaurant, a serviceable grocery, more bicycle people — I might have been inclined to hold onto the place. We could’ve rented the place out the way we do the House Back East®.

      What I’d really like now is a small place in Fanta Se. Know anyone with a spare million they’re not using?

      • khal spencer Says:

        My Better Half has wanted to move to Fanta Se and we looked at a few places this year in anticipation of us scaling back our efforts at LANL in the next few years.

        300-350k would get you a small place (1100 square feet or so) on the side closest to BombTown, but all of them looked like they needed an additional 100k to make them habitable, i.e., mostly built in the fifties and looking that way, complete with vintage wiring I had not seen since I left my parent’s abode in Buffalo back in 1972. So although I have a bit of yearning to be back in a smallish city, I’m not convinced that Fanta Se is worth the price of admission. Besides, with the Bomb Factory on lean times, I’m not sure we could give our place up here in Bombtown away.

        Other problem with Fanta Se and Albuquerque is we are used to living in a place where if you forget to lock your doors, the house is still there when you get home.

  2. Patrick O'Brien Says:

    Patrick, thanks for the interesting read.

    I used to think I would like to live in Prescott, until I checked the price for the 1000 sq ft cottage next to the one we were renting. $340,000 which is way beyond what we would ever spend. Funny thing was the place next to it was in bad shape and the next lot was a local car repair shop. It was 2 blocks from the courthouse square. I lost the idea of living in a nice old place in a neat (?) town until we saw a picture of the “House Back East.” We shall see next summer. But winter still holds zero appeal for me. I’m afraid to let Sandy stop in Santa Fe, she weaves you know, and I bet sticker shock reactions are a realtor’s best entertainment there. Funny thing, the more we look around, the more we like Sierra Vista, even with the border issues.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Santa Fe is a pricey little town, Patrick. And I’m not sure whether my fondness for the place would survive living there full time. I know the road riding there is a lot hairier than it used to be back in the day, and it was plenty hairy then. Maybe it’s one of those locales best visited occasionally.

      Ever visited Salida? That’s a nifty little place, too, in Colorado’s “banana belt,” which means you spend slightly less time freezing your ass off. But real estate is pricey there, too. My buddy Hal has dreamed of moving there for years, but it stays just out of reach.

      • khal spencer Says:

        We liked Salida and Durango, but both are quite costly now that the 1% has bought up most of the USA. Also, cold….

  3. Larry T. Says:

    Can’t help but look at ‘cross in the USA as MTB redux. Sure, ‘cross is a lot bigger deal in Europe than MTB racing was at the start (though the big ‘cross guys there still try to get a gig on a road team to make real money) but it’s hard to see beyond the industry hype and marketing of the next-big-thing as the MTB market started to dry up. It’s big now but it’ll go the way of MTB racing soon enough. Remember when guys like Tomac and Overend were household names in the world of cycling, with salaries to match? Quick, name the current World Mountain Bike Champion…I dare ya!
    When MTB sales cooled off the industry jumped on ‘cross in its never-ending “the next bike you need” campaign. From there it was MTB’s with 29″ wheels and now we’re on to 27.5″. Meanwhile they’re ginning up interest in the next big thing – the gravel bike..a sorta/kinda ‘cross bike but of course you NEED one of these in your garage along with your stable of ‘cross machines, don’tcha know.
    What comes next?

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      One thing ‘cross has going for it that road, track, BMX and mountain biking don’t is that USA Cycling isn’t focused on the discipline, since it’s a non-Olympic sport.

      Oh, they love the revenue it generates, and they pimp the shit out of any international successes individual athletes achieve — like Katie Compton’s World Cup win — but otherwise they don’t invest a lot of time and energy in trying to fuck it up, like they did with mountain biking.

      If ‘cross ever gets into the Winter Olympics, look out. That will be the beginning of the end.

    • khal spencer Says:

      I thought I understood the idea behind 29″ wheels, i.e., they roll more easily over bigger holes in the ground, but then, of course, someone came out with 27.5 just to make sure, in the ultimate quest to optimize every little thing, there is yet more shit to sell people. I’m still not convinced I know what I am doing on my 2005 Stumpjumper after riding it for eight years. Why do I need more stuff in the garage? Seems the bike biz has joined the car biz in marketing planned obsolescence.

      • Patrick O'Brien Says:

        I am still think that a good steel 29″ wheel hard tail MTB is the smoothest thing going without full suspension. Not many bikes have attached themselves to me as strongly as my Niner MCR. I really like riding it. I have owned 26″ wheel steel and aluminum hardtails, and a full suspension aluminum mountain bikes Sadly, they no longer make the MCR frame. It was their first and flagship frame for many years. Guess people just like plastic shit.

    • Derek Says:

      I am riding a 700c up front, 26″ rear on fully rigid Ti bike with the original Jones bars. That would be 622 and 559 respectively for those of you who use ISO (real) numbers. Up front I have the 29′ x 3.0″ Knard, all hail the Knard unless it is muddy and then you are skating on thin ice with very dull skates my friend. The Mutano Raptor 2.4″ rear is adequate. The frame is a ’95 Merlin XLM. I could not market this bike to anyone in good faith yet I ride it every day I can.

  4. Dale Says:

    You got my attention with the “Society for the Preservation of Steel Bicycles and Cantilever Brakes” – that looks like my garage, if you add “bar end or down tube shifters”, you’d have the photograph too. Right now I’m not riding anything. Off work on doctor’s orders due to bending over to pick up the corner of a leaf-filled tarp on Sunday, and just when the weather and scenery is best for riding. Getting old really sucks sometimes.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Hah. My garage too, Dale. Ten steel bikes, five with bar-ends. None of them sports down-tube shifters yet, but I have two sets rarin’ to go.

      Sorry to hear about the doctor’s orders. Being possessed of a famously bad back myself, I feel your pain, in no small measure because I’m headed out to bag leaves myself. We generally get a dozen or more bags out of the maple out front. Yowch.

      • Dale Says:

        Really PO’G, have you got a pickup truck? We live in an oak, gum, and pine forest by the park in a small city. We figured out that a big tarp in the truck bed made for easy disposal to our local county compost center.

        We used to bag them, but got cited one year by the city for having “trash bags” on our property 3 days before trash pickup. Needless to say, the city official had no sense of humor, or sense of anything except the code book.

        Like I said before, it sucks getting old. Still beats the alternative (but where are those crossroads?).

    • khal spencer Says:

      Shit oh dear, Dale. Get well soon. Herniated disk?

      I did one of those in 2005 when bending over to pick up the vacuum cleaner and the little bastard slipped on me. On a scale of 1-10, that pain was about a 15. That was also what convinced me to get the dual suspension mountainbike and larger frame carbon Cannonball: hardtails and oversize aluminum suddenly didn’t feel too good, nor did a road bike with the seat a lot higher than the stem.

      • Dale Says:

        Khal,

        My doctor assured me that it was not a disk, but most likely a pull of an attachment on my sacral plate, (I hope that is the correct term). And yes, I was self-medicated as my son drove me to my appointment.

        It looks like I could be back at work (boo), or on a bike (yea), in a few days if I am a good boy (that has always been a problem for me).

        I am inclined to comply for some reason.

    • Patrick O'Brien Says:

      Feel better soon Dale. My back attacks are muscle strains, or as the doc calls it, “soft tissue injury.” Back problems are sometimes referred to as sitting disease because of the back muscles shortening and becoming less flexible from sitting a lot during the day. Guess what you do on a bike? Since I started stretching back and legs before every ride, and retired from the desk job, back issues have decreased.

      • khal spencer Says:

        Speaking of stretching, you want a good laugh? The GOP state legislator from Las Lunas, NM, just pitched a fit because some of the public school phys ed teachers are having their students stretch before exercise, using yoga techniques. Now, as this brilliant luminary Mr. Baldanado reminds us, yoga is from a mystical Eastern religion and this will soon have all our gullible young students fleeing Christianity for illicit cults, leading to God knows what. No joke.

        http://www.santafenewmexican.com/opinion/editorials/our-view-what-a-stretch-yoga-won-t-harm/article_4c690cc4-49e2-5864-ab11-b66d3cf57e8d.html

        Sad to say, this is the GOP in New Mexico. Having grown up in NYS with the likes of Jake Javits, Kenneth Keating, and Jack Kemp, I can’t get used to the idea that the Grand Old Party has been taken over by halfwits and nitwits.

      • Patrick O'Brien Says:

        Hey Khal. Next time you see this idiot just ask him this zen question. How can there be a god when there is nothing but god? It will make him crazy for a long time, maybe a life time. But, on the other hand, it sounds like his ” little gray cells” have already left the building.

    • Derek Says:

      Dale, SI injuries are no joke and if they are speaking of an avulsion type fracture, where a ligament or tendon pulls a chunk of bone off, be careful going back into motion. I am sorry to know these things and I am not a medical professional just personal advice, heal up.

  5. khal spencer Says:

    Wow, O’G. That was a beautiful place in Weirdcliffe. Wish I had a checkbook that wouldn’t bounce back when you were selling it.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      It was, it was … about the same size as the one we’re in now, but with 43 acres attached. You could see company coming a long ways off.

      The house had one “great room” that ran from left to right in the pic above. At left was an awesome stone fireplace/chimney that we altered with a wood-stove insert, and that’s what we heated with mostly, though we had a forced-air propane heater, too.

      Downstairs also had the kitchen (with stacked washer-dryer combo) plus a guest bedroom (a.k.a. my office) and full bathroom; the master bedroom and bath were upstairs in the loft. We also kept a Parabody home gym up there.

      Out back we had a big-ass woodpile and a Tuff Shed to hold bikes and the trash between trips to the landfill on the south end of town. The private road down to the county road dropped 430 vertical feet in a mile, so you can imagine how much fun it was to run/ride up in good weather … or drive down in bad.

  6. Larry T. Says:

    Steel bikes? ALL of ’em ‘cept a couple of old Schwinn Homegrown MTB’s with antique 26″ wheels, made by Yeti I think the story was. Leaves? Why bother with them? I just wait for a) the wind to blow ’em away or b) the snow to cover ’em.
    Expensive houses? There are plenty of cars on the market that cost more than the shack we live in. Where do folks find the loot to pony up 100’s of $1000’s?
    Other than the fad/industry issue I have no hatred for ‘cross. Did a few of ’em back-in-the-day..the only bad thing for me was they’re so short ya get ZERO time to warmup, it’s ready-to-puke time right from the gun!
    There have been rumblings about getting ‘cross into the Winter Games…let’s hope it doesn’t happen – they need to be taking sports OUT, not putting more in, especially in the Summer Games

    • Patrick O'Brien Says:

      Hey Larry! We are all steel too, except for a Trek Pure which I almost don’t admit I own. The best Chinese aluminum, but it is a good city bike.

      House are speculative investments these days. They just happen to also be places to live. Like you, we have a modest place, owned it for the last 24 years, and would not buy another unless we move out of town. Maybe not even then.

  7. Larry T. Says:

    I know what ya mean about houses – we rented this shack until the landlord said “buy or move” and we took the lesser of the evils. No speculation here, we’ll be very happy if the shack is worth what we paid for it when it’s time to move to Italy. Meanwhile, it’s a place to live.

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