Monday, October 25, 2010

The Race Flyer

The Masses: "Slater, all of your stories are about climbing and we don't understand what you are talking about anymore."

Slater: "Hold on. I'll go race a bike, drink a bunch of cheap beer and recant my tales amongst the internets."

I've wanted to tell this story for a while, I've had a few chances that seemed fair enough. But this one seems the most opportune for myself. I want a cautionary warning, this is long. This is 10 years worth of tales wrapped into a blog post. It might be worth reading, it might not be. But if you've been reading the climbing non-sense leading up to this you can probably hang on for a minute.

Last weekend marked my 10th season racing cyclocross bikes. First off I would like a moment of recognition for my former neighbor Steve Songer for indelibly ruining this sport by handing his 12 year old neighbor a race flyer and teaching him how to dismount on the 2000 nationals cross course. He might have thought he was doing the sport good back then by distracting a 12 year old from building 6 foot tall dirt jumps behind his house (that were probably ruining his view of the park) and putting that kid in spandex, but little did he know that kid would turn into me.

This tale starts back farther than I care to admit for as slow as I am. But I was indoctrinated into the sport of cyclocross in September of 2000. I had been racing mountain bikes for a season and did well as a junior, I can remember climbing the ski hill at Snow Creek and getting lapped by Steve Tilford when he was still humble enough to race local mtb events. But I didn't really know what I wanted to do with the sport. I loved BMX racing, I loved the pain of MTB racing and I didn't know anything about road bikes besides the fact that the dude who lived 2 houses down had a dope Litespeed and Lance Armstrong had just finished dominating his 2nd tour.

Well that dude who lived 2 houses down from me handed me a race flyer after I started hanging out in his driveway talking bikes with him. Come October I had somewhat learned about cyclocross through the internets and Steve. This is how my first race went...

12 year old me: I would like to enter the juniors race
Jeremy Haynes: Well I'm a pompous asshole, lemme give you shit for five minutes about how you don't have hair on your legs so you don't need to shave yet and then we can fill out an entry form
12 year old me: ok....
Jeremy: Holy shit you have a lot of hair on your legs (I still think Jer might be gay for commenting on a 12 year old's leg hair)

Needless to say that race got me hooked. It was 40 degrees out and I was wearing my only pair of cycling shorts coupled with a long sleeve KU cycling Tshirt. I finished right behind Theresa Jarsemkoski on her brand new white and red Redline. I could barely clip back into my Nashbar brand clipless pedals and my 30lb Fuji was agonizing to lift over the barriers. Jeremy Haynes screamed encouragement like I had never heard before from the sidelines, donned in his Bontrager sweater and goofy hat, "eye of the tiger baby."

Less than a month later I was registered for cx nationals, the first held in KC. It was a bust for me but the experience of the race was beyond good. It was cold, an ice-storm had left the course that I had ridden no less than 50 times un-rideable and it made 2008 nationals look like a cakewalk as far as I'm concerned.

That next season we transformed LBCR to the Museum Cycling Team, I had jerseys for both. I got to watch Steve and everything else I liked about that team disappear to different teams, they decided to go hit up KCBC and then form Team X/360. I watched it happen and as an aspiring junior I knew I wasn't going many places without a piggyback. I can still remember the next season. I assume teams were starting to talk about re-organization, and if not than certain people just did great things for me.

I can remember the phone ringing while I was at the kitchen table doing god knows what as a 13 year old and I can remember my mom asking me to come take the phone from her. But whatever happened after that I have no idea. Jeremy Haynes had called my house and wanted to know if I wanted to race for the new Boulevard/Midwest Cyclery Team. As a kid I felt about as pro as it could get. He wanted my kit sizes and commitments, and I was as down as it could get.

The next few years I sandbagged it out. I was a 5'11 14 year old and just kept entering junior races and taking the wins (as long as they started around the same time as the C race). I was pretty damn good at racing against the Men's C and collecting a prize wherever I ended up... not gonna lie it was normally pretty well.

But eventually Dean Parker showed up with a neighbor kid of his own... Chris Hall. And that kid started battling right quick. We all know how that story ends up. Cat 1 license v Cat 4 license...circa now.

I caught a case of the "fumes" pretty hard around the same time that he showed up. The car fumes of things that sprint faster than 28mph and the perfumes that are prettier than a new Cannondale. I still showed up for races once in a while, I never did well but I was always stoked to come out early and help pound stakes. That's what cross was built on, or what I always thought it was built on. Pound stakes, shake the homeless man off the bench, race before the cops show up.

10 years later and you get a founding father of god knows what kind of Bad Goat cross team that resembles the old Midwest/Boulevard crew but with an entire team less than 29 years old and enough CO2 generated kegs to power an atom bomb (is that what those run on...), race promoter, series organizer and general team of miscreants.

I always thought this story was worth sharing since there aren't that many kids who came up in the true hay day of KC cross racing. I could tell you about last weekend's race, but it wasn't more than another round of top tens, or the last 5.12 but this is better in my opinion.

So here's to the dudes who made the KC cross scene rain hard... at least for me. Cheers, Steve and Jeremy.

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