I'm delighted that I had the opportunity to hammer through the mud on my bicycle yesterday. So if you helped set up Cross'd Bite, gracias. We should do this more often.
The lady bear and I got to the slag heaps around 11 to help string up some course tape. We parked at the end of Goodman street in front of a foreboding and rusty chain link fence, and took the well worn muddy path around the edge of the thing. I have to wonder why someone even bothered to put up the barricade.
The skies were a flat grey, and the rain was falling steadily. Pushing the fluorescent death machine of doom, the lady bear and I hiked back to the black dirty piles of slag. The heaps are dark, gritty, and covered in scrubby little grasses. Slag is like a depressed Western PA imitation of a sand dune.
Stick, Ted, Eric and Eryn were the only people on the heaps so early. Eric's cargo bike was loaded with four cases of Straub beer, and a roll of yellow tape to make the place look like a 'cross venue. After a few minutes Ted proclaimed "However you decide to set up the course, I agree. Unless it sucks." and rode off to lead a group of riders back to the hill. On the edge of the hill top, I spied the rusty shell of a burnt out station wagon and ran over to throw my backpack under the shelter of its collapsing roof. Next to the bullet holes on its tail gate was scribed "The End"
We grabbed some bricks and attempted to pound in stakes to string the tape, but there was a layer of broken asphalt three inches under the slag, so even with mighty blows from our bird-like cyclist upper bodies, the stakes wouldn't sink down. Fortunately, there was a big pile of rubble next to "The End" so we were able to pile up chunks of concrete around the sticks and get them to hold. After a few minutes, we had something that resembled a legit 'cross course:
Riders started trickling in and a tiny little dog ripped across the course at full tilt. A tattooed guy took a 2X4 out of his messenger bag and tossed it across the heaps. The dog sprinted to retrieve the piece of wood that was as big as his body. The lady bear and I went over to talk to him and watch his dog sprint up and down an impossibly steep slag hill with a stick in his mouth as we waited for the race to start.
The Hammer was a messenger from Poland. He carried his dogs, Sugar and Tank, in his messenger bag. They were brother and sister, but Sugar looked looked like a jack rustle, and Tank resembled an athletic pug. He threw the stick down the hill yet again and Tank tirelessly sprinted back up. "I did this for 2 and a half hours the other day. And he still went home and fucked shit up."
Finally we lined up for the race. I was wearing my extra visible striped un-official race shirt, and when someone said go, I went for it. Chris Beech had the hole shot for about ten seconds before I passed him and took the lead. I was running a pretty big gear on my fixed gear 29er (38X17), so I just concentrated on staying on top of it and powering through the mud. After a few minutes, I rode the run up that marked the end of the first lap, and looked behind me. There was no one in sight.
Dave Gingrich photo
I had tons of energy I needed to burn off, so I didn't let up at all for the remaining 12 laps. I started passing people and on the 6th or 7th lap, I caught up to Chris. "Montana you motherfucker, did you just lap me?" "Aye." I said, "But it's cool man. It's cool."
"Well I'd rather it was you than somebody else." he replied. After that I stopped worrying about anybody catching me, and just focused on having fun riding my bike as fast as possible. My corduroy pants were so covered in mud that they actually started holding water in the places I had them cuffed, and the stripes on my shirt were no longer visible, but I was having such a good time that I didn't even notice. I finished up the 13th lap and stopped the clock right at one hour, which is exactly how long the race was supposed to take.
Victory! (and horsey teeth)
Afterwards we headed to the little post race potluck and loaded up on pasta salad and sloppy joes. The lady bear made a giant tray of cupcakes from scratch, which were quite delicious. We relaxed for a while until I realized that my back was still covered in slag, and decided that I needed to bathe, at which point we headed home. But I must say it was a grand day in the mud. I wish every day was like that.
Dave's pictures of the event