Written by John Sumner Thursday, 15 October 2015 00:00
Work had me traveling to Portland, OR during the high holy Cyclocross season. I also built in time to visit an old friend in Olympia, WA.
On the days leading up to my trip, I found myself scanning Bikereg.com/Northwest. It turned out there was a race 20 minutes away from my friends house in Spanaway, Wa. However, being a last minute entrant and little prep time, many obstacles stood in the way of making this dream reality.
My friend and I already planned to hike part of Mt. Rainier, massages at his place of employment, and kayaking on Puget sound. The day before leaving, I selfishly called my friend and told him I entered a bike race and the kayaking was going to have to wait for another visit. I assured him that he would enjoy the race and explained that what Cyclocross entailed was interesting, as he had never witnessed the spectacle.
Way too last minute planning options:
A. Borrow a friends bike at my destination via her Facebook broadcast. Total failure.
B. Rent a bike. Not an option.
C. Bring my bike. The plan!
Option C became a stress fest! The afternoon before my flight, Big Al said Bikeman had a travel box, but I had no way to get it. Craigslist did not have one for sale locally. Desperately calling around while in Portland, ME, a local shop had one available! However, I had ten minutes to get to their shop before closing. I arrived with 3 minutes to spare. To my horror, they had moved. I called and begged them to wait for me after closing. They did. The travel box was now in the back of my car and it was smooth sailing... I thought.
At home, the night before my flight, I began to prepare my bike. Removing my handlebars was a breeze but I found my pedals to be welded to my crank arms. Nothing was going to free them. I put heat to the arms, a massive extension on my wrench, other barbaric and not recommended desperate tactics, all which failed. I decided to stop at the local bike shop on the way to the Jetport and pick up a new BB and crank arms. I was not at Bikeman and they did not have what I needed. However, they had a used set which I purchased.
Arrived on the West Coast and I realized my Egg Beaters were in Maine. We hiked on Mt. Rainier the day before the race and I had no time to visit the nearest bike shop. On race day, after a pre-planned hour long full body massage, I drove to BikeTech bike shop for Egg Beaters and assembly of critical parts. I was told "We don't have the right bottom bracket. We may be able to use your existing bottom bracket, do you have the lock washer? Let me see if we can find one... tick, tick, tick tick. We found one! Your chain is too long, the front derailleur needs adjustment, your rear derailleur cable is too short." The effects of that massage vanished and watching the clock, my race start time was slipping away, I said, "Let's go with a Single Speed set up!" They removed three links, threaded my chain through the top cog of my derailleur and gave me a 2:1 ratio. "Uh, this is not right, and you may drop a gear or two but good luck Dude.", Said the Mechanic.
Late and heading to the race with my friend and his daughter, whom I've never met before, my nerves were rattled and as I was driving I was thinking about the mechanic and the general lack of confidence with my SS set up. Will I downshift involuntarily? Will they let me race? I was signed up for the Cat 3 race which was currently in progress.
Cross Revolution is a 7 race series. The race was held at the beautiful Sprinker Recreation center. Giant evergreen and cedar trees were majestically spread about the park. Snow capped Mt. Rainier towered over the twisty course and its rolling terrain. It was a rare bluebird sky, 70 degree race day. Much different than the heavy rain of the previous day.
Upon arrival, I had to switch from Cat 3 Men to SS, collect my number and helmet mounted microchip. The staff was super helpful and handled my business fast and effectively. After all was said and done, it was 12:35, time for a 10 minute warm up and then I would be off and racing.
We were off and I was hanging in mid pack. My makeshift SS drivetrain felt solid as a rock and had no signs of wanting to shift, not even on hills, flats, or crazy bumpy steep hills. The course reminded me a lot of Cycle-Smart meets the technical parts of Gloucester X 2. Conditions were very dry and fast. On the first lap, I avoided a massive 20 person crash at the first off camber dirt turn and gained serious real estate. However, after a run up and overly bouncy steep diving turn, the nervous rider in front of me did an impressive superman endo and I stopped abruptly after ramming his chest with my front wheel. I got away and rode the small hills well. Was off and on the bike through the barriers and got a "Yea Bikeman" after successfully riding through the sand pit. The hecklers were out in force! The most vocal were dressed as a hamburger, Viking, Hot Dog, and Witch. My friends enjoyed the many crowd "gasping" crashes!
On Lap 3 after the sand pit a rider in front of me skidded out and I had nowhere to go but to ride over his rear wheel. I had been gaining on him but after the encounter, he was not to be seen or heard from again! I was now finding my rhythm of the course, speeding up and picking off riders. I was ahead of several riders who were bearing down on me. However, I held my own in no man's land for the remainder of the race. In the end, I wound up mid pack and considering thr many pre-race challenges, was happy with my result. I could have been in a lower gear and would have had a better result. They sure are well organized and build challenging and fun courses 3000 miles from home!
Before the red eye home, I was also able to get a ride in at Forest Park's Leif Erickson trail in Portland, OR. This is in biking distance from town and a massive multi use bike park. It was totally "rad" as the locals like to say!
Traveling with my bike was an adventure. Prior to my departure, I was assured by United Airlines customer service on two separate phone calls, the round trip bike cost would be $50. A bike is considered a second or third checked bag. It cost me $25 out of Maine, and after a massive conversation (yea, I substituted that word for 'heated', luckily no handcuffs on me) at check in in the other Portland, $200 back to Maine. I caved with 5 minutes to spare before missing my flight. Later, I fought long and hard and after spending way too much time talking to customer service, they finally sided with my story due to the misinformation they provided. **Warning** Do not believe what you are told, get it in writing and expect a hassle. Also, don't bother zip tying your bike box latches. Security will open them up and remove them, then poorly fasten on small and cheap new ones.
Despite the challenges, I would do it all over again!
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