Anchorage, AK 7/18-20
It’s hard to put the Single Speed World Championship weekend into words. Race? No. Fun? Possibly. Frustration? Definitely. Shit show? You bet. I’d been wanting to “participate” in this event for years and it finally came back to the USA after stints in New Zealand, Ireland, South Africa, and Italy. Based on what I’d read it sounded different than your average race: mandatory beer stops, whisky shooting, costumes and full frontal cycling nudity. Awesome. I booked my flights in April and kept a vigilant eye on the SSWC14 Facebook page.
Based on the registration the event sounded like it would be held on Friday or Saturday with a weekend full of shenanigans. I couldn’t wait. My dad has been looking for an excuse to get back up to Alaska for the last 4 years so he took this as the perfect opportunity to meet me in the…icebox state? I’m not sure what I was expecting but Alaska is more beautiful than I ever could have imagined. Take Hawaii, cross it with Colorado, throw in some Big Sur and top it off with a little Maine and you get the picture. I started to get nervous a few weeks before the race when I emailed Dejay for a race schedule. His reply was “plan on staying all day Sunday.” But when will the event be? “Sometime over the weekend.” Where was it? “Pedaling distance from Anchorage.” Uh-oh. Posts like “No ‘costume’ no chance of winning” didn’t come as a huge shock, it seemed to fit within the SSWC theme but how were we supposed to plan our trip if we didn’t know when or where we needed to be ready? Fishing trips were made and rescheduled. Hotels were booked and rearranged. We’d be stuck in Anchorage from Friday until Sunday night. My dad’s not exactly a go with the flow kind of guy be he was surprisingly cool with everything. My wife was wondering why I was leaving her and 5 month old Rex for a week to go ride around half naked in the wilderness. Easy, “race resume” and I wanted that tattoo.
I got to Anchorage on Tuesday afternoon and pedaled around Kincaid park, where I’d heard rumors that the race was going to be held. My dad arrived Wednesday and we drove down to Seward for some sightseeing. How often do you get to go to Alaska anyway? There were puffins, glaciers, whales, eagles, halibut the size of wheelbarrows, but still no details about the race…and this was Thursday. All I knew was that registration was Thursday and Friday evening at a bike shop in Spenard. We drove back up to Anchorage on Friday and made it to the abandoned store front that was being used as a registration tent. “I’m here to pick up my schwag and get my number.” “Whoa, whoa, whoa.” Said Dejay. “First, you need to drink a beer, then you need to pick up a 6 pack from the pile over there.” Sweet, Old Chub! My favorite. Still no word of the race. We’re just told we need to be at a party at a Mexican restaurant that night. By the time we arrived (after a classy dinner of reindeer and Cayuse) the restaurant was packed, there was a naked guy riding a bike through orange fencing in a “decider round” and the manager looked pissed by the time bottle rockets started erupting in the parking lot. Still no word.
On Saturday we were told we had to be inside Carousel Lounge by last call and be ready for anything. There were costumes, music from a few local hardcore bands (the crowd looked decidedly split on the talent) with the Europeans looking particularly confused. There was another decider round that involved drinking and dildos but it was too hard to see the stage. By last call at 3am I was exhausted. My Niner was in a huge pile of bikes outside, it was pouring rain and about forty degrees. Dejay lined us up and gave us a bead for our dogtag necklace (apparently we couldn’t race without it) and we gathered in a mass in the parking lot. If you forgot your necklace you were out of luck. No race for you. “You guys want to race now or should we meet back here at 7am?” The course wasn’t even marked. There was yelling, a coin was tossed and it was decided that we’d meet back in the parking lot in three and a half hours. Not much time to rest.
At 6:45 sharp I rolled into an empty parking lot and felt like I’d been the tail end of a horrible inside joke. I was the only person. My anxiety lifted as a handful of other riders began to show up, but by 7:15 there were maybe only 20 singlespeeders: about 300 less than I was expecting. By 7:45 there were a few dozen and by 8 we began to pedal out to Kincaid park where we were met by other groups, who had somehow been privy to the knowledge that 7am at Carousel meant 9:30am at Kincaid. Most were still drunk.
We “lined up” around 10 and were split into three different groups. There was a pink group, an orange group and a blue group. Apparently there were three different courses. We each had to ride each course once and our assigned color was our starting lap- after that we could choose which order we wanted to ride. And we were off. The trails were banked, packed and puddled from the rain the night before but I’ve never ridden such flowing single track. My rabbit jockstrap kept getting caught on my seat every time I stood up and sat down. I yelled to the Kiwi behind me “how you enjoying the view?” “Honestly mate, yours was not the wheel I wanted to get stuck behind.”
After some jockeying for petition I was third wheel behind a Canadian and the Kiwi and the pace was quick. At the end of the first lap they mistook an orange arrow for a pink arrow and took a wrong turn. I yelled but by the time they realized their mistake I had gained about 50 yards and was headed up the hill to the gong and off to the blue lap. While pink had a massive hike-a-bike sand dune, blue had roots beyond roots. Pink involved tossing a rock into a bucket in order to continue but blue had a mandatory whisky stop and a slingshot target practice session. I passed both and flew around for orange, which proved to be the most insane race lap I’ve ever done. There was beer, whisky, a two food deep fording of the ocean, a ride along the sandy beach, and a hike up a massive cliff in waist high weeds. I’d completed all my tasks and flew back up to the gong in first, I was pumped. I’d just won. My enthusiasm faded when I Dejay checked off my items and told me that I’d need them later. What? I wasn’t done yet?
After two hours keeping warm by huddling around a grill all the riders were done and the plan was announced. “Everyone circle up. If you have three playing cards and two beads pick a bike that isn’t yours and get inside the circle.” I grabbed the closest bike I saw with Crankbrothers pedals. It was a Niner but about 8 sizes too small. We all rode around in a circle, bumping and grinding, and if you put your foot down you were out. I made it until the final 4 when some joker toppled over and took me out. It was a heartbreaker. I’d come all that way just to be knocked out by some hairy drunken guy on a fat bike. I guess that’s just SSWC.